MORE than any other model, the Mitsubishi Shogun has been the catalyst to raise the standards in off-road vehicles over the last 20 years.
It forced the venerable Land Rover to reinvent itself and it has become a benchmark in the field of serious 4x4 models.
It has undergone a number of changes from the original models in the early 80s, but the latest changes are probably the most significant - for the Shogun has taken a step backwards in styling terms and has actually gone retro with its cleaned up lines.
You don't have to be a driver to appreciate the benefits of the latest, enhanced Mitsubishi Shogun, and in some ways it's better if you are not.
The attention to detail in the 2003 Mitsubishi Shogun includes a clever single lever action to lower or raise the big back seat, automatically folding in the side cushions as it drops.
With no increase in price and petrol models now priced the same as diesel, the 2003 Shogun has more than just the latest styling changes from French designer Olivier Boulay. Better comfort, added value specification and improved safety are applicable features to all nine variants in the three and five door range.
I tested the top of range £32,495, 3.5-litre V6 Automatic Elegance which is only available in the bigger five-door style. It delivers 200bhp but the big engine still only gives it a 0-60mph of just over 12 seconds and a maximum 115mph. I averaged about 18mpg overall.
The performance is not stunning in any respect but the way it performs both on and off-road is impressive. The engineers have sharpened the Shogun's handling without upsetting its subtle ride and it soaks up all manner of bumps without complaint.
Press on with a clear road and it is more assured than before, with excellent grip and good steering. Around town it can be easily and accurately placed. It's a big vehicle, but a high seating position, low waistline, big wipers and bright lights make it easy to manoeuvre up close.
Access is extremely good throughout and the carrying capacity, at 1.700 litres, is immense with a 765KG limit inside and a braked trailer weight of 3300KG.
It only sounds busy when the 24v engine spins through its mid-range and churns out the power. Road, wind and mechanical noises are all low.
The 2003 Mitsubishi Shogun 3.5V6 is the pinnacle of the pedigree and it is the one to beat for the next generation Discovery.
Mitsubishi Shogun 3.5 V6 GDI Elegance 5-dr Auto
Mechanical: 200bhp, 3,497cc V6 engine driving all four wheels via 5spd automatic transmission
Max speed: 115mph
0-60mph: 12.5 secs
Combined mpg: 21.4
Insurance group: 16
CO2 emissions: 316 g/km
BiK Rating: 35%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited; 6yrs anti-rust