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Challenger faces stiff challenge
The latest incarnation of the Mitsubishi Challenger is at its best doing grunt work.

Mitsubishi has streamlined its SUV offerings in recent times and the Challenger off-roader has seen as many changes as any of the company's offerings.

Mitsi flirted with making the Challenger a bit more up-market, throwing in an extra row of seats and plumping up the interior to allow it to tackle higher-spec rivals such as the Toyota Prado head-on.

But for the latest incarnation of the Challenger, it has taken the back seats out and ditched the previously top-spec XLS option. Mitsubishi said the rugged SUV was "returning to its roots" as a spacious five-seater left wanting for little on the road or off.

So has it worked?

Well, there's no doubting the Challenger is at its best doing grunt work. It's essentially a Triton and, like its ute brethren, it's a workhorse, and feels a lot more like a workhorse than some other SUVs on the market.

It feels like a throwback to four-wheel-drives past - the 2.5-litre four-cylinder oil burner will sluggishly get you up to speed and loudly grumble as it does, particularly uphill or when the air-con's on full blast.

You have to give the steering wheel an extra bit of elbow grease to get around corners and the brakes can take a bit of time to slow down the big girl if she's got a head of steam up.

But to be honest, there's bit of charm in being in such an unabashedly hard-working 4WD; it's clear the Challenger's made for off-road adventures, despite Mitsi's claim to be just as worthy on the tarmac.

You can easily switch between rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel- drive up to 100km/h and the suspension is tailored to steady the big rig on hardcore dirt tracks.

And it's not barebones in the features department - it has auto lights and wipers, touch screen, sat nav, reverse camera with guiding lines, all sorts of iPod/Bluetooth connectivity and a bunch of trip and vehicle info available at your fingertips.

But the way it drives undoes the perks. The suspension and tall body means there's fair bit of roll in corners, the steering makes parking a chore and inching along in traffic will see the fuel consumption head towards 20L/100km.

Unfortunately what ultimately counts against the Challenger is, despite its off-road leanings, other cars have gone past it in this regard also. The manual version has 400Nm of torque which drops to 350Nm in the auto version - good for 3000kg with trailer brakes and 750kg without but many competitors boast more Newton metres.

And now it once again offers five seats. You might be just as well served grabbing a Triton and enjoying the convenience of a ute.

VERDICT
The Challenger is still a hardcore fourby and is extremely capable off-road but rivals have caught up in the off-tarmac stakes and offer a better package for when you're not out Woop Woop.

MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER
Model: LS
Price: $49,990
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Outputs: 131kW/350Nm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.8L/100km
Safety: Four stars

COMPETITORS
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
Model: Laredo
Price: $51,000
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Outputs: 184kW/570Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: 7.5L/100km
Safety: Four stars

HOLDEN COLORADO 7
Model: LTZ
Price: $50,490
Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Outputs: 132kW/470Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.2L/100km
Safety: Five stars

TOYOTA PRADO
Model: GX
Price: $55,990
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Outputs: 127kW/410Nm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Thirst: 8.5L/100km
Safety: Five stars