Based on the L200 platform and looking every bit as brawny, the new Shogun Sport has been treated to an Eclipse Cross ‘Samurai’ facelift, complete with swollen flanks and arches to give it a whiff of Dakar, and from the side it retains a certain appeal about it, only falling apart at the rear where it blends utilitarian with Prius-esque lights and too many angles, the result somewhat bulbous and confused.
While loosely-termed 7-seat rivals like the SKODA Kodiaq and Kia Sorento sit lower to the road and are more akin to jacked-up estates, the Shogun Sport is a proper 4×4 that peers down on many other vehicles, only shouldered by the likes of a Discovery or Land Cruiser. With stepladders not falling to hand for most motorists, tell-tale grab-handles save the day, and the ensuing feeling of loftiness is hard to live without once you’ve tasted it.
Inside the new Shogun Sport, there’s undeniably no chintz whatsoever except for a smattering of silvery trim elements, all the main controls and surfaces proudly sticking to a function over form ethos. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, as its ergonomics can’t be faulted, not even the indicator stalk positioned on the right, while the buttons and dials can be operated happily wearing gloves.
The front seats are superbly comfortable although they do lack side support, which isn’t a major gripe as this lady’s not for prodigious cornering anyway. Row two’s seats are also comfortable with plenty of leg, shoulder and headroom, the middle occupant just having a shallow transmission tunnel lump to work around. One of the new Shogun Sport’s most impressive interior features is that the two rearmost seats are suitable for real, everyday adults. Configuring the seats is a manual affair but is executable without any real fuss, although accessing them isn’t entirely helped by the somewhat narrow entry along with the sheer height of the vehicle.
With old-fashioned graphics and a slightly clunky interface, Mitsubishi’s Smartphone Link Display Audio infotainment system is underwhelming compared to the likes of SKODA’s setup and many other rivals’, but a car really shouldn’t be judged by one or more arguably trivial factors. Bluetooth is a piece of cake to set up and operate, while the decision to farm sat-nav duties off to people’s smartphones courtesy of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay makes sense in order to enjoy free map upgrades and plenty more.
All new Mitsubishi Shogun Sport models feature leather seats, which is a good move as they’re infinitely easier to keep clean, with privacy glass also standard. There are currently just two trims to choose from and ‘4’ as tested means heated pews in the front, a 510W amplifier that sounds rather good, a 360-degree camera plus a bagful of reassuring safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and forward collision mitigation, which ironically translates into a lower insurance group than ‘3’ models.
When it comes to cabin practicality for family or work duties, Mitsubishi’s new Shogun Sport lives up to its perceived image, providing a well-proportioned glovebox and door bins along with a large central storage cubby that could just do with a light to see the various sockets more comfortably, while the vehicle’s everyday usability is further bolstered by proper seat pockets and wide-opening doors.
With just 502 litres of boot capacity in 5-seat mode, which expands to 1,488 litres with the second row folded down, this otherwise hefty Japanese warrior ironically disappoints, with the Land Cruiser managing considerably more at 620/1,943 litres and the Kodiaq soft-roader topping the boot space tree at 630/2,065 litres. Mitsubishi could certainly have gone to greater lengths to ensure that the two back seats fold flat into the floor rather than jutting up and that the wheel arches were hidden or worked with to a more effective degree. The Shogun Sport’s ironic lack of boot space just has to be weighed up alongside its genuine off-road ability, the choice boiling down to which is slightly more important.
On the move, there’s no denying that the 2.4-litre diesel engine sounds gravelly except when cruising, but it suits it, unlike a towering colossus of a man with a voice like Alan Titchmarsh. Wing mirrors the size of dinner-plates do accentuate wind noise at speed, but they also provide superb all-round visibility, enhanced farther by the Shogun Sport’s fairly square dimensions, making this aesthetically imposing car a surprising doddle to pilot down country lanes and through the urban jungle alike.
Weighing 2.1 tonnes and clearly designed for passable on-road ability and genuine off-road might, eleven seconds to reach 62mph isn’t surprising, while the 181bhp and 430Nm torque produced do feel ample in everyday situations, including well-judged overtaking which is certainly possible. Compared to its perceived rivals, though, the Shogun Sport’s CO2 emissions are miserable at 227g/km, the similarly-pitched Land Cruiser managing 199g/km, while the most similarly-specified Kodiaq impresses with just 152g/km, a very similar figure to the Sorento. Still, the Mitsubishi lives up to its published WLTP fuel consumption figure of 32.8mpg, for which it has to be commended, and a 500-mile range is achievable from its 68-litre fuel tank, somewhat compensating for its undeniable flatulence issue.
Paddle-shifts are pointless in this kind of vehicle so will likely just gather dust, but the standard 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly in most situations. The Shogun Sport’s brakes are wonderfully progressive, helping bring this big beast to a stop with comfortable confidence, and potholes and speed-bumps are dispatched with ease thanks to ground clearance of 218mm.
Keen drivers should look elsewhere if agility is a key criterion, though, as the Mitsubishi leans in corners and the steering has a comical amount of play with no feel to it and although the L200 chassis has clear merits elsewhere, it does sometimes make a meal of manhole covers and other surface imperfections, partly also down to the wheel and tyre pairing.
Driving the Shogun Sport on green lanes and moderate off-road stretches, it clearly lives up to its perceived aura, reassurance and confidence immediately instilled by glancing at the Super Select II 4WD system’s rotary dial with a rear diff-lock, 2H, 4H, 4HLc and 4LLc settings plus gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock modes. Its approach, break-over and departure angles along with the vehicle’s excellent axle articulation make light work of clambering over boulders, while the hill descent system takes steep downward drops in its stride. Its 700mm wading depth wasn’t tested but it’s fair to say that the Shogun Sport feels like it could go anywhere and do anything that it, Land Rovers and Toyotas are renowned for, keeping the fire burning in the hearts of the marque’s loyalists. Its 3,100kg braked towing capacity may not match the Discovery and Rexton’s 3,500kg but still positions it as one of the best tow-cars on the market, ideal for caravans, horse owners, tradespeople and the like, with Mitsubishi expecting 90% of Shogun Sports to have a tow-bar fitted.
Anyone placing their trust in one in ‘4’ trim will relish the £39,775 on the road price enabling it to escape the colossal levels of road tax that the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Land Cruiser attract because they substantially breach the £40,000 VED ceiling. Only the Rexton in range-topping Ultimate Auto guise beats the Shogun Sport on price at just £30,000, but the Korean is slightly more agricultural in its chassis and has worse residuals. Anyone pondering leasing a Shogun Sport will like its £500-ish monthly payments compared to around £600 for an equivalent Land Cruiser and an eye-watering £625+ for a Rexton. Forget about the Kodiaq, Sorento and X-Trail as they’re not really of the same ilk in terms of off-road ability.
While its somewhat divisive styling and flashes of rawness in terms of cabin presentation and driving ability may deter badge-snobs of the soft-roader fraternity, and its emissions could prove a stumbling block for business drivers, the endearing Mitsubishi Shogun Sport exudes plenty of other qualities and strengths that make its inclusion deserved on the shortlists of discerning drivers with the need for an unbreakable 7-seat 4×4 that does what it says on the tin.