Today’s pick-up truck market is one of the most competitive automotive segments in Malaysia. What used to be a two-way tussle between a Ford Ranger and a Mitsubishi Storm L200 has now grown into a large scale six-way battle.
While the scale of the competition is now three times bigger than before, the script remains the same. Each brand makes their own bold claims, fancy TV commercials, touts of class-leading performance etc, but the claims are all accompanied by fine prints, disclaimers explaining that the tests were conducted in a controlled environment.
That’s understandable, but when challenged to prove their claims in the real world, the bravado projected in their brochures is replaced with a sheepish response, usually related to cost, because throwing discounts and getting stuck in the vicious cycle of a price war is somehow seen by these brands as a better way to spend limited marketing money than proving their truck’s mettle.
Which brings us to Mitsubishi Motors, the brand that for at least one generation of consumers, was analogous to the Paris-Dakar Rally in the same way Land Rover was to the Camel Trophy.
With the Paris-Dakar rally no more (the new one in South America doesn’t count), it is heartening to see Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) taking the lead to continue to use motorsports to promote its products – in this case, the Borneo Safari Challenge, said to be one of the toughest 4x4 events in the world.
In fact, MMM’s participation in the Borneo Safari is even braver than its parent company’s participation in the Paris-Dakar Rally, because they are attempting an off-road challenge that’s just as difficult, if not more, with less money, and near-standard cars that’s not too different from the Tritons sold in Mitsubishi showrooms.
With enough money and equipment, there is no mountain that’s too high to scale. But signing up for the challenge using the standard showroom cars with only the barest modifications just so it meets the event’s regulations, and putting up claims made in brochures to the test in the real world; that’s a genuine stamp of approval that money can’t buy.
In fact, MMM was so adamant on keeping the modifications to a minimum that they denied requests by their East Malaysian team to remap the engine’s electronic control unit to produce more power.
It doesn’t matter whether the modifications are visible or not, the Triton has to prove that it is the best pick-up truck in the market as it is. Whatever modifications made to the car - bigger tyres, high-lift suspensions, winches, bull bars, high discharge 12V battery, auxiliary engine oil cooler, snorkel breather and auxiliary lights - were only there because they are either compulsory fitments or are highly recommended by the event organizer.
The 2.4-litre MIVEC lightweight aluminum alloy block engine and 4WD transmission with Hybrid LSD are exactly the same as the ones fitted to customers’ cars. Remember that the Tritons are entering the event as a full-fledged participant, not just sitting on the sidelines as scout or support vehicle, which some manufacturers do to gain publicity without putting their trucks to the true test.
Five other privately entered Tritons both from past and current generations also tagged along for the challenge.
Unlike their parent company’s participation in the Paris Dakar Rally, MMM’s entry into the Borneo Safari is not backed by a million dollar budget. There are no helicopters or support crews following behind.
The MMM team are on their own, relying on their own wits, basic set of tools and the durability of their Tritons to get them through. There will be no support crew to deliver parts to them if their Triton broke down.
To make matters worse, the event’s medical supply car, a Toyota Land Cruiser (because what other car would you trust to use as your medical supply car right?) chewed through its rear axle’s pinion gear by the third day into the event, effectively making it a front-wheel drive vehicle.
In the days leading up to the failure, all the cars in the convoy had already driven through very extreme terrain that threatened to damage their transmissions. The trail was so difficult to pass through that the convoy had only managed to cover just 6 km on their first day. 6 km in one day! A marathon runner covers twice the distance in just a few hours.
After nearly a week and 1,000 km of rough jungle trails in one of the toughest jungle trails in the world, not a single Triton was left behind. All four of MMM’s cars and five other privately entered Tritons survived to tell the tale of Borneo Safari 2016.
When asked to sum up about the Triton’s performance, one of the drivers in the MMM team ( a veteran 4x4 event participant but not an employee of MMM) summed it “Saya minta, dia kasi…” Yes, ask and you shall receive - that’s probably the finest and shortest conclusion for any car review.
The Triton may not wow as much as its peers on paper, as Mitsubishi favours old school mechanicals over fancy electronics, but as proven for the second time in two years of MMM’s participation in the Borneo Safari, this is a setup that works wells in the real world.
So if you are looking to buy a pick-up truck, remember that claims made on paper – on horsepower numbers, class leading performance, etc. – are of little value if they can’t be proven or translated into actual traction and driving performance in the real world of the Borneo Safari.
The Mitsubishi Triton line-up in Malaysia is as follows:
- Triton Quest 4x2 Manual – RM73,438
- Triton 4x4 Manual – RM88,997
- Triton VGT 4x4 Manual – RM102,619
- Triton VGT 4x4 Automatic – RM109,446
- Triton VGT Adventure 4x4 Automatic – RM118,198
- Triton VGT Adventure X 4x4 Automatic – RM125,005
Prices quoted are for private registrations in Peninsular Malaysia, inclusive of GST but excluding insurance.