Which is the better tough off-roader?
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed
Price: $56,990 drive-away
Mitsubishi's top-tier seven-seat SUV is great relative value at this price - which helps explain why it is outselling the Everest this year - and the deal includes a $2000 fuel card or $2000 off the $56,990 price if you buy before December 31. Mitsubishi is also bundling $1000 worth of accessories, though buyers need to allow for fitting where applicable. There's a five-year warranty and service intervals are 12 months/15,000km, the first three years capped at $1425.
The seven-inch touchscreen isn't best in class but the Pajero Sport has smartphone mirroring, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone aircon with roof-mounted vents in the second and third rows, front and rear parking sensors and 360-degree camera.
Its 2.4-litre turbo diesel (133kW/430Nm) is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive with a locking rear diff. Claimed fuel use is 7.0L/100km in combined driving or 9.8L around town. Towing capacity is rated at 3100kg.
The Pajero Sport earned a five-star ANCAP rating in 2015. The result actually comes from crash-testing of the Triton workhorse, which is the platform the Pajero Sport rides on. The overall score of 36.22/37 reflects a strong structure and there are seat belt reminders for all seats. Seven airbags are standard and the curtain bags extend to the third row. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot alert are standard.
A multi-link rear suspension replaces the leaf springs found on the Triton and contributes to the Pajero Sport's decent on-road manners, given it isn't a city-focused SUV. Road and tyre noise are well suppressed and the 11.2m turning circle makes it far less of a handful in carparks than the Everest's 11.7m. The steering is fairly lifeless and the suspension is too hard for serious off-road work; though the software does a great job of handling a variety of terrain and the eight-speed auto is an asset on and off-road.
Ford Everest Trend 2.0 4WD
Price: $65,830-$67,860 drive-away
This mid-spec version of the Everest uses a hi-tech diesel and the latest infotainment and active safety software. It is priced accordingly. Opting for the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel will save about $1200. There's a five-year/unlimited km warranty and - until the end of the year - that's matched by five years' free servicing. That's a saving of $2300, based on Ford's listed capped price servicing. Intervals are 12 months/15,000km.
An eight-inch touchscreen includes smartphone mirroring, digital radio, satnav and 10-speaker audio (the Mitsu has eight). Dual-zone aircon is channelled to the second and third rows using roof-mounted vents. As with the Pajero Sport, it comes with a full-size spare.
Ford's 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel (157kW/500Nm) has the Pajero Sport covered. It uses a 10-speed automatic - co-developed with archrival GM - to help achieve official combined fuel use of 7.1L/100km and 8.7L in urban driving, well down on the 3.2-litre which uses 8.5 L and 11.2L.
The Everest was tested in the same year as the Pajero Sport, so the score of 35.98/37 is directly comparable. Ford was penalised 0.4 of a point for not having seat belt monitors for the third row. ANCAP rates the Everest as a five-star car and it comes with AEB and adaptive cruise, though blind spot alert isn't standard on the Trend. In common with the Pajero Sport, there are seven airbags with coverage back to the third row.
The Everest takes the points here, on or off sealed surfaces. Good wheel articulation and compliant suspension ensure it can tackle big obstacles and corrugated roads without body-jarring bumps. Unlike the reach and tilt adjustment on the Mitsubishi, the steering wheel moves up and down only. Fuel use is closer to the official claims than its rival. Put that down to the 10-speed auto, despite the fact it will occasionally hunt for gears when downshifting.
The Everest sits at the top of the large SUV heap, providing you can handle the hefty price premium.