The strongest aspect of the Shogun Sport’s driving ability is what it can do on the rough stuff. All cars get a useful amount of off-road kit, such as hill descent control, a locking rear differential and four-wheel drive with four terrain settings, as well as a heady ground clearance of 218mm. The Shogun Sport also gets an impressive towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes, which is comfortably more than most of its seven-seat rivals – and that’s important, considering 90% of Shogun Sport buyers opt to fit a tow bar to it.
However, aside from these rugged workhorse-like qualities, the driving experience is pretty poor. The only engine available is a 2.4-litre diesel unit that has a particularly agricultural feel to it, making a lot of noise at idle and under any kind of acceleration, although it does settle down at a cruise. Along with the engine noise, there’s a fair bit of wind and road roar, too. Performance wise, it’s quick enough to get to motorway speeds without too much trouble, and you’ll be able to overtake without needing to swallow too many brave pills, but the Shogun Sport never feels quick. In fact, it’s one of the slowest seven-seaters you can buy, with only the Toyota Land Cruiser proving even more sluggish in the 0-62mph ‘sprint’.
All models get an eight-speed automatic transmission that seems slightly hesitant to shift up, despite having a high number of ratios, meaning it can hang onto gears longer than you’d like and leave the engine whining. When it does shift, though, it does so fairly quickly and smoothly, and you have the option of using paddle shifters on the steering wheel to shift gears yourself. When you do, you’ll find the gearbox is actually pretty responsive to your commands.
The steering is very poor, offering hardly any feel and feeling rather imprecise. The steering wheel also squirms in your hands as the wheels follow the lumps and bumps in the road, so you need to make fairly constant steering inputs to keep it on the straight ahead – something that can get quite tiresome.
If you enter a corner with any sort of gusto, you’ll find yourself waiting quite a while between turning the steering wheel and the Shogun Sport actually turning in. Grip levels are quite low and there’s an awful lot of body lean even at moderate speeds. This is not a car that likes to be driven quickly, reminding us more of pick-up trucks than modern SUVs. That’s no surprise, since the Shogun Sport shares its underpinnings with the L200.
Still, ride comfort is more important than handling in something like this. Although it’s quite soft, potholes, ridges and other road imperfections cause it to thump uncomfortably and shimmy around. This is the case whether you’re pottering through town or hammering down the motorway. On a smooth piece of asphalt, it is reasonably comfortable, though.