This is our third acquaintance with the Triton in as many years, bar the pandemic “era” when drive impressions as we knew it were almost non-existent, and our first full drive impression with the flagship Triton Athlete.
Our previous dalliance with the Triton was more than two years ago in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, but the fun part over slippery off-road trails was covered in a manual transmission model.
As such, we didn’t gain the benefit of experiencing the Hill Descent Control (HDC) under challenging conditions but only simulated ones in Bangkok a few months earlier in 2018 during the world launch.
The recent media drive to the Janda Baik area was focused on the introduction of the flagship Triton Athlete to replace the previous flag bearer in the Adventure X.
Although the off-road trails were less challenging, despite them being subjected to an overnight rainfall, it gave us a better impression of how the HDC works with the pace being electronically controlled going down a gradient.
The first downhill slope was too mild and the pace was way too slow but subsequent ones were steeper and allowed us to use the Hill Descent Control with absolute confidence.
Selecting Hill Descent Control was simple; come to a stop with the Triton Athlete, move the gearshift to N(eutral) and press the HDC button; the HDC light would come on in the instrument panel and you are good to go.
As usual, we were quite nonplus about why the Triton Athlete in front of us had the brake lamp activated during that manoeuvre; with HDC activated, one is supposed to go downhill without touching the brake pedal.
Our only job was to manoeuvre the pickup with the steering wheel; could it be a lack of confidence by the driver in front?
We found the pace controlled by the vehicle electronics comfortable as we descended the not so slippery gradient and that confidence in the Triton Athlete’s prowess negated the need to step on the brake pedal.
The HDC is part of the Triton’s Super Select 4WD-11 along with selections for gravel terrain and mud or snow; selection must always be done when the pickup is brought to stop, Neutral is engaged and the respective off-road mode is chosen.
This is usually done when four-wheel drive is engaged either in HLc for higher speed runs or LLc (lower speed) for a creeping pace over tough off-road terrain.
Doing it on the fly, as we did once to disengage HDC had the light remaining lit on the instrument panel, albeit to tell us that it was off.
Pressing the button again when the Triton had come to a stop and Neutral was selected did the HDC light goes off.
Over the few mud pools that we came across, driving through them with Mud/Snow mode selected made it less of a slip sliding experience.
We forgot to select Mud/Snow once, leaving the mode in Gravel, and we could feel the Triton squirreling somewhat as the tyres appeared to be hunting for traction over the soft and gooey earth.
When the correct mode was selected, covering the mud sessions was a lot less dramatic as the Triton didn’t slip slide over the slippery surfaces but sailed through with relative ease.
By the way, we were going off-road with on-road tyres but given the conditions in the Janda Baik drive, they performed well up to the mark, even when going up slippery river banks.
The Triton Athlete also took to stream fording with relative ease, given that the stream bed was mostly firm with a rock foundation. In ride comfort, the Triton Athlete lived up to expectations from the driver’s and front seat passenger’s perspective, which is consistent with the experience gained in our Kota Kinabalu off-road excursion.
The rear might be served by leaf springs but they are suitably tuned to offer a reasonably comfortable ride off-road to complement the front wishbones (we could vouch for that too as a rear seat passenger in Sabah).
In manoeuvrability, the best-in-class small turning circle of 11.8m allowed the Triton to make tight turns at one go most of the time, instead of having to stop, reverse and steer through.
For driving comfort, the driver’s seat in the Triton Athlete is electronically selected and there is a host of safety warning systems to remind one of the other traffic that the road is shared with.
The gloss black trim package and rear body decals give the Triton Athlete its tough and macho visual elements to complement its bold front, which is also suitably accented with the black theme.
Power from the award-winning 2.4-litre MIVEC turbodiesel engine with Variable Valve Timing was adequate for on- and off-road driving; it delivers 181PS and 430Nm of torque.
The six-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode made driving less of a hassle off-road while on-road gearing was good for effortless but illegal speed cruising on the highways if one wished to tempt the speed radar.
Safety features include Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), Blind Spot Warning with Lane Change Assist (BSW with LCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS), Auto High Beam (AHB) and seven SRS airbags.
Also available as standard are All-Round Monitor (ARM), Driving Video Recorder (DVR), and an Apple Carplay and Android Auto ready audio system with a 7-inch touchscreen.
The Triton Athlete might cost a pretty penny compared to the “lesser” model variants at RM141,500 (on-the-road without insurance) but is worthwhile option for supervisors to go surveying construction or estate sites in relatively good comfort.