Today, I have to admit to bias in my review. I just love pick-up trucks. I can’t explain it. It may stem from childhood when I had not even considered being a writer or a photographer because I wanted to be – a lumberjack! Later I gleaned from a long gone television programme that part of being a lumberjack meant wearing ladies under-things. Now, endeavouring to get into ladies under-things has been part of my life’s work; just not in that way.
Thus my review of the Mitsubishi L200 Challenger (pictured) is my personal view that I can’t really abstract out to be totally professional. In this case, it doesn’t matter so much because the vehicle we have today is on its way out of the door to be replaced very shortly by a brand new L200 which we’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks.
So why review an essentially obsolete truck? Well, we can’t all afford to buy new vehicles so in the coming weeks and months there will be a splendid selection of pre-loved L200’s available on a Mitsubishi forecourt near you which I believe will make for very good buys – and for various reasons. The primary use is as a working vehicle of course, but I reckon the Mitsubishi L200 in crew cab form makes for an outstanding family car – if you’re prepared to do without some of the creature comforts we take for granted these days.
On The Outside
As you well know the humble pick-up started life as a working truck but, whilst still ever-popular with trade professionals, it has morphed into an all-purpose vehicle beloved by the American Nation and it’s starting to rub off here. Looks-wise, the crew cab versions from the various brands tend to look very similar so well done Mitsubishi for giving the cab a curvaceous shape. On the road there’s no escaping that the L200 is a commercial vehicle at heart but that can be balanced by the sheer versatility that pick-ups can offer.
Being a five seater means the flat bed loses some length yet remains a very usable space that will accommodate any amounts of camping equipment, kids’ bikes and luggage that the modern family can throw at it. Our vehicle came with a secure, lockable sliding lid; so secure in fact that we never got it open. Obviously, we couldn’t be too brutal with it so I guess there must be a knack we couldn’t grasp. I’d prefer one of those swish machined aluminium lids myself or, for greater security and dryness, a full size truck top.
On The Road
It’s big. The long wheelbase means that the ends exceed the length of the average supermarket car park space and driving style needs to be adapted to suit. At low speeds the steering is heavy and remains weighty even at speed. Seven-stone weaklings will find no need to visit the gym to build up those pipe-cleaner arms. Similarly, shifting the manual five speed gearbox (an auto is available) requires a firm hand but it does give an indication of robustness – it’s built for the purpose. The L200 runs routinely with two-wheel drive which, in the UK, will be the default setting. A second gear lever gives the option for auto 4WD which shifts power to the corners with grip when needed or, when things get really gnarly and snowed under, there’s a low range option that locks in permanent four-wheel drive.
Test drives are especially important here. The idea of a versatile do-it-all vehicle is appealing but it is not for everyone. At high speeds on poor roads, the L200 can be a bit bouncy, thanks to the leaf-spring rear suspension, there to take a working weight. The steering is a tad vague and handling needs a deft touch. The L200 rides as basic on 17” rims and that’s the way it should stay. The temptation to fit big, butch rims into the high-riding arches is tempting but will adversely affect the ride.
Our car had a 2.5L 175bhp diesel engine which, in my view, is the ideal motor. This truck is heavy and needs the pulling power of a chunky diesel to maintain road speeds. First and second gears get the L200 moving and then, with some revs, third delivers a punchy 295lb/ft of torque at which point the big truck really gets going and easily holds its own at motorway speeds. It’s not too noisy either, surprisingly. Mitsubishi reckon that with this engine 35mpg is doable. I didn’t check as it seems like a pointless thing to do with what is essentially a commercial; you just know that super-economy is not the primary purpose here. I did note however that the fuel gauge dropped with commendable slowness despite some enthusiastic motoring. I told you I liked them.
On The Inside
Our version was in the more basic Challenger trim although it did have leather seats. These were splendidly comfortable, cushioning the occupants from – to some extent – the broken road surfaces of Britain. The fixtures and fittings in the roomy interior were determinedly robust with sturdy plastics and strong mats. The dashboard is basic as this model L200 is getting a bit long in the tooth. No infotainment centres here, just a small central readout and a CD/radio of a type that I didn’t think existed anymore.
Basic Bluetooth was available for phones but no option for music streaming from smartphones. Frantically, I searched for an Aux socket for my back-up MP3 but to no avail. I dusted off some compilation CDs. Higher spec models get more and certainly the new version L200 will be properly updated. A nice touch is the heated, electric sliding window at the back of the cab. Fresh air without getting blown to begorrah plus the option to poke extra long lengths through for carriage from the garden centre. Usefully, the back seats fold.
I stand by my assertion that pick-up trucks are a valid alternative to your regular cars. They are capacious and can move furniture and go to the tip just as easily as they can transport your family on holidays in euro-safety. It’s easy to load shopping, tools and the sundry items of life in the flatbed and the L200 looks smart and formidable when parked up. As you might expect, servicing and running costs are a little more expensive but you can’t have it all ways. Mitsubishi offer a good five year / 62,000 mile warranty on new L200’s for your peace of mind. Right now there are 15 plate deals out there to be had on this model; prices range up to around £20k, depending.
So consider the Mitsubishi L200 next time you’re thinking about an all-purpose family vehicle: you might be pleasantly surprised – even if you’re not a lumberjack.Geoff Maxted