With the Land Rover Defender not long for this world, the Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck is in with a shout of being the world’s most serious old-school 4×4 very soon.
With off-road ability to potentially embarrass a NASA moon buggy, and a go-anywhere/carry anything attitude for less than £30k tested, it’s a Swiss Army knife among cars. But can it do the everyday as well as it deals with the apocalypse? Read on for the CAR verdict.
I’ve always secretly liked the idea of a pick-up truck like the Mitsubishi L200
If you’re into the subject, you’ll know the L200 has a reputation among pick-ups like AK47s have among rifles – it’s a veteran, but still a dependable, useful piece of kit. As far as reliability goes, an L200 is about as likely to go wrong as an egg-timer – just the ticket if business depends on your do-it-all 4×4 getting to the job on time, whatever the weather or terrain.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi combines Bear Grylls-esque hardiness with all the toys a man could want on, well, a Swiss Army knife. Special edition L200s all sport aggressive names (Animal, Warrior, Trojan) but our test car brandishes the ‘Barbarian’ name on its illuminated steel kickplates. So while on the outside you’ve got a steel-toed hobnail boot, inside it’s a branch of Curry’s.
There’s touchscreen sat-nav and iPod connectivity, automatic climate control, leather seats and contact points, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and a particularly excellent reversing camera. It helps manoeuvre that huge load bay, which can take a 1060kg payload. Or a VW Polo. Plus, selectable all-wheel drive with locking central and rear differentials mean not only is the L200 capable off road, it’ll also tow up to 2700kg. Normally, we coin BMW M3s and Golf GTIs ‘all the car you’ll ever need’, but the L200 takes that to a new level.
Well-kitted, can go off-road, go on…
Thing is, the L200 is about as bad on the road as it is good off it. We understand that muddy trail prowess requires some compromise, but at the expense of refinement, handling, comfort and a perception of safety from behind the wheel?
Let’s keep this brief, because the L200 is very much a commercial workhorse first, and a car second. The brake pedal is the softest thing about the L200 – not great when it’s your point of reference for stopping 1885kg. The retardation on offer even when you mash the stoppers is as neck-snapping as throwing an elasticated anchor off the side of a runaway cruise liner.
Steering? You don’t steer the L200: you aim it, and then re-adjust seconds later as the lack of directional response dries your mouth and stands hairs on end. What at first appears to be steering copied from a Category C write-off is actually a safety feature. It’s there to stop front-seat occupants falling out of the chairs due to shocking body roll above 20mph. Rear seat passengers escape that problem because they’re wedged in place by the cramped leg-, head-and shoulder-room of this double-cab version.
But the powertrain is bulletproof, right?
Literally, perhaps. Ballistics fire isn’t part of CAR’s normal test procedure. Accelerating from motorway sliproads is though, and the L200 sure isn’t indestructible in that regard. In fact, it actually sounds broken. The din from the 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel is huge. You’ll avoid kick-down from the reluctant five-speed automatic just to save yourself from tinnitus, rather than trying to haul the fuel economy above 25mpg. This is one of the most rugged (if we’re being kind) rough-edged powertrains still on sale today.
Performance isn’t shabby though: 0-62mph in 13sec is more than adequate, and the claimed top speed is 109mph. Official economy is 32.1mpg and emissions are 233g/km – just about attainable if your L200 driven empty and with a considerate right foot.
The aftermarket infotainment system is the least user-friendly this side of a Lotus Evora’s, but at least it doesn’t embarrass the rest of the, ahem, hard-wearing cockpit. But let’s not gloss over the fact the L200 is a good value pick-up. For a similarly specced version of its key rivals, the Toyota Hilux and VW Amarok, you’re shelling out more than £28,500 – that’s £800 more than ‘our’ L200.
Our sympathies, pick-up drivers. Why you should be forced to forgo all on-road manners for the virtues of an infinite load-bay and off-piste ability seems frightfully unfair. The L200 Barbarian might be a king among pick-up trucks, but as a car, it’s verging on treason. Set on enduring it every day? You’ll need to be just as butch as it is.