New Triton Gets Gung-Ho While Being More Civilised

By Lee Pang Seng

LOOKS are everything, even for a pick-up truck. This particular vehicle has come a long way from being a mere workhorse, commonly applied in menial industries such as agriculture, construction and field services. Today, it doubles as a workhorse and personal transport for individual entrepreneurs involved in these industries.

The New Mitsubishi Triton is an excellent example. It has gradually evolved over the years to meet such diversified needs although the previous generation Triton was considered a little ‘tame’ in body profile. Many in the market for pick-ups still wanted their vehicles to look the part of a tough and macho ‘beast’ rather than a sanitised ‘gentle being’.

Taking that feedback to heart, Mitsubishi has given the new Triton a new punchy ‘face’ that belies its character to the fullest. Few, if anybody, would look at the latest evolvement of the Triton and not come away impressed by its bullish profile. By the way, the Triton (known as the L200 in some countries) celebrates its 40th ‘birthday’ in 2018.

The basic outline of the new face is not new as Mitsubishi has based the Triton’s version on that of the Outlander. What the designers had done was to give the ‘adopted’ styling bolder and more striking elements to reflect the outgoing character typical to a pick-up.

Carrying the forceful theme well are the distinctly outlined wings that house the fog lights and the equally muscular lower ‘jaw’. Put together, they form the mouth of a fanged beast ready to pounce on its prey.

At the same time, contemporary design elements were brought in to place the new Triton as a vehicle of the modern era. This includes the slim headlamps that top the face like a pair of piercing eyes, and they are LEDs (light emitting diodes) too.

What’s more, there is order to all this seemingly chaotic aggro… the high placement of the headlamps is done for a reason. In fact, the entire face has been ‘lifted’ and this has to do with the practical and functional role of the pick-up.

Compared to the previous model, the foglamps are now placed higher or 700mm from the road while the headlamp cluster is located 100mm higher than that for the preceding model. The higher placement of the lamps is so that they would not be submerged when going through flooded stretches while the headlamps’ position is meant to present a ‘dignified front face’.

While there is only so much that could be done to the rear of a pick-up with its open cargo area, Mitsubishi has added a distinctive detail in the rear LED lamp clusters. A hook-like pattern comes on when the lights are switched on for a ‘tough and reliable’ image.

A rear-view camera is integrated into the gate garnish to keep things simple, while the cargo bed comes with increased thickness and the rear bumper is also thicker to improve stiffness and stability. The volume of the cargo area is similar to the old and accessories designed for the previous model could still be used for the new Triton.

There appears to be little changed in the new Triton’s wheelbase at 3000mm and wheel tracks, the front being 1520mm and the rear 1575mm. Ground clearance for the double cab model is 220mm, which is typical for pick-ups.

Likewise, a similar engine used in the preceding Triton is continued in the latest model. This is the 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel engine with variable geometry turbocharger. This unit is undersquarely configured with a long stroke of 105.1mm and 86mm bore to displace 2442cc. The compression ratio is 14.9:1. Output is also similar at 133kW (181PS) at 3500rpm and torque is 430Nm at 2500rpm.

What’s new is the six-speed transmission for both manual and automatic units; the automatic transmission comes with a Sports mode to provide more bite on the go. This has seen to two overdrive gears for both manual and automatic to gain better mileage on highway drives.

Another interesting feature was that there were four drive modes instead of the usual three; 2H (two-wheel drive high range), 4H (four-wheel drive high range), 4HLc (four-wheel drive high range with locked transfer) that is recommended for sandy terrain and 4LLc (four-wheel drive range with locked transfer) for challenging terrain. The power transfer is 50:50 between front and rear wheel axles in 4HLc and 4LLc.

Other newbies are the host of safety systems that now come standard in the double cab versions. These include Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control (higher spec model), Auto High Beam, Forward Collision Mitigation System, Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, Parking Sensor, Multi Around Monitor, Emergency Stop Signal System, among others.

Yes, you might expect many of these systems to be in SUVs (sport utility vehicles) but it is obvious, the pick-up owner who uses the vehicle for both business and pleasure would have need of such systems too. Given the dimensional expanse of a pick-up, these systems should come in just as useful and functional.

Although some questions were raised regarding the retention of the leaf spring suspension at the rear, the answer was pretty obvious. The Triton is a pick-up by design and expected to take on some ‘menial labour’ off and on road. This is where the leaf spring suspension would excel compared to the multi-link set-up.

Contrary to its rugged exterior, the interior of the latest Triton was softer as Mitsubishi wanted to promote a functional and modernised feel for the centre panel and console. This is achieved through the soft pad trim and stitch for the areas that people touch such as the floor console panel, arm-rest pad, door trim insert pad and leather lapped parking brake lever.

Mitsubishi also introduced the new Triton with a fresh range of ‘eye-catching’ colours to complement existing ones to enhance its robust image and quality. The new tones are White Diamond, Graphite Gray and Passion Orange while the existing hues are White Solid, Silver Metallic, Black Mica, Red Solid, Blue Metallic and Brown Metallic. However, the range made available in Malaysia might cover the entire spectrum.

We had a go at the new Triton during its international launch in Bangkok. This was at a specially prepared course at the Impact Lakesite on the outskirts of the city. There were two courses for us to gauge its dynamic performance; a flat dirt course and an off-road obstacle course.

The flat dirt course was to be covered at up to a maximum of 50km/h but we admitted pushing it a little on the straight before the hairpin turn to enjoy its small turning circle of 11.8 metres. This course also had a crank turn comprising two 90-degree turns in quick succession (20km/h), a dry river bed (up to 30km/h) and compound turns (30-50km/h) that was a series of bends.

We enjoyed the ride comfort in 4H while driving through the course and appreciated how the rear leaf springs had been tuned to achieve that. The respective sections were taken with confidence, mostly within suggested speeds, and it might only have been one lap, but it was enough to tell us the new Triton was spot on.

The off-road obstacle course was a shorter one but it had four sections for us to gauge the new Triton’s off-road prowess. The first one was an uphill item with 45-degree slopes, bank slope with 40-degree banks, a twist track with alternating banks on each side to simulate uneven terrain and a suspension stroke section.

We had a guide for this discipline and the speed was no more than 10km/h at best. The drive mode engaged was understandably 4LLc as the course was deemed to reflect challenging conditions, albeit simulated in this case. Needless to say, the new Triton proved its mettle by taking to all and sundry, without raising a ‘sweat’. For some, the Hill Descent Control down the 45-degree ramp by letting the pick-up do its job without human intervention was an experience to be enjoyed.

What we were looking forward to was the ‘chauffeur’ experience through a third course with Mitsubishi Motors development driver K. Koide at the wheels. The drive mode was 4HLc and the new Triton was driven quickly through a twisty course for us to experience the pick-up’s strong dynamic quality.

The strong understeer that we experienced going into each corner was corrected with good accelerator control and steering manoeuvres. Koide was definitely enjoying himself being in tune with the new Triton’s mechanical means of control to give us an exhilarating ride.

The Triton is only produced in Rayong, Thailand and Mitsubishi is targeting to build 330,000 pick-ups in the first year. The Mitsubishi plant started the production of this pick-up in 1961 and it was the first vehicle manufacturer in Thailand to export vehicles in 1988. Since then, the plant has made more than five million vehicles and exported 424,000 pick-ups to 150 countries. Currently, 80 per cent of the Mitsubishi vehicles produced here are meant for export.