The sixth generation of the Mitsubishi L200 has one hell of a reputation to live up to – and it does, writes Mark Stone.

FOR over 40 years, the Mitsubishi L200 has been providing reliable rural transport, the various incarnations virtually part and parcel of the British countryside. Go to any cattle market, farmyard or pheasant shoot and you’ll find these Mitsubishis in profusion. Their reputation for value for money, reliability and load-hauling capability ensures the L200 will always rate in the top three of 4x4 commercials. So with the launch of the sixth generation and the demise of the Shogun, the new L200 – especially in Barbarian X guise – has a significant legacy to live up to, as it endeavours to replace not one but two models.

Sat on a stiffer, more robust and reinforced chassis with significantly improved double wishbone, coil springs and anti-roll bar front suspension (but still retaining elliptical leaf at the rear), the improved dynamics make themselves felt the instant you roll wheels. Definitely bigger and bolder than the preceding model, the new L200 has adopted the heavy chrome shield insert that now adorns the entire Mitsubishi range. Smaller but more efficient self-levelling narrow LED lights sit just beneath the clam-shell bonnet’s leading edge, the flatter bonnet and squarer front wings improving the lines of this new pickup.

Forestry Journal: The L200’s load capacity has been improved for the better.The L200’s load capacity has been improved for the better.

The familiar curvature of the four large doors has been slimmed down, while the larger cargo bed looks more in keeping with the rest of the vehicle. With a load capacity increase to 1,080 kg and a squarer, deeper cargo bed, besides the L200’s dramatic change of appearance the capacity has also been improved for the better. Another improvement is the new L200’s ability to tow 3.5 tonnes, a weight hike long overdue.

In the case of the range-topping model, as tested, the 18” alloys and 265/60 tyres add to the approach, ramp-over and departure angles of 300, 240 and 220, 205 mm ground clearance and 600 mm wading depth. If nothing else, these continue the L200’s off-road reputation as one of the best of its type, something I can personally attest to.

Forestry Journal: The 2.3 litre diesel delivers impressive economy.The 2.3 litre diesel delivers impressive economy.

With much-needed sidesteps allowing for far easier access, the Barbarian X cabin is a well-thought-out combination of practical, comfortable, usable and semi-luxury SUV. There are even LED mood lights and additional padding for knees. Overtly black in hue, but sensibly laid out, with ample stowage, instrumentation is clear, informative and packed with warning systems. The thicker leather sports steering wheel (heated in this case) is pleasant to hold, while the ample and similarly warmed seating provides sufficient room for five passengers. Bristling with apps and cameras, it’s interesting that the central touchscreen doesn’t (or didn’t, in this case) come with built-in satnav. Instead, the moment my iPhone was coupled to one of the many USB ports, the phone’s navigation apps came verbally into play, as did a much-improved hands-free.

Contrary to governmental and EU meddling, the new L200 utilises Mitsubishi’s latest, clean-as-it-gets diesel technology. An all-new 2,268 cc aluminium 4-cylinder turbo diesel sits upfront. Developing a modest 150 hp, but a healthy 400 Nm of torque, even carrying a medium load, users can expect an average consumption of around 36 mpg, which translates to around 360 miles per 75-litre tank of diesel, accompanied by a 21-litre AdBlue tank. Top speed weighs in at 106 mph where permitted, while 0–60 mph takes around 13 or so seconds.

Forestry Journal: 18” alloys and 265 tyres add to the big, bold looks.18” alloys and 265 tyres add to the big, bold looks.

Mated to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission inclusive of sequential and paddle shift, the familiar rotary transfer control provides for 2WD or rear-wheel drive, 4WD high ratio and 4WD low ratio with diff locks, and is fingertip controlled. Where the new transmission system differs from what went before is that an ‘on-the-fly’ shift from 2WD into 4WD high or vice versa can now be carried out at speeds up to 65 mph. A more complete package – while previous L200s have always delivered the latest version – is undeniably better.

Behind the wheel, this new pickup initially feels larger to drive, but that’s where the perceived increase in size ends. The first noticeable change is the vastly improved driving position, the raised seating now providing for a more natural posture. Secondly, the new L200’s shift towards a more SUV-type environment has also included a more car-like attitude from the vehicle itself. Gone is the commercial feel, as is the propensity for the entire rear of the vehicle to bounce when empty. This doesn’t mean the rear unladen wheel/axle lightness has been eliminated, but the new rear suspension has counteracted the previous model’s wayward back end. This, in turn, means the new L200 offers a far more refined on-road ride, which translates into a more refined cabin experience. Off road, the new L200 continues the model’s excellent rough-terrain and field-crossing reputation.

Forestry Journal:  The new L200 incorporates the latest Mitsubishi-style chrome cheeks. The new L200 incorporates the latest Mitsubishi-style chrome cheeks.

Like most modern motors, the new L200 – especially the Barbarian X – comes with various radar-based warning systems such as forward collision, lane departure warning, 360-degree cameras, reverse warnings, cross-traffic alert, stability control and hill descent, along with the fuel-saving stop/start.

While I personally might prefer the looks of the older model, I can’t deny the new L200 pickup is a substantial improvement in every other respect.