By Lee Pang Seng
You don't often see a 40-seater bus being towed, more so by a vehicle less than a third of its size and a sixth of its weight. However, the new Mitsubishi Triton VGT was well up to the task, pulling the 11-tonne tour bus over a few kilometres to The Spring Mall in Kuching, Sarawak, as part of its recent launch. It even continued the task for a short distance after more than 10 media members had boarded the bus.
The feat underlines the "Hard Core" image that Mitsubishi Malaysia is banking on for its new Triton flagship - touted as the most powerful for its class.
The Triton VGT 2.5 now helms the range, taking over from the Triton 3.2, based on its impressive credentials. In a way, the Triton VGT was developed on a new approach adopted by some carmakers that see the merit of a smaller displacement engine.
This is made possible through modern-day turbocharging technologies that balance good fuel efficiency with high power output.
While you may like to interpret the VGT acronym as Very Good/ Grand/ Gorgeous Triton, it actually refers to quite a mouthful - Variable Geometry Turbo.
VGT is what distinguishes this Triton from the standard turbo system employed in the Triton 2.5 that is still being sold. Through the electronic engine management system, the vanes in the turbocharger are made to fold or open up according to what's required.
|The view from inside the 40-seater bus as it was being towed by the new Mitsubishi Triton VGT.
What this means is that, at low road speeds, the vanes close so that more air can flow through to aid the diesel engine combustion and develop stronger torque (pulling power) very early on.
For the tech-heads, it means there is 350Nm of torque from 1,800rpm to 3,500rpm. Power is rated at 178ps peaking at 4,000rpm.
Another feature that separates the Triton VGT from the Triton 2.5 is the transmission: the VGT comes only with a five-speed automatic box with Sports mode, while the Triton 2.5 continues with the four-speed automatic and five-speed manual model options. The higher number of gears (as well as suitable ratios) in the automatic transmission is expected to give it improved fuel mileage.
There is also the Hybrid Limited Slip Differential that combines two sensing systems which enable the Triton VGT to have good traction in tough offroad conditions. Other features unique to the Triton VGT are the front bumper extender, matte black roll bar, 17-inch alloy wheels and four corner sensors with display visual.
All that would come to nought without some credible display of its new might. This was demonstrated through more than 220km of driving, with almost 60km of the distance covered on a wide variety of offroad terrain in the PJP Pelita Lundu Plantations east of Kuching.
What made the Triton VGT's offroad performance more impressive was that the tracks were part of a 4x4 jamboree trail held just weeks earlier. Half of the offroad track had seen heavy rain, leading to some slippery sections and mudholes. Most of the distance was done in 4x4 High mode, although the dry section could be driven in 2x2 drive, as one of the media teams demonstrated.
We could see the Triton VGT's rear end spinning in loose earth and pebbled surfaces in some corners, and the rear tyres throwing up lots of mud and soil as they fought for grip on rough and broken terrain. That's fun driving for some people!
|The new Mitsubishi Triton VGT at the launch drive in Kuching, Sarawak.
We were also given an insight into the Triton VGT's prowess in "scaling" steep rocky inclines: With 4x4 Low engaged and crawling in first gear, the Triton VGT drove up a rocky outcrop with hardly any drama.
The ride over the rough section was accetable, given that the Triton VGT had a single leaf spring rear suspension with angled struts and MacPherson strut front. It was somewhat jolting over some really bad patches, especially for rear passengers.
When we hopped over to the Pajero Sport VGT for the second section of the offroad trail, we fully enjoyed the more comfortable ride provided by the four-link rear suspension. This comes at a price, of course. The imported Triton VGT is priced at RM105,997.10 (S$43,290) on the road with insurance while the Pajero Sport VGT retails for above RM170,000! That gives the Triton VGT a premium of about RM8,000 over the standard Triton 2.5.