By Paul Owen
Mitsubishi’s Triton has always been a worthy Ute to buy, but for me it has always lacked X-factor. More affordable pricing than most Japanese- and German- branded Utes, styling that became increasingly fussier ever since the demise of the good ol’ L200, and value-led marketing means that Triton owners struggle to make visual statements when they arrive at their destination du jour. The new FRX package available from Mitsubishi dealers aims to change all that.
For the $13,069 FRX package instantly transforms the Triton into a head-turner. I’ve driven VW Amarok Aventuras, Mercedes-Benz X-classes, Jeep Wrangler Brutes, Dodge Rams, and dressed-up Ford Rangers that failed to attract as much attention and interest as this Triton FRX. This Ute upgrade has the potential to turn more male heads than a couple of naked supermodels playing out a women’s tennis final. So definitely don’t dress your Triton up this way if you’re shy and wish to remain beneath the radar.
You’ll find the key to the increased visual impact of the FRX in the wheel/tyre package, which consists of 20” EVR Intrepid alloy wheels dressed in humungous 285/50 Black Bear All Terrain II tyres. These black hoops n’ shoes set the theme of an upgrade that turns most of a Triton’s shiny chrome into black chrome, adds a gloss black front over-bumper and finishes off the exterior with some tasty graphics, and matt black finishes applied to the grille and side-steps. Some red highlights are added as well, with bonnet stripes, front tow-hooks, and the rear bumper inset all featuring the colour. Options added to this particular FRX are the load tray bedrug, and the lockable powered lid that covers it (complete with key-operated remote).
There’s more to the pack when you open the door to the cabin of the Triton and encounter the new Monza sports front seats with their armour-themed inserts. These and the rear bench come upholstered in OEM-spec leather. Climb aboard via the generous side sills (complete with ridged holes that allow you scrape the mud off your boots first) and settle in – you’ll quickly find that these are some of the most, comfy front pews ever fitted to a light commercial vehicle. They felt as if tailored specifically to the curve of my spine, and the extra lateral support of the larger side bolsters improved driver comfort when cornering.
Speaking of corners, unlike many vehicles where the off-road performance envelope has been expanded, the Triton FRX isn’t afraid of them. The bigger wheels and the stiff sidewalls of the tyres keep body roll in check and add an endearing directness to the steering of the Mitsubishi. Grip doesn’t feel to have been compromised by the more aggressive tread design of the Black Bear AT II tyres either. Although there’s plenty of mud-clearing space between the various shoulder lugs and interlocking mid-tread lugs that come into contact with the road, the generous width of the tyres ensures there are still four stable foundations to secure the handling of the Triton.
The FRX pack is available for all Triton models, but the sample vehicle was strictly rear-drive only. Yet the challenges of driving a rear-drive Ute up a saturated grass-surfaced slope were quickly overcome by the claw-like grip of the Black Bears. Their performance encouraged plenty of speculation about what a 4wd Triton FRX could achieve off-road. Could it possibly climb to places where other Utes fear to tread?
I once drove a similarly-shod Mitsubishi L200 in a three-day South Island 4wd rally that encountered heavy rain on the West Coast. The tyres lived up to their mud-slinging reputation, and the L200 never once got stuck, but they were a liability when driving back on the road. They howled noisily everywhere, and the wet road grip was reduced to the point of becoming dangerous. The tyres fitted to the FRX are just as adept at chucking mud, yet they display few of the historic dynamic limitations during everyday driving on the road.
The ride of the Mitsubishi is a little firmer at speeds below 40kmh, and the Black Bears begin to growl a bit when riding over a hot-mix bitumen surface at speeds above 100kmh, but these are minor prices to pay for taking Triton to the top of the sector for visual appeal, and giving a rear-drive Ute a huge lift in traction off-road.
So, is the FRX package good value?
You get visual impact that more than rivals of the market including the $84,990 Ford Raptor, after having spent just $51,990 on a Triton GLX and the $13,069 required for the fitted FRX pack.
Leaves enough change for a boat or caravan to tow on the back.