Reading a comparison typically involves a host of rivals from the same class. In the Mitsubishi Outlander’s case, that’s mid-size SUVs; the Pajero Sport, large ute-based off-road wagons. Thing is, both the Pajero Sport and Outlander offer seating for seven, creature comforts and promise a certain amount of off-road capability.

Ostensibly, either one would fit into your human-busy life, but which one’s best? We’ve gathered this pair from the testing garage to find out.

We’re not trying to be silly here. If you need to tow regularly or want to push the limit in the bush, the Pajero Sport is quite obviously the choice. Likewise, if you don’t want to do any more dirt than parking at Dee Why beach, the Outlander is the pick. But a lot of buyers sit in between those two extremes, and that’s who this comparison is for.

In the soft-roader corner is the range-topping Outlander Exceed Tourer ($52,490 before on-road costs). The new Outlander is streets ahead of the old one when it comes to on-road manners and cabin presentation. It also boasts a handy 210mm of ground clearance, so it should be alright off-road – if the marketing is to be believed.

The Pajero Sport ($54,190 before on-road costs), on the other hand, is an SUV by the original definition. A ladder-frame chassis, live rear axle, switchable 4×4, low-range transfer case and an unrefined powertrain.

In theory, the Outlander should be far superior in the suburbs. Our test took in not only Sydney’s usual tight suburbs, broken tarmac and unsighted country roads but also a bit of dirt, to give the Pajero Sport a chance.

JUMP AHEAD

  • Pricing and features
  • Comfort and space
  • On the road
  • Off-road
  • Safety
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Ownership
  • VERDICT
  • Specifications

Pricing and features

We weren’t able to price match the variants chosen exactly, so we have the range-topping Outlander Exceed Tourer and an upper-mid Pajero Sport GLS – a long-termer run by 4X4 Australia for the next six months – optioned with the Deluxe Pack and premium paint. The Pajero Sport is dearer by $4650, yet the spec sheet is a lot less healthy.

The Pajero Sport gets analogue dials with a 4.2-inch TFT screen (lacking a digital speed readout), 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s hard to see in the Australian sun, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker sound system and no seat heating.

Positively space-aged in comparison is the Outlander, rocking a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display with funky startup animations, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a far clearer 10-speaker Bose sound system. A wireless charging pad, USB-A, USB-C and 12-volt sockets give more charging flexibility than the Pajero Sport’s front seat.

Mitsubishi Outlander interior

To illustrate the tech difference, the Outlander’s processor meant the infotainment screen was switched on and ready to select your favourite tune in 10 seconds, against the Pajero Sport’s 18-second boot time.

Both the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander and Pajero Sport are equipped with power tailgates, though, which is nice considering the QF Pajero Sport’s seven-year vintage.

The interior design is far more eye-catching in the Outlander with its two-tone upholstery, quilted leather-appointed seats and slick, contemporary dials. The Pajero Sport, on the other hand, is unpretentious. This car had leather seats with power adjustment but apart from some aluminium trim on the centre console, even in GLS trim it’s very similar to the Triton ute inside.

Outlander and Pajero Sport features

Outlander Exceed Tourer Pajero Sport GLS Deluxe
$52,490 as tested + on-road costs $54,190 ($57,140 as tested*) + on-road costs
9.0-inch touchscreen 7.0-inch touchscreen
Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
12.3-inch digital driver’s display 4.2-inch TFT readout
10-speaker Bose sound system 6-speaker sound system
14-way power-adjustable heated seats 8-way power-adjustable seats
Quilted Nappa leather upholstery Leather upholstery
Tri-zone climate control Dual-zone climate control
Keyless entry and go Keyless entry and go
Power tailgate Power tailgate
Projector LED headlights Projector LED headlights

*Premium paint ($740), Deluxe Pack ($1500)

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Pajero Sport infotainment system

Comfort and space

In size terms, these two are spread across the mid-size and large SUV categories.

The Pajero Sport is longer and taller by 115mm and 90mm respectively. However, the Outlander is actually 47mm wider (1862mm) than a Pajero Sport. Both offer similar cabin space in reality.

The Outlander is a nicer place to be inside, though. The driver is set low and the quilted, leather-appointed, massaging seats are supremely supportive. Having three-stage heating and dual-zone climate control makes temperature regulation easy.

In the front, there’s a pair of central cup holders, generous door bins with enough space for a one-litre camping bottle and covered storage under the plushly padded armrest.

Pajero Sport interior

There’s a thin veneer of plushness within the Pajero Sport’s cabin that separates it from a Triton. The leather-appointed seats do have lumbar adjustment but, on long hauls, they don’t envelop and cosset like the Outlander’s. Storage is less clever, with no great spot to leave a large smartphone. Door bins are still well-sized, and there’s good covered storage beneath the armrest.

Moving into the second row, the Pajero Sport is limited in its adjustment by not having a sliding bench. The backrest is adjustable but it doesn’t provide quite as much flexibility as the Outlander. Space is also tighter; headroom isn’t great and the body-on-frame construction means the floor is quite high.

The Pajero Sport’s roof-mounted vents are adjustable so will keep second-row riders cool, though there isn’t a separate climate zone. USB-A charging points and a 220V household-style socket provide plenty of charging flexibility. The three-pin socket is great for camping applications, too.

Outlander second row rear seating

A cavernous second row in the Outlander provides an extra 40mm of legroom for me at 188cm tall. The sliding bench and tilting backrest provide flexibility. When in the more upright position though, I found my headroom was heavily compromised by the full-length panoramic sunroof.

There are plenty more soft-touch surfaces in the back of the Outlander, as well as a separate climate zone, two more USB-A charge points and a 12-volt socket. This flagship Exceed Tourer also has luxurious integrated sunblinds.

Neither SUV provides huge flexibility when it comes to fitting child seats. There are only enough ISOFIX and top tether points for a maximum of two infant seats in both the Pajero Sport and Outlander.

The third row of the Outlander is well known to be child-sized. This is an SUV for five mostly, with the bonus of seven seats at a pinch. Third-row travellers do still get easy access to a 12-volt socket and a cup holder, even if space is tight.

Pajero Sport third row

It’s actually in third-row space and packaging that the Pajero Sport really surprises. Despite being set a little higher than the second row, there’s still reasonable headroom twinned with an excellent view out – there are even roof-mounted air vents and two cup holders on each side. The tumble-forward second row makes for much easier ingress than the Outlander, too.

The Pajero Sport also packages a full-size spare tyre under the vehicle; great peace of mind for touring. The Outlander only gets a space-saver spare. Under the boot floor, there is thankfully storage for the Outlander’s ridiculous headrests that could double for backyard cricket bats in a pinch.

In carrying terms, both are fairly close with the Outlander’s payload capped at 595kg, though the Pajero Sport wins with 695kg.

Cargo space is also very similar, the Outlander winning with seven seats up at 163L vs 131L owing to the Pajero Sport’s high boot floor. With five seats, the Pajero Sport edges back into the lead at 502L vs 478L.

Outlander and Pajero Sport boot comparison (VDA)

Seats in place Outlander Pajero Sport
Seven seats 163L 131L
Five seats 478L 502L
Two seats 1461L 1488L

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Outlander boot with second row upright

On the road

After kicking around Sydney’s suburbs in both SUVs, I teamed up with 4X4 Australia Deputy Editor Evan Spence for a trip west of Sydney to test the mettle of each Mitsubishi.

Being the Wheels journo, it was my job to evaluate each car’s on-road manners.

You’d think the Outlander would run away in town, being a more sophisticated monocoque design featuring struts up front and a multi-link independent rear end with a focus on tarmac comfort. In many ways, it does. The Outlander is a particularly softly suspended SUV with a plush ride on smooth roads.

The basics

Outlander Pajero Sport
Power & torque 135kW / 245Nm 133kW / 430Nm
Gearbox CVT auto 8-speed auto
Weight 1760kg 2080kg
Fuel/tank 91 RON / 55 litres Diesel / 68 litres
Economy 9.2L/100km (tested) 8.8L/100km (tested)

Unfortunately – whether it’s the weight of the 20-inch alloys or short suspension travel combined with an over-soft chassis – the Outlander tends to find its bump stops pretty regularly, be that coming off speed humps around town or clobbering through potholes. Interestingly, the heavier Outlander plug-in hybrid seems to strike a better balance than the petrol vehicle.

What the Outlander never has, though, is the Pajero Sport’s shimmy over bumps – a common characteristic of body-on-frame vehicles. Despite extra travel, the Pajero Sport has more suspension support. This pays off the faster you go, with it resisting bottom-out well, but this four-wheel drive isn’t what you’d call plush around town.

Neither of these engines is a stand-out. The Outlander’s 2.5-litre direct-injected naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder develops 135kW/245Nm, which is just about adequate. It’s quite smooth at low revs but when asked a little more while climbing – such as the steep grades in NSW’s Blue Mountains – the Outlander struggles as the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) flares the revs.

There’s also an unnaturally sharp throttle response that can make the Outlander feel jerky when parking in town.

The Pajero is no faster. Its 2.4-litre turbo diesel makes similar power (133kW) and torque is higher (430Nm), but it has an extra 320kg to tug. The doughy throttle response makes it seem slower too.

As referenced earlier, however, the Pajero Sport has a major advantage in braked towing capacity: 3100kg versus the Outlander’s 1600kg.

Out in the country, the Pajero Sport’s handling matches its power delivery with a lazy 3.6 turns lock-to-lock from its steering system. The Pajero Sport is ultimately benign and, unlike many of its classmates (save for the far dearer Ford Everest V6), the Super Select 4×4 system allows all four wheels to be driven on tarmac without killing the drivetrain, greatly increasing security in wet and changeable conditions.

The Outlander’s on-demand all-wheel-drive system uses a viscous coupling to send power rearwards when slip is detected at the front. It’s a lighter, more fuel-efficient system that works well in this application.

Undeniably more dynamic on the road, the Outlander is no doubt helped by the quicker 2.5-turn steering rack and low profile 255/45 R20 Bridgestone Ecopia tyres.

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Off-road

The Outlander has some styling features that suggest off-road capability, not to mention a terrain selector very similar to the Pajero Sport’s Super Select controller. The 210mm ground clearance figure isn’t far off the Pajero Sport (218mm), but in practice the Outlander can’t hang with good old-fashioned locking diffs and live axles.

Check out the droop (negative travel) and approach angle comparison between the Outlander and Pajero Sport.

You can read Evan’s full off-road report here, but essentially the Outlander can be decent if you choose the right line; it just doesn’t have the depth of ability to get you out of a sticky situation and lacks some of that classic Mitsubishi grit and determination that the Pajero Sport has in spades.

There also isn’t enough suspension travel or support to have confidence bombing down dirt roads, where the Pajero Sport excels. We were left wondering if the more powerful Outlander plug-in hybrid with the ES grade’s 18-inch alloys and chubby tyres might have been a better match-up off-road.

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Safety

The Pajero Sport and Outlander were both awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP rating. However, the former’s rating was awarded in 2015 when testing wasn’t as strict.

Standard equipment on the GLS includes front auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a low-resolution 360-degree monitor and reversing camera.

To get all the safety gear you’ll need to move up to the Pajero Sport Exceed ($59,690 before on-road costs) with its standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Meanwhile, the Outlander’s 2021 five-star rating means it is equipped with pedestrian and cyclist detection for its AEB, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

There’s also a much sharper 360-degree monitor. Though the Outlander’s adaptive cruise control system worked better than the Pajero’s, during testing its lane-keeping aids proved to be very weak.

Both cars have very similar passive assistance systems. We noted decent ABS and ESC tunes on both tarmac and dirt for both vehicles. The Pajero Sport with its higher-set driving position and more upright A-pillars provides better visibility in urban environments.

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Fuel efficiency

Official fuel efficiency ratings are very similar for both Mitsubishis, the Pajero Sport returning 8.0L/100km and the Outlander 8.1L/100km in the ADR 81/02 combined cycle.

We thought the Outlander might beat the Pajero Sport in fuel efficiency in the real world, but the two ended up closely matched: the Pajero Sport’s diesel proved slightly more economical over the 350km test day, returning 8.8L/100km against the Outlander’s 9.1L/100km.

The Outlander will be cheaper to fuel as it accepts 91 RON unleaded, but its 55-litre fuel tank shortens roving range a lot compared to the Pajero Sport. Being petrol, the Outlander should also release fewer particulates into the atmosphere.

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Ownership

The Pajero Sport and Outlander are both covered by Mitsubishi’s 10-year/200,000km Diamond Advantage warranty.

It’s the longest in time terms across the industry but does stipulate that the vehicles are serviced at a main dealer. Otherwise, the duration reverts to a more industry-standard five years.

Maintenance is due every 12 months or 15,000km for the Outlander. Mitsubishi prices up 10 years of servicing, avoiding any nasty surprises.

For ease of comparison, the Outlander measures up favourably against Toyota RAV4 after five years or 75,000km costing $995. As every service is capped at $195, 10 years will cost a very reasonable $1990.

Considering the Pajero Sport has a turbocharger, more complex off-roading gear and knowledge that it will probably live a tougher life, its service intervals are the same 12 months/15,000km as the Outlander.

The Pajero Sport will cost $2495 to maintain over a five-year span, though, climbing to $5990 for 10 years with the most major $999 scheduled service coming in the eighth year of ownership.

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VERDICT

The Pajero Sport is a refreshingly honest vehicle … The Outlander is a nicer, more luxurious vehicle to live with, of course.

The Pajero Sport is a refreshingly honest vehicle. The cabin’s design and technology package may be dated next to the Outlander, but that’s not where the value lies in this vehicle. The Pajero Sport is about all-road capability and off-road competence.

Even if you don’t mean to stray too far off the beaten track, with all the rain forecast to hit Australia this summer I’d rather take the Pajero Sport out to watch an event like the Bathurst 1000 because I know I won’t get stuck.

The Outlander is a nicer, more luxurious vehicle to live with, of course. For most, its lower urban fuel consumption, plusher cabin, slick tech package and more adaptable packaging will make it the winner.

It’s for those reasons that Mitsubishi’s Outlander wins the Wheels portion of this comparison – especially if this is your only car in the suburbs.

But I’d argue if you were going to have a two-car garage, then the Pajero Sport would be better paired with an efficient, well-packaged small SUV. That way – as Hannah Montana would say – you get the best of both worlds.

SCORING

Outlander Exceed Tourer

Things we like

  • Interior presentation
  • Technology package
  • Sharper on-road handling

Not so much

  • Weak lane-keep assist
  • Abrupt urban ride
  • Not great on dirt

Pajero Sport GLS Deluxe

Things we like

  • Go-anywhere ability
  • Spacious third row
  • Strikes a good compromise

Not so much

  • Unrefined engine
  • Lacks safety aids
  • Tight second row
Outlander Exceed Tourer Pajero Sport GLS Deluxe
7.5 7.5

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2022 Mitsubishi Outlander and Pajero Sport specifications

Feature Outlander Pajero Sport
Engine 2.5L petrol 4cyl 2.4L turbo-diesel 4cyl
Power 135kW 133kW
Torque 245Nm 430Nm
Gearbox continuously variable automatic 8-speed automatic
Body steel, 5 doors, 7 seats steel, 5 doors, 7 seats
L/W/H/W–B 4710/1862/1740/2706mm 4825/1815/1830/2800mm
Approach angle 18.3º 30º
Departure angle 22.2º 24º
Ground clearance 210mm 218mm
Weight 1760kg 2080kg
Fuel/tank 91 RON / 55 litres Diesel / 68 litres
Economy 9.2L/100km (tested) 8.8L/100km (tested)
Suspension Front: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar. Rear: multi-link, anti-roll bar Front: double wishbone, coil springs Rear: 3-link, coil spring, live axle, anti-roll bar
Tyres Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Toyo Open Country A32
Tyre size 255/45R20 265/60R18

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COMMENTS

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