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Sneak Peak: Mitsubishi Outlander GT Prototype

When does a crossover morph back into a station wagon?

by on Apr.10, 2009

“The grille is for somebody who wants a little more attitude and not a silly wide mouthed grin.”

“The grille is for somebody who wants a little more attitude and not a silly, wide-mouthed grin.”

When the next version of the Outlander crossover vehicle arrives it will have more performance, higher fuel economy and a new exterior design that in my view moves it back towards a tall station wagon look. The styling of the prototype unveiled at the New York International Auto Show was billed as an “aggressive” new design inspired by Mitsubishi’s own Lancer family of automotive products. It is also the latest attempt by Mitsubishi to sharpen its image after a decade of confusion.

Mitsubishi says that its designers sought to create a “dynamic and athletic presence by utilizing new materials and a wider stance.” A “jet fighter” look grille, from the Lancer Evolution model, is added to introduce the reshaped front bumper, side mirrors, fenders and hood. One happy byproduct of the new body style is a reduction in the coefficient of drag. Revised Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge headlamps also lend a different appearance.          

The fully polished aluminum roof is, for once, a real touch. It is actually painted over on all existing Outlander models. The use of the lightweight material is an attempt by Mitsubishi to reduce the tolling tendencies of the high center of gravity that SUVs, CUVs or tall station wagons all exhibit — no matter what you call them. Fortunately, electronic controls are now in extensive use throughout the industry to stop this potentially life-taking phenomenon.

In Mitsubishi’s current search for identity, marketing executives think that by emphasizing its off-road and rally racing background, and promoting all-wheel-drive sophistication that enough buyers will show up to keep its 420 dealers in business. Slightly lower, and employing a shorter and stiffer suspension than the current production Outlander, the GT Prototype has a racing look with its 19-inch OZ Racing wheels and large Brembo brakes.

And it’s not surprising that the four-wheel drive system is called, S-AWC or “super all wheel control,” with claims of increased handling, traction and stability, (against unspecified competitors) while still maintaining “maximum” fuel economy. With a limited-slip differential and an electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive coupling, S-AWC can prevent wheel slip between front-to-rear and side-to-side to enhance tire grip. Three selectable S-AWC modes are available on the Outlander GT Prototype, including Normal,  Snow, and Traction. (more…)