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Mitsubishi Pushes into Battery-Power with XR-PHEV

Plug-in hybrid concept hints at “changes that will affect our future.”

by on Nov.21, 2014

Mitsubishi continued its push into the EV segment at the Los Angeles Auto Show with its new XR-PHEV plug-in hybrid crossover.

It’s likely best known for SUVs and sports cars like the Outlander and the EVO pocket rocket, but Mitsubishi has been shifting emphasis with battery models like the little i-MiEV and the battery-powered race car that set a new record at this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb.

So there’s reason to take seriously the new XR-PHEV, the angular plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle the maker is showing at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

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“We’re looking at changes that will affect our future,” suggested Mitsubishi Executive Vice President Don Swearingen.

The battery-powered concept vehicle introduces the long-struggling Japanese maker’s “new design language,” Swearingen noted, adding that, “You’re looking at what I like to call a very strong hint at what’s around the corner for the Mitsubishi brand.”

The new XR-PHEV features an in-your-face front end with a massive, blackout grille.

The XR-PHEV features an in-your-face front end marked by a massive, blackout grille, slit-like LED lamps, all framed in crisscross chrome strips. The greenhouse slopes even more aggressively than on the distinctive Range Rover Evoque, flowing into a dual-pane tailgate.

The XR name is short for Cross-Runner, Mitsubishi notes, and insiders hint that the next-generation Outlander will borrow heavily from the show car’s edgy sheet metal. But the concept vehicle is likely to influence more than just Mitsubishi’s future styling.

Despite sluggish sales of the i-MiEV, the maker has been putting more and more emphasis on alternative propulsion, its racing program a clear indication of its priorities. It made the Pike’s Peak climb in just 9 minutes 8 seconds, cutting the previous battery-car record by a full 38 seconds – and that wasn’t much off of the overall winner’s pace.

The four-seat XR is powered by a turbocharged, 1.1-liter three-cylinder engine making 134-horsepower and paired with a 120-kW electric motor. There’s also a 14-kilowatt-hour battery Mitsubishi claims can yield about 52 miles of range per charge, or about a third more than the current Chevrolet Volt. It also claims the concept was getting 66 mpg in testing – though the figure would likely be lower using the tougher U.S. standards.

The XR name is short for Cross-Runner and insiders hint that the next Outlander will borrow heavily from the show car’s edgy sheet metal.

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Don’t be surprised to see the basic shape – albeit a bit toned down – return within the next two to three years as a production Mitsubishi Outlander. And it’s likely to offer both conventional gas and plug-in hybrid options.

(Click Here for Fisker’s return with a 725-hp Mustang.)

Mitsubishi clearly needs to both update and expand its product line-up, something the maker made clear during its LA Auto Show presentation. A series of major strategy gaffes nearly destroyed the company which was saved only by a massive Japanese rescue effort several years ago.

(To see more about Takata’s claims that a national recall of its deadly airbags isn’t warranted, Click Here.)

Even then, there have been ongoing rumors that Mitsubishi might be forced to abandon the U.S. market. But Swearingen made it clear that’s not the automaker’s intent.

“Mitsubishi has never given up,” he proclaimed. “We’re committed to this market and here to stay.”

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