According to the press pack that came with my test car, the 'Shogun Sport offers the perfect solution to beat the London congestion charge'.
Fair enough, because as it runs very cleanly on LPG it is exempt from Ken Livingstone's road toll scheme, but I cannot think of anyone in their right mind who would want to hustle this big, heavy, cumbersome off-roader around London's narrow and congested streets.
Leaving aside the Shogun Sport's size for a moment, the real stumbling block for this car is its turning circle, which is so wide that it would make manoeuvering in and around London a nightmare.
So let's forget all about the Big Smoke and concentrate on the Shogun Sport's real benefits. It sits in between the small and town-friendly Shogun Pinin and the upmarket Shogun, offering big car space and serious off-road ability with a reasonable price.
It is the ideal car for engineers working for companies such as utility firms who need to carry plenty of equipment and who may also need to go off-road in the course of their job.
In that respect the Shogun Sport fulfils its role very well. It's a big car and benefits from having a high seating position, affording the driver a great view of the road ahead.
It's also a very roomy car, although the interior is let down by the switchgear, which seems scattered across the dashboard and looks dated.
From the outside the Shogun Sport looks the part with its chunky body and large wheels and tyres, big bumpers and sidesteps, all adding to that 'utility' feel. And while the 2.5-litre turbodiesel model would usually be the default choice for business drivers, this LPG variant offers drivers another option.
Based on the 3.0-litre V6 petrol automatic model, the dual-fuel conversion adds a 90-litre LPG tank located under the rear floor section which holds £35-worth of the fuel. With a petrol tank as well the car has a good range – during my week with it I covered more than 200 miles in a variety of driving conditions and emptied the LPG tank and half of the petrol tank, which is not bad going for a car of this type using an automatic gearbox.
On the road its high centre of gravity and chunky tyres mean that ride and handling are affected, although this is true of nearly all off-roaders.
As the Shogun Sport is the only dual-fuel vehicle of its type, comparing it with rivals is difficult. Most off-roaders are diesel-powered as it offers fuel economy and mid-range performance benefits, but for environmentally-minded fleet operators, the Mitsubishi is another option.
However, gathering running cost figures for this model has proved very difficult and this begs the question of whether fleet managers would be put off choosing this vehicle because of the confusion surrounding LPG conversions and their treatment for tax and fuel purposes.
Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 3.0 V6 Eleg auto LPG
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £26,801
CO2 emissions (g/km): 306 (LPG: 269)
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 34%
Graduated VED rate: £155
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 21.3 (LPG: 16.9)
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,650/36%
Depreciation (23.79 pence per mile x 60,000): £14,272
Maintenance (4.78 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,865
Fuel (9.01 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,405
Wholelife cost (37.58 pence per mile x 60,000): £22,548
Typical contract hire rate: £626
Three rivals to consider
THE utilitarian Defender is the cheapest car to buy of our quartet, with a P11d value of £22,470. That is more than £1,000 less than the second-placed Nissan and Jeep and way ahead of the Mitsubishi. However, the Shogun Sport's price includes the LPG conversion cost of £2,808, taking the car up to £26,801. But through the PowerShift funding scheme 60% of this extra cost can be claimed back by fleets, meaning the conversion cost is £950.
Land Rover £22,470
THE Nissan terrano takes a narrow victory in servicing, maintenance and repair cost terms, at 3.45 pence per mile over three years/60,000 miles. The Jeep is just behind on 3.94ppm. Strangely, the two cars with the best warranty packages, the Land Rover and Mitsubishi, are in third and fourth places respectively, although the Shogun Sport's additional engineering for the LPG conversion explains its performance.
Land Rover 4.46ppm
WITH LPG costing roughly half as much as petrol or diesel, it is no surprise that the Shogun Sport wins the fuel costs section. Although fuel economy when running on LPG is relatively poor, the price of LPG more than makes up for this. Running on LPG, the Mitsubishi returns 16.9mpg but this improves to 21.3mpg on petrol. The three rivals, all diesel-powered, are closely matched, although the manual transmission Td5 Defender comes last against its automatic rivals.
Land Rover 13.09ppm
DEFENDERS seem to go on forever and so it is that the trade looks favourably on them as a used buy. CAP predicts the Land Rover will retain 42% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, resulting in a clear first place in depreciation terms. Second place goes to the Jeep, with a predicted RV of 37%. The Shogun Sport comes in third with an RV of 36%, exactly the same figure as its petrol-only cousin and showing that LPG scepticism is on the wane. The Terrano finishes fourth with an RV prediction of 33%.
Land Rover 18.65ppm
A CLEAR win for the Defender on 36.20ppm, more than a penny per mile less than the Mitsubishi and well ahead of the Jeep and Nissan. The Shogun Sport's running costs performance demonstrates that an LPG vehicle can be as cost-effective as a traditional diesel model, thanks mainly to the savings that can be made on the price of LPG compared to diesel. As long as the Government continues to look favourably on duty on LPG, the Mitsubishi will be a viable fleet option.
Land Rover 36.20ppm
Emissions and BIK tax rates
WITH carbon dioxide emissions of more than 255g/km all four of our cars here fall into the maximum 35% band for benefit-in-kind tax, which is not surprising as they are all big, heavy off-roaders with hardly the most aerodynamic bodies on the road. However, because the Shogun Sport runs on LPG and is on the PowerShift register, it qualifies for a one percentage band reduction in company car tax. However, its higher list price cancels out any tax savings.
Land Rover 299g/km/35%
IF you want a vehicle on your fleet which can cut it in the rough stuff but is also comfortable on the road, the Mitsubishi makes a strong case for itself. The Shogun Sport wins this contest solely by being more comfortable to drive on the road than the Defender. But other than the lower price of LPG, there is little to recommend in this model over a traditional diesel-engined version.