Mitsubishi Pajero NL 1997 -2000

This series of articles offers buying tips and advice on some of our all-time favourite used four wheel drives. Vehicles that have proven themselves and stood the test of time. These vehicles, if serviced and looked after properly, can represent good value for anyone searching for a used 4x4. In this article we deal with the under-rated Mitsubishi Pajero NL.

Quiet Achiever
Mitsubishi Pajero NL

Vehicles like Mitsubishi's Pajero often get overlooked by the 4WD fraternity with many considering them a bit 'tame'. However, the second generation NL Pajero has more to offer than refined city manners and the ability to move seven people.

7 straight Paras-Dakar wins (Pajero's are the most successful Dakar buggies of all time) and a raft of '4WD of the Year' awards has proved Mitsubishi are getting something right.

The NL model was manufactured and sold from 1997 - 2000 and was the last of the second generation Pajero's.

Generation ll Pajero's proved to be substantially upgraded from the first series and by 1997 the NL boasted coil spring suspension at the rear and rear disc brakes which did a good job of halting the +2 tonne unit. Front suspension was independent, consisting of a wishbone/torsion bar arrangement. Independent suspension is not everyone's cup of tea for four wheel drive work but the Pajero has proved to be a capable vehicle both on and off the road.

NL's New Technology

This reputation was no doubt helped by a couple of new technologies - unseen on Japanese 4WD's until the Pajero. The first was called Super Select 4WD (SS4) and this enabled the selection of high range 2 wheel drive, high range four wheel drive and either high or low 4x4 with the centre differential 'locked'. The driver could switch between two and four wheel drive at speeds up to 100kph.

In line with Super Select 4WD came 'multimode' ABS which allowed the ABS braking system to operate in all modes of SS4.

Generation ll Pajero's were constantly upgraded and by 1997 the NL had received a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine with a single overhead cam and 24 valves. It offered 303Nm of torque and 140kw and was the first petrol Pajero to have the valve-train worked to accept baseline unleaded and LPG. Beware of older Pajero's running on gas. The NL also boasted 10% better fuel economy over it's predecessors.

The other power plant available was a four cylinder 2.8 litre diesel with intercooler and turbo charging. The diesel proved to be a better off-road performer - it's low down torque helping to pick through the rough stuff. The snappier petrol V6 needed to rev freely to find it's best power and this often meant less control in low four wheel drive.

The NL Pajero came in a 2420mm short wheel base 2 door and a 2725mm 4 door wagon.

A Versatile 4WD

Mitsubishi clearly targeted the family market with the Pajero and interior comfort levels were less truck like than some of it's competitors. The Pajero and the Holden Jackeroo helped convert many would-be station wagon buyers into four wheel drivers.

A strong chassis with a body resilient to rust was mounted to a capable off-roader with nice down-town manners and Mitsubishi sold hundreds of thousands across the world.

Interior comforts were good although many complained the rear 3 seats could be a touch uncomfortable for three adults.


Mitsubishi NL's buyers had a bevy of options to choose from and a used model can come with anything from rear diff locks, sunroof, power windows, air conditioning, leather steering wheel and seats, power drivers seat, dual SRS air bags, ABS and remote entry.

Any of the second generation Pajero's from 1991 onwards present a decent 4WD proposition. Constant reworking meant the NL was delivered as a more refined and better engineered package.

Nothing major goes consistantly wrong with these models. Cracked engine mounts and sagging rear door hinges are telltales of plenty of four wheel drive action but Mitsubishi matched a reliable drive train to a competent body.

The article 4WD Accessories, What do you need? offers some tips on outfitting a four wheel drive.

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