New Pajero takes care of the driver
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
"Come out and drive a vehicle you would not normally drive. Do something you would not usually do - such as drive through a river, up a hill with a two-foot drop alongside of the road. Come out and do it today!"
That's the challenge from Chris McFarlane, Mitsubishi's sales and marketing manager, to potential customers interested in test-driving the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the SX4 or Jimney, Mitsubishi ASX, Pajero or Montero Sport.
Activities start 10 o'clock this morning at the purpose-built obstacle course in Barbican Circle, St Andrew, where the Stewart's Automotive Group has been generating much excitement for more than a week, first with its BMW X-factor promotion and then with the traction control technology, a feature of the Mitsubishi and Suzuki off-road vehicles.
Having visited the facility on Thursday, I was enjoying the familiarisation run with McFarlane in the driver's seat with a photographer in tow, when 'Teach' lost his mind and I my nerve.
Having first demonstrated the hill descent and then the impressive torque of the 3-litre v-6, 200-horsepower engine powering the Pajero by reversing uphill and then going back down, McFarlane had been explaining the traction control technology when the professional race driver obviously blew a gasket.
"Okay, Chris, you come and drive," he said, stopping the vehicle and getting out.
The image of the two-foot drop on the driver's side of the course flashed across my mind, as I recalled that Teach is a professional race driver, and years of competitive driving has given him the expertise to handle the course with the ease he had shown. However, he was adamant that in the hands of any competent driver the vehicle would perform just as well.
I was yet to be convinced. Still, with my gargantuan ego and Automotives' reputation on the line, I stepped up to the plate. Bring it on!
Teach's instructions were simple. "Keep the same line (as he had), but don't gun the engine. Just give it enough gas and you are going to trust it. Just keep the wheel straight and go up and easy, keep a steady gas and allow the traction control to do what it is designed to do."
The vehicle performed exactly as he said it would. Keeping a steady grip on the steering wheel, keeping it straight as we moved off in four-wheel low, the right front wheel of the Pajero slowly slid into the manufactured pothole. I heard the traction control engage and the onboard computer gave a graphic representation of the power redistribution. The vehicle held and then slowly moved forward and, as we crested the hill, Teach pointed out that two of the wheels were probably off the road - but that didn't matter to me.
The Pajero had convinced me that it was in charge, and as long as I obeyed and did as instructed we were both going to be all right.
After that the rest of the obstacle course, including the 38-degree angled section, the 'river' and 'really bad road' were a breeze. All the prepackaged panic I had taken onboard was now obsolete, and I was fully convinced that I should make a career shift to professional racing.
Teach talked me out of it, citing concerns about my safety, but deep down I think he's just afraid of the competition.