WE’VE been locking antlers, arm wrestling and generally behaving like Lord Flashheart from Blackadder in the Fleet News office. The reason for this outpouring of testosterone? Our Mitsubishi L200.
Trevor Gelken, editor of our sister title Fleet Van, reckons it’s just not man enough. It’s got curves, which he thinks should stay attached to passenger cars and women. A van for a man should be square and lantern-jawed.
Me? I’m a little more evolved and in touch with my feminine side, but of course still a strapping man’s man. Think that Athena picture of that handsome chap without his shirt on holding the baby.
And it would appear that there are many double-cab buyers similarly constructed as me because despite that curvy cabin, the L200 is flying out of Mitsubishi showrooms.
It’s the best-selling double cab, with more than 8,200 sold up to the end of August, nearly 40% of the total market.
Over the past few months I’ve had various reasons to employ its services, and the range of tasks I have set it illustrate what a versatile vehicle it is.
In June, I took the L200 on our annual pilgrimage to Le Mans for the 24-hour race. It proved a stunning success.
It’s comfortable transport for five men, pretty refined on the long French autoroutes at a constant 80mph, and took plenty of kit in the load bed, which also proved a very good high-ground platform from which to defend our campsite from marauding attacks of drunken northerners with water pistols.
I’ve also used the L200 to move a friend out of his flat, to make numerous visits to the dump when I finally ran out of excuses to clear the garden and as a handy runabout for our cricket club’s annual festival, ferrying beer barrels, kit, advertising hoardings and the like.
That’s not to say the big Mitsubishi is perfect. Obviously, as it’s designed to tackle anything thrown at it there are compromises, but ones you’d expect: to turn the thing requires spinning the wheel as if you’re at the helm of the Mary Rose. It wallows and pitches and working out where the edges are when parking requires generous guestimation.
But the things that are really poor are issues that shouldn’t be experienced on this sort of vehicle, no matter how civilised you are trying to make it. The touch-screen system for the satellite navigation and other functions is awful. It just doesn’t have any logic.
Also, the DVD player for rear passengers doesn’t seem to work with the majority of DVDs. And if we’re being really fussy, the leather used in the seats feels more like plastic.
But who on earth in the real world would opt for such luxuries in the L200 anyway?
It’s a fantastic vehicle at providing good, honest, averagely comfortable transport from job to job, while allowing you to chuck your tools and equipment in the back. It doesn’t need to be parked up at the weekend and you don’t wince at the thought of a long journey, especially now that it is feeling the full benefit of its power upgrade.
You may remember that we had our L200’s engine upgraded from 134bhp to 160 through an engine re-map but were unimpressed with the results, especially bearing in mind the £756 cost.
We detected a slight improvement in the mid-range, but overall the conversion left our L200 feeling noticeably rough.
Thinking that something might be wrong, the car was sent back to Mitsubishi’s headquarters where they discovered a rogue chip in the electronic software.
As a result, the L200 is transformed, with far smoother power delivery, less noise and, more importantly, it now feels 160bhp-powerful.
Now the L200 really is a strong man, albeit with a sensitive side.
Price: £21,226 (£23,770 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 252
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £9 per month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 29.7
Test mpg: 31.3
CAP Monitor RV: £7,875/44%
Contract hire rate: N/A
Expenditure to date: £756
- Figures based on three years/60,000 miles