Pajero Sport conquers the Witteberg Mountains

Any 4×4 enthusiast worth his or her salt will recognise the name Moolmanshoek. Nestled at the foot of the Witteberg Mountain range near Ficksburg in the Eastern Free State, this private nature reserve stretches over 3 500 hectares and features some of the most beautiful – but also challenging – 4×4 routes in South Africa.

Steeped in rich history that dates back to the Great Trek, Moolmanshoek is an off-roaders’ paradise and a true test of man and machine – the perfect playground for 4×4 fundi Francois Rossouw and his highly capable Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Rossouw’s 4x4SPORT trips are legendary and the Moolmanshoek event drew enthusiasts from as far afield as Ceres and Hartenbos. The group consisted of eight vehicles in total, two of which were Pajero models.

“Where in the past we had the odd Pajero along on trips, they have now become a common occurrence as more and more people realise how capable these vehicles truly are,” comments the Mitsubishi Pajero brand ambassador. “Guests see the Pajero Sport tackling the toughest obstacles without flinching and they can’t help but come away impressed.”

Rossouw doesn’t believe in easing into things and the first day of the adventure was a baptism of fire as the group tackled a route up the notoriously tricky sandstone formations to the top of the mountain, from where they had a 360-degree view of the breath-taking landscape and the variety of fauna and flora it is home to. The upper parts of the mountain range are above 2 000 metres and at roughly 2 400 metres, Visierskerf is die highest peak in the mountain range. “Truly a sight to behold,” says Rossouw. What goes up must come down, though, which meant descending down a rock face that was so steep that the only way to keep the vehicles from sliding down was to stay on the power.

“As always, the Pajero Sport’s Hill Descent Control (HDC) worked perfectly down the steep gradient and kept the speed below 20 km/h. By adjusting the engine output and automatically applying the brakes to maintain the set speed, the system allowed me to concentrate on steering without having to manually brake, which could have caused a loss of traction.”

Once at the bottom, the group was keen to see if Rossouw could make it back up the steep rock face in the Pajero Sport. Always up for a challenge and infinitely confident in the Pajero Sport’s abilities, Rossouw obliged. With the tyres let down to 1.2 bar for bitter grip, 4×4 selected and the rear differential locked, he pointed the vehicle’s nose uphill. “It was so steep that I couldn’t see anything except for blue sky. Thankfully there was a guide to direct me,” Rossouw remarks.

“It was a hair-raising experience, but the Pajero Sport handled the challenge with aplomb, climbing up the rocks like a spider. When I reached the top, a huge roar of approval rose from the spectators below.”

Key to the Pajero’s impressive performance is Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD-II system, which delivers impressive performance over even the most rugged terrain. The selectable Off-Road Modes maximise traction and by selecting either Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand or Rock to suit surface conditions, engine output, transmission settings and braking are optimised to provide superior traction control.

The Pajero Sport’s abilities are further bolstered by its 2.4L MIVEC Turbodiesel four-cylinder intercooled turbo diesel engine, offering 133 kW and 430 Nm of peak torque and driving the wheels through Mitsubishi’s advanced eight-speed automatic transmission. Rossouw insists that, for him, the transmission is a standout feature and describes it as being as smooth as a banana peel on ice.

The rest of the weekend went by without incident, although the Pajero Sport was called upon to recover a few of the other vehicles from the mud or tow them up steep climbs. In total, the group only covered 76km for the entire weekend, proof of just how tough conditions at Moolmanshoek were.

Explains Rossouw: “After good rainfall in the area, the 4×4 trails were very treacherous. The sandstone formations were extremely slippery and we had to contend with a fair bit of mud.

“Just in case things did go sideways, figuratively speaking, I knew that I could trust the host of safety features of the Pajero Sport. These include seven airbags, active stability and traction control (ASTC), anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and an emergency brake assist system (BAS). Not all of these come into play in off-road conditions, but it’s good to know that Pajero went all-out to ensure that the Sport is a very safe, quality-built machine.”

Rossouw received the keys to the new Pajero Sport in November last year and has already done well over 12 000 km at the wheel. He is no stranger to the brand and having driven various Pajero models over the years he is quick to sing the newcomer’s praises. “Apart from being a formidable off-road vehicle, the Pajero Sport is an excellent all-round package. It is practical, versatile and a great everyday commuter. In proper 4×4 applications fuel consumption is around 12 litres/100km, but in day-to-day use that figure drops to about 9 litres/100km. That’s not too shabby for a vehicle in this segment,” he enthuses.

“Frankly, I’m not surprised that Francois and his fellow off-road enthusiasts are so taken with the Pajero Sport,” says Nic Campbell, General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors South Africa. “Mitsubishi’s advanced Super Select 4WD II system is among the best in the world and will be an asset on any excursion. In addition, the Pajero Sport has a 30-degree approach angle, the best in its class, which allows adventurers to challenge tough obstacles such as those at Moolmanshoek head-on, while the 24-degree departure angle will get you back down safely.”

Read our thoughts on the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport here

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