“It’s quite big!” someone said to me when they first saw it. But that’s like standing at the North Pole and saying it’s quite cold, or meeting Caterina Murino and saying she’s quite good looking. Of course the Shogun is big. In fact, it’s huge. But despite its obviously large dimensions especially in 5-door, 7-seater LWB guise, I actually found it to be one of the easiest cars to drive that I’ve ever sat behind the wheel of. Maybe it’s the smooth 5-speed INVECS-II automatic gearbox, the superb visibility courtesy of the mammoth wing mirrors, huge windscreen and reverse camera, the fact it’s actually slightly narrower at 1875mm than many rivals and its boxy shape is easy to judge, or the very agreeable brakes with their four-pot callipers and 332mm ventilated discs – whatever the case, I found the Mitsubishi Shogun to be very manoeuvrable, even nimble, in a 4×4 kind of way.
Originally introduced in 1st generation form in the early 1980s, with the 2nd generation following in 1991 and the all-new version in 2000, the Mitsubishi Shogun is well and truly knocking on a bit and hasn’t changed that much over the last 12 years especially, retaining its ‘go anywhere’ image and genuine ability to back those claims up. Its monocoque chassis and some-would-say archaic (compared to a V6) four cylinder diesel engine are both probably in need of an overhaul and this 2012 facelifted version isn’t as sleek as say a Lexus RX or an X5, but it’s not meant to be. It’s no ‘soft-roader’ SUV. The Shogun is a proper off-roader steeped in Dakar-winning heritage, capable of way, way more than navigating a gravel driveway or a slightly damp field. Ok, there are some equally slab-sided, 7-seater SUVs with decent off-road ability out there like the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, the Land Rover Discovery 3 and the Toyota Landcruiser, but the Shogun has always been the real deal in most peoples’ minds when it comes to true off road ability and reliability. Think farmhouse family rather than footballer, Fearnley-Whittingstall rather than Fabregas. From some angles, its chunky, muscular looks can definitely be described as attractive, especially in the gorgeous Granite Brown colour this one was supplied in, along with its 20” alloy wheels and chrome grille, which contribute towards its range-topping SG4 designation. The flared wheel arches, running boards and spare wheel carrier emphasise the Shogun’s intentions and image outside, as do the low range gearbox shifter, altimeter and barometer inside. I actually love the way the Shogun doesn’t use fancy joysticks and buttons to operate the 4WD ‘box and its differential settings.
Getting in and out of this high-up beast is made easier by means of the grab handles in the door pillars and once inside, the massively elevated seating position, superb visibility and feeling of space make you feel like a king. The front chairs are fairly comfortable and stand the test of long journeys well, but they do look rather flat and upright, the cream leather may pick up marks easily and the lumber support is definitely better for taller drivers but is generally excellent. Finding a comfortable driving position is helped by electrically-adjustable seats and sitting fairly close to the steering wheel definitely works best.
So inside, is the Shogun swathed in opulent materials with a modern feel? No, in short. The design is what you would call functional, with the various controls and buttons where you would expect to find them and everything is bolted together very well, feeling robust and durable. The leather seats are pretty good in both the front and rear and the wood and chrome look nice at a glance, but they feel a bit cheap and plasticy when explored further. Entertainment wise, the 860W Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio System does a good job with its 12 speakers including a subwoofer in the boot, delivering 5.1 channel home theatre sound, but sometimes needed to be turned up to compete with car and environmental noise – and if your kids easily get bored on long journeys, the Rear Seat DVD Entertainment System is there for them with its infrared headsets so they can watch DVDs or listen to their own CDs til their hearts are content. And Mitsubishi’s Multi Communication System with 30GB hard drive finishes off the interior tech-fest with its touchscreen audio, Bluetooth telephone, sat nav and other functions, which were all fairly easy to master given a few attempts. The Shogun has definitely tried to pull its socks up when it comes to the interior, but the feel and quality of the interior materials still really need to be higher to complete with other popular 4x4s out there and the overall execution of the interior does feel a bit behind-the-times. Having said that, the functional simplicity of the Shogun’s cabin may appeal to those buyers who appreciate good old honest durability.
The Shogun LWB is immensely practical, owing to its massive boot, abundance of storage compartments, luggage lashings, flat loading bay, accessory sockets, 60:40 fold-flat seats, grab handles, running boards and roof rails. The LWB SG4 comes with 7 seats, the rear two being the usual very flat, basic seats with minimal cushioning we’ve come to expect, and are more suitable for children or smaller adults, over shorter journeys. It’s a doddle to raise the two additional ‘Fold2Hide’ rear seats, taking me seconds to figure out and execute. Once raised, however, boot space is severely compromised and leaves very little room and opening the side-hinged tailgate in tight spaces will prove a problem. The Shogun is exceptionally good at towing and can manage up to a 3,500kg braked trailer. For you towing types out there, you can store the number plate inside the tailgate. The bi-Xenon HID headlamps proved to be very good.
Turn the key (yes, this model had an old-fashioned key!) and the 3.2 turbodiesel engine sounds undeniably clattery and agricultural from cold, especially when compared to other 3+ litre diesel off-roaders. But it does quieten down after a while. Release the old-fashioned handbrake (yup, this model had one of those too!), engage Drive using the bulky but acceptable shifter, and you’re off. At slow speeds the Shogun is surprisingly quieter than you would expect, especially once it’s had the chance to warm up – although when pushed it does sound like a mix between a washing machine on full spin and a transit van – and the engine can sound a bit boomy at times, no matter what speed you’re doing. Certain engine frequencies and gears definitely drew a resonance into the cabin at times. It’s a shame the engine isn’t a bit more refined, as the gearbox is impressively smooth. Acceleration is pretty good from a standing start but if you’re already doing motorway speeds, don’t expect the Shogun to pick up its skirts and make overtaking easy, as kickdown is laborious at times. The key is to plan ahead and not resort to any sudden moves if possible – which is how all good drivers should approach things anyway. At higher speeds there always seems to be a noticeable amount of wind rustle present. Steering can be heavy work sometimes but generally it’s fine and the turning circle is surprisingly excellent at 11.4m, helped by its rack and pinion steering.
Unexpectedly for such a capable off-roader, the Shogun tends to crash over potholes and other poor urban surfaces, with a definite thud felt and heard in the cabin, so the ride could certainly be better around town. But off-road the ride and handling are great and reinforce the Shogun’s strengths. Rocks? Troughs? Mud? Gravel? Steep Slopes? The Shogun takes them all in its stride very well indeed, so buyers who live on farms or in rural areas and need a versatile vehicle for use on rough terrain and for towing really won’t be able to find better than this. Owing to its unpretentious badge, the Shogun will almost certainly gain you more respect and attract less animosity than some of its rivals. So if you want to stand out as a bit different, this is again the 4×4 for you.
As said before, the Shogun belies its size and I found it surprisingly easy to pilot around the red brick terraces of east Manchester, up and down country lanes and in the supermarket car park. Sticking to low-pace surroundings doesn’t come cheap, though, as the average fuel readout never managed more than 24.5mpg, which in itself required very careful driving. Although visibility is good I still feel that on the motorway the Shogun would really benefit from something similar to Volvo and Ford’s BLIS blind spot system.
Behind its genuine off-road capabilities is its AWC all-wheel control system and Super Select 4 II transfer case, incorporating a locking centre differential and auxiliary transmission with four driving modes to choose from – 2H rear-wheel drive, 4H full time four-wheel drive, high ratio 4HLc with locked centre differential and 4LLC for extreme low ratio capability off road such as in swamps or over rocky terrain.
The Shogun is constructed around a stiff and robust monocoque chassis with a built-in ladder frame and uses power-assisted rack and pinion steering along with a double wishbone front and independent multi-link rear suspension, to provide excellent dynamics especially off-road but which aren’t too bad on-road either.
The full name of the model I had for the week is the Shogun LWB 3.2 DI-DC SG4. The press documentation defines the latest Shogun’s target market as being “true off-road drivers demanding a comprehensively-equipped, reliable and cost-effective vehicle with proven all-wheel-drive ability” and they’ve certainly met those aims. This top of the range Shogun is priced at £40,999 plus £540 for the metallic paint, which comes to significantly less than the equivalent specification Range Rover, Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Audi or other popular 4×4. Granted, some of the aforementioned brands’ diesel offerings have slightly more power, but even taking that into consideration, the Shogun is still a relative bargain at £40,000 what with its very high specification. It certainly makes you wonder whether an extra £10,000-£25,000 spent on an equivalent spec’ 4×4 from a rival really makes sense when all you would get is a bit more luxury, a tad more grunt and a more revered badge. For the Shogun’s price, the closest alternatives come in the form of the Volvo XC90, the Toyota Landcruiser and perhaps the cheaper Nissan Pathfinder, but some of these brands’ offerings have smaller diesel powerplants. Shoguns have always packaged “classic off-roading status and authentic four-wheel drive go-anywhere ability with bold, muscular styling”, but the environment now rules when it comes to car design and this latest Shogun’s trump card is that its 3.2-litre, four-cylinder D-iD common rail turbo-diesel engine is now Euro V compliant, meeting current emissions standards.
In its large 4×4 class, the Shogun is now one of the most economical and least emitting vehicles available. Its engine has been tweaked and refined and produces slightly more grunt, namely 197bhp at 3,800rpm and 373Nm to 441Nm at 2,000rpm, but manages to return better fuel economy and lower emissions at 224g/km in Band K than its predecessor which returned 26.7mpg combined and pumped out 280g/km. The official combined cycle for the 2012 LWB automatic model I drove is quoted as 33.2mpg and having covered hundreds of motorway miles plus lots of urban and countryside miles, I managed to average just under 31mpg at the end of the week, which is pretty good considering its gross weight at just under 3 Tonnes and its kerb weight of 2.25 Tonnes and the fact it had to content with mighty strong winds and lashing rain for half the week. Many of the Shogun’s economical improvements are down to a new high efficiency alternator that Mitsubishi’s engineers have fitted.
So what real-world fuel economy did I achieve during my week with the Shogun LWB? Pure town driving with a small amount of 40mph bypass driving and plenty of queuing in heavy traffic got me 24.5mpg. An 80 miles drive from Oldham to Keighley in strong winds over hilly motorways with a good chunk of town driving thrown in returned 30.9mpg. And the outbound leg of driving the 150 miles from Oldham to Kettering via Woodhead Pass and the M1 in crawling rush hour traffic again returned 30.9mpg, but the return leg saw much better fuel economy owing to a smoother run in less traffic, achieving 34.1mpg overall. During that journey, the MPG readout peaked at 36.6mpg at motorway cruising speeds. Given the Shogun’s size and weight, I was impressed by these results as the figures were pretty close to the manufacturer’s claims and compared well in a relative sense to smaller 4x4s and even family estate cars with 3+ litre diesel engines driven under equally real-world conditions. The Shogun proved very pleasurable to drive for large chunks of this journey especially in SG4 guise with its touchscreen multimedia system complementing the usual high-up and safe driving position and leather seats, so don’t be shocked if I say that the Shogun makes for a surprisingly good motorway cruiser. That’s probably one reason why the Highways Agency and countless ‘motorway maintenance’ contractors and construction firms choose the Mitsubishi Shogun for their fleets. After topping up with some non-supermarket diesel and passing the 1,000 mile mark, the Shogun seemed to loosen up and become smoother, more economical and slightly more refined.
Other capable 4x4s such as the Discovery are often questioned when it comes to reliability, but not so with the Shogun, which is revered in many communities as being the 4×4 of choice. Service intervals for the Shogun are every 9,000 miles/12 months and it comes with a 3-year unlimited mileage warranty, 3-year pan-European breakdown and recovery service and a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty. The Mitsubishi Service Plan is available to cover the first three scheduled services for £750.00. Road Tax VED will cost £245 a year. Okay, the 88 litres fuel tank may cost in excess of £120 to fill to the brim based on an average current price of 138p/l and new 265/50 R20 tyres won’t exactly be cheap, but in the short and long term, the Shogun is set up to prove very reliable if the many stories from smitten Shogun owners are true.
So in summary, yes, the facelifted-for-2012 Mitsubishi Shogun LWB is hugely capable, highly practical and fairly economical, providing you with a heck of a lot of spec’ and tech’ for the money in relative terms. But no, it’s not as up-to-date and luxurious as many of the SUVs potential buyers may also consider and no, the engine isn’t up there with the best. But despite its obvious flaws in certain areas, it still puts forward a strong argument for those looking for a rugged, no-nonsense, invincible-feeling and reliable 4×4 for off-road and on-road use. I really fell for the Shogun LWB during the week I had with it and will miss it quite considerably. ‘Nuff said.
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of Mitsubishi Shogun LWB 3.2 DI-DC SG4 Tested
Dimensions: 4,900mm (L) x 1,875mm (W) x 1,890mm (H)
Kerb weight: 2,275kg
Engine: 3.2-litre, four-cylinder DiD Common Rail turbodiesel
Transmission: 5 speed auto plus Super select 4 II 4WD
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Top Speed: 111mph
Power: 197bph @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 325 Lb Ft @ 2,000rpm
Claimed Combined MPG: 33.2mpg
Emissions: 224g/km CO2
Fuel tank capacity: 69 litres
Max. towing capacity (braked): 3,500kg
Wading Depth: 700mm
Minimum Ground Clearance: 220mm
Climb Angle: 48.2°
Roll-Over Angle: 45°
AWC All Wheel Control four-wheel drive-train
ABS Anti-lock brakes with EBD electronic brake-force distribution
Twin front, side and curtain airbags
Heated front seats
ASTC Active Stability and Traction Control safety system
Two rear-seat Iso-fix mounting points
Multi-function leather covered steering wheel
‘Fold2Hide’ third row of seats
Electronic compass, barometer and altimeter
Split folding rear seat (60:40)
Electric windows and mirrors
Colour-keyed exterior including the rear wheel cover, mirrors and door handles
MMCS (Mitsubishi Multi Communication System) & HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
Full postcode satellite navigation
Onscreen MP3 control
Rear parking camera
Integrated Bluetooth hands free telephony
Front fog lights
Titanium accented mirrors, door handles and headlamp surrounds
Twelve-speaker 860W Rockford Fosgate Premium Sound System including subwoofer
HID bi-Xenon high intensity discharge headlights with washers and automatic levelling
Rear air conditioning
Auto-lights and rain sensors
20-inch alloy wheels
Titanium accented mirrors
Rear DVD headrest system
Service Intervals: 9,000/12 Months
Mitsubishi Service Plan (MSP): £750 for 1st three services
Warranty: 3-year unlimited mileage warranty, 3-year pan-European breakdown and recovery service, 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty