Recently the EFTM Garage was home to Mitsubishi’s Triton GLX+ and it got me thinking about the role dual cab utes have in our market.
The Triton is Australia’s third best selling dual cab, behind Toyota’s Hilux and Ford’s Ranger. Dual cab utes are huge sellers. In fact, the Hilux is the best selling car in Australia and has been for the last five years. The Ranger? Well, it’s the second best selling car! Admittedly, large numbers of these utes are going to commercial buyers, however, a huge amount of these utes are being bought as family transport.
The GLX+ lies in the middle of the Triton range, above the base GLX and below the GLX-R and range topping GLS. As such, it comes equipped with 16” alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, keyless entry and Apple CarPlay.
Active safety features include autonomous braking (with pedestrian detection), Lane Departure Warning, Emergency Brake Assist system and Active Stability Control (including Trailer Stability Assist. Passive safety features include driver & passenger airbags, curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. This is all while keeping the hard vinyl flooring fitted to every hardworking ute – it’s a great balance of safety, comfort and practicality… for a work ute. Does this balance still work when pressed into family duties? No, not even close.
While I really enjoyed my time with the Triton and it proved itself to be very often the equal of its more expensive competition on and off road, as family cars dual cab utes just don’t add up. Firstly, without a canopy or hard lid over the load bed you have a miniscule amount of storage space. During the test, a trip to the shops during a rainy period saw the kids balancing all kinds of stuff on their laps. Parking is a chore and while the 2.4 diesel pumps out a very adequate 133kW and 430Nm, it is rumbly and grumbly around town (it settles nicely on the highway though).
Ultimately, none of these vices make me question the role of dual cab utes as family transportation – it is the compromises inherent in the design and original purpose of utes. While there have been recent massive advances in safety, manufacturers were unlikely to have foreseen the rise in the personal use of these vehicles. Add to this our obsession with towing capacities of three tonnes or more and the compromises to chassis design are simply too great to justify people’s choice of a dual cab as your family’s next car.
We had the test Triton during a rainy patch. This allowed the serious deficiencies of dual cab utes to shine. The advancements in active safety that Mitsubishi has made with the Triton should be commended and go a long way to masking these design compromises, yet greasy roads reveal just how often systems such as ABS, traction control and ESP need to intervene to keep you on the blacktop.
Relatively soft front springs, rock hard rear springs, a general lack of chassis rigidity and on-road/off-road tyres can cause the Triton to launch into a Dukes of Hazzard impersonation at every change of direction. Even the most gentle of inclines and the gentlest of throttle applications will cause the rear end to spin, squirm and step sideways. Both front and rear slides are easily corrected by the active safety systems, but a chassis designed for the road and for family use simply won’t respond in this way. The compromises needed to meet the demands of many dual cab buyers are just too great.
Of course, I am a complete hypocrite – I own a dual cab ute and it is currently our family car. It can work. You just need to be very careful and understand the limitations of the chassis design and subsequent grip. Of course, I have a canopy fitted and use the grippiest tyres that will fit. Further, I use the tray daily and need to engage four wheel drive at least once a week. So, would I buy another one? Absolutely, and the Triton would be at the pointy end of my list. I need a dual cab, but driving the Triton has reminded me to speed up my search for a proper family car to supplement my dual cab.