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The Mitsubishi L300 is back, and it has a new engine

Some things are meant to last, including this tough vehicle

This vehicle is probably second only to the jeepney in terms of ubiquity on our roads. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

Yes, there’s a “new” Mitsubishi L300. It’s got a chin spoiler. And a new chrome grille. And a USB slot in the audio head unit. And a more elevated (+100mm) cab height. And an engine that wouldn’t exactly be put to shame by today’s turbodiesel mills.

But that’s basically what makes the classic L300 supposedly new. Everything else appears to be the same old workhorse that’s loved by courier fleet managers and small businesses. The cab, the column-mounted gearstick, and much of the front fascia remain the same. Still no power windows, no power-adjustable mirrors, no tachometer.

And who doesn’t recognize this exterior design? PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

Admittedly, the outgoing 4D56 engine was not the greenest one out there. Shift too early and clouds of sooty smoke came out of the exhaust pipe. More importantly, it was good for only Euro 2 emissions standards, now outlawed by DENR Administrative Order 2015-04. So Mitsubishi has updated it with something that satisfies cleaner Euro 4 requirements.

The new 4N14 engine is quite a fancy upgrade. It has a modern common-rail direct-injection fuel system and also a turbocharger. The power and torque figures are quite modest even for a high-tech turbodiesel like this: 98hp and 200Nm. But we suspect that Mitsubishi has specifically tuned the 2.2-liter four-cylinder this way for the sake of durability. In theory, an engine that isn’t maxed out in terms of power ends up lasting longer.

The new 4N14 engine meets Euro 4 standards. PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

That said, the addition of a turbocharger spreads out the torque curve over a wide rev range. While the old 4D56 was peaky when it came to delivering maximum pulling power, all 200Nm of twist can be had in the 4N14 from as low as 1,000rpm all the way to 3,500rpm. But again, this “new” L300 doesn’t come with a tachometer, so only God knows how fast the engine is spinning.

Real men don’t need tachometers. Just kidding. PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

But all this talk of numbers won’t really impress the vehicle’s target customers. No UV Express driver or door-to-door delivery guy will give a shit about a spec sheet. He or she will just hop into the L300 and use (and abuse) it. So the more appropriate question is this: Can the new engine make the L300 haul ass?

Driving the updated L300 against its old-school version was quite a revelation. Not only was the 4N14 accelerating harder, the gear ratios in the five-speed shifter took advantage of the bump in performance. The 4D56’s transmission had a very short first gear: It was almost like a crawler gear, meant to simply prevent the engine from bogging down in second at low speed.

It looks utilitarian, but the L300 gets the job done. PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

The gearbox mated to the 4N14 has more evenly spaced ratios. Although the first gear is a lot longer, the flat torque curve means acceleration is linear and stable. The next four gear ratios appear to be lengthened as well, maximizing the use of all available torque. While we weren’t able to take the L300 up to expressway speeds, we felt like this vehicle should be able to do 100km/h at a relatively lower rpm.

This vehicle has been transporting both people and cargo for decades. It’s truly an icon. PHOTOS BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

The acquisition cost of the updated L300 does come with its own bump in price: P804,000 for the bare cab-and-chassis variant. But that’s okay. Apart from the engine, the L300 is still the same reliable machine that everyone knows from the not-so-distant past. It’s a familiar face, a common sight and a well-known icon. You just can’t put a price on that.

Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.