Senior executives will continue to regard the go-anywhere Japanese model as one of the 'perks' of their jobs despite its high carbon dioxide emission figures, believes Colt Car Co sales and marketing director Paul Williams.
'We don't envisage the Budget inflicting any damage on the popularity of the Shogun. This is a model that has always been a hit with business buyers.
'The business sector accounts for eight out of every 10 registrations of the car and we think it will continue to be a corporate favourite,' said Williams at the international launch of the new three and five-door all-wheel drive range in Spain. But he admitted that increasing competition in the burgeoning market for prestige 4x4 vehicles had prompted the importer to put fresh focus on raising product value.
Announcing prices starting at £24,995 for the lead-in GLX diesel, Williams said all versions offered sharper value and claimed the £37,995 cost of the top petrol-powered long wheelbase GLS car will be 5.7% lower than its predecessor when sales begin in May.
'This is in line with the new pricing policy now being applied to all Mitsubishi passenger cars but represents a big reduction indeed when substantial benefits in power, operating cost and packaging are taken into consideration,' he said. Longer, wider and able to swallow greater load volumes than before, the third-generation of Mitsubishi's best-known model name boasts dramatic 'Star Wars' styling and is claimed to feature significant advances in underbonnet technology. The Shogun made its British public debut at the Fleet Show and the range is unique in offering direct injection on either petrol or diesel engines.
Available initially in top-specification form, the cheaper GLX versions will be introduced in September. Around 1,500 examples are expected to be sold this year, rising to 2,000 registrations in 2001.
'In the past, most customers have opted for the 2.8-litre LWB turbodiesel, and we think the 3.2-litre model that replaces it will account for the lion's share of sales. The new range has very distinctive looks, but buyers will find its attractions lie much deeper than that.
'This new range drives even better on the Tarmac than its predecessor but has lost none of the core capabilities that have made the Shogun a leading off-roader,' said Williams.
Despite its larger swept volume, the new DI-D heavy-oil motor uses up to 15% less fuel than its predecessor. Like its petrol-driven stablemate, the 3.5-litre GDI, it also boasts a reduced CO2 figure while offering substantially more power. Although both body options are bigger than before, the adoption of monocoque build to replace the traditional ladder-frame construction means weights remain similar and towing capacity - up to 3,300 kgs - unchanged.
On the road, Mitsubishi's claims of improved performance are soon borne by the latest GDI unit, which has 80% of its torque on tap at only 1,500 revs and pours out a satisfying surge of power irrespective of speed.
Contradicting the sheer bulk of its bodywork, the five-door has nimble handling. The three-door, which offers less easy access to the rear seats and a smaller luggage area, is even more sporty and makes light work of rapid overtaking manoeuvres.
Initially, DI-D versions disappoint with a high degree of mechanical noise on start-up and under load, but that view changes as the clatter falls away to leave the engine mostly inaudible during open-road progress that is impressively smooth and luxurious. Another surprise is the dashboard's green 'economy' light stays on for most of the time during high-speed progress.
Though the Shogun's bigger dimensions create significant extra room for passengers and allow greater interior versatility, all versions have neater handling and feel more like executive saloons as they bowl along motorways in unruffled fashion.