By Mark Tomlinson
Oman’s geography seems to be created with an “A-Z” of four wheel
driving experiences in mind, and SUVs make up an enormous part
of the automotive sales market in the country
It When it comes to drawing up a template of a nation that
delivers the most extensive range of off-road terrain and
driving excitement, it is hard to look much further than the
Sultanate of Oman. As you drive around the nation it seems as if
the nation’s geography was created with an “A-Z” of four wheel
driving experiences in mind. Today the only major difference
from 1970 in a country celebrating over four decades of
successful national development and success is simply the speed
with which the adventurous Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) owner
can reach some of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty
in the country.
Off-road enthusiasts are spoiled for choice with fantastic
desert driving in the Sharqiya Sands or the edge of the Empty
Quarter competing with remote Wadis, exhilarating steep mountain
driving terrain in the Hajar Mountains, remote beaches and salt
flats as just some of the highlights this extraordinary country
has to offer.
The Oman Off-Road Story
At the time of the Renaissance in 1970 the only effective
way to get around the country in any kind of comfort or safety
was an off-road four wheel drive vehicle. It was the essential
workhorse for accessing Oman’s oilfields, remote towns and
villages, vital for farmers and for people who simply wanted to
be able to move pretty much anything from point A to point B.
In a country with less than 20 kilometres of paved highway –
there was little choice but to look for rugged vehicles that
could handle the most demanding terrain. And over the past 41
years the appetite of commercial operators in Oman and
increasingly individual owners for SUVs has been phenomenal and
has grown side by side with the nation’s extraordinary economic
growth during this period.
In any village, town or city in Oman you will find SUVs anywhere
you look – and of varying vintages as well. We were not
surprised to have discovered that a huge number of Pajeros still
being driven date back to just a few years after its first
introduction in 1982 and many have hundreds of thousands of
kilometres on the clock but are still going strong. The
four-wheel drive off-road vehicle was naturally the most
practical transportation of choice many years ago. And even
today, manufacturers like Mitsubishi remain loyal to their roots
by providing a modern SUV that has become a true lifestyle
balance, enabling the owner to combine comfort and performance
with the ability to drive across the most challenging driving
conditions the Sultanate can offer. In a country such as Oman it
is ideal to have an SUV that has this ability to satisfy the
customer in every kind of driving environment.
One recent trend in the market has also been the development of
smaller SUVs such as the Outlander and ASX that offer a great
safe driving experience with a number of off-road capabilities
to give the owner the best of both worlds. Meanwhile many of the
latest SUVs on offer in the market today do not all fit this
heritage, with many compromising on their predecessors off-road
driving credentials in favour of appearance and style, a trend
that has been imported from other countries where a lot of SUVs
have never left the tarmac. SUVs make up an enormous part of the
automotive sales market here in Oman. For example at Mitsubishi
49 per cent of our sales across the country in 2011 were
four-wheel drive vehicles with SUV sales in the capital a little
higher at 52 per cent, with all of these vehicles combining
excellent on-road driving performance with superb off-road
capabilities. And from the inquiries we get at our showrooms
across the nation – the appetite for the SUV and “go anywhere,
do anything” style of vehicles looks set to stay with us for
many years to come.
SUVs – From Workhorse to Lifestyle Favourite
In a country like Oman and indeed across the Gulf – the
Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) has become one of the most common
sights on the highways of the region. The region has one of the
highest percentages of SUV ownership in the world – reflecting
the challenging terrain that dominates so much of this area. But
the biggest change in four decades has been the move away from
what was always a workhorse for commercial operators, farmers
and those living in remote communities to much more of a
In many ways the engineering and off-road capabilities have not
changed significantly – although they are constantly upgraded
and enhanced. It is inside the vehicle that the changes have
been most significant – attracting every kind of driver and
their family to consider purchasing a SUV. Modern SUVs – of
which the Mitsubishi Pajero and Outlander are typical - have all
the comforts, sophistication and great road handling of a
regular car, providing fantastic family safety, space and
practicality for any kind of use without compromising on its
off-road abilities. And unlike those you might find in the heart
of European or American capitals – individual owners here who
purchase their SUV as a lifestyle vehicle have an unrivalled
opportunity to use it in just the kind of off-road terrain they
are built to handle. In a nation like Oman we are unlikely to
see the phenomenon of the “Chelsea Tractor” where families buy
large SUVs almost as a status symbol in some European capitals –
with no intention of ever taking the vehicle off-road or
“getting it dirty.”
A quick check of many office car parks on a Saturday morning in
Muscat or other major centres and the number of dust and
sand-covered vehicles is a testament to the enduring ability of
the SUV in the Sultanate to put a smile on its owner’s face on a
Three Decades of the Pajero
There is no doubt that one of the most common SUV sights on
the roads of Oman – wherever you may be – is that of the
Mitsubishi Pajero. First introduced to the Sultanate in 1982,
the Pajero this year is celebrating 30 enormously successful
years since its initial launch. An off-road thoroughbred – the
modern Pajero is as comfortable taking families around the
capital or major cities, on long highway trips across the
Sultanate or to neighbouring countries as it is getting out into
its original natural habitat off-road in the desert, mountain or
wadi. It was also 30 years ago that the Pajero made its debut in
the Dakar Rally and it remains the most successful vehicle to
ever participate in the Dakar Rally winning its class 7 out of
the last 10 races, and 15 of the full 32 races. Major commercial
operations continue to use the Pajero as the base of their
fleets for working on remote oil projects in the desert, major
infrastructure projects in the Muscat area and for the widest
use of applications all over the Sultanate. Its reliability and
durability, added to its comfort and excellent value for money
means the Pajero is set to maintain its position as a leader in
the SUV section in Oman over the next 30 years as well.
And it can offer the driver and their family friends a
guaranteed way to put an enormous smile on everyone’s face with
its ability to get to some of the most remote and outstandingly
beautiful parts of this wonderful nation.
May - 2013
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