What could be the make-it-or-break-it model for Mitsubishi Motors will put in its debut appearance at the New York International Auto Show next week.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander will be a complete remake of the long-struggling Japanese automaker’s primary crossover-utility vehicle. And it is expected to bring to the U.S. market Mitsubishi’s new plug-in hybrid drivetrain – though it’s unclear whether the PHEV version will be available at launch.
“The 2016 Outlander is a refined crossover utility vehicle that features over 100 engineering and design improvements,” said a company statement accompanying these two teaser images, “including a new, powerful and dynamic appearance, enhanced road performance as the result of improvements to noise levels, ride, handling and throttle response, and a more eloquent yet functional interior space.”
With the loss of the once-popular Eclipse coupe and, more recently, the end of the Evo line, Mitsubishi is largely counting on its crossover line-up to rebuild the momentum it lost even before the U.S. economic downturn.
Originally introduced in Japan in 2001 as the Airtrek, then renamed Outlander a couple years later, the crossover-utility vehicle replaced the maker’s old Montero Sport.
These teaser images – along with recent spy shots – suggest the Outlander will pick up a few of the design cues Mitsubishi has used for models such as the plug-in concept shown at last autumn’s Paris Auto Show, as well as in the form of the GC-PHEV plug-in concept revealed at this year’s Chicago Auto Show.
These include more angular headlamps and a new twin-slat grille. The rear will feature larger taillamps and new chrome accents.
Details are scarce, but the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is expected to pick up both the current model’s 2.4-liter inline-four rated at 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque, as well as the 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 224-hp and 215 lb-ft.
(BMW introduces first plug-in ute. Click Here to check out the X5 xDrive40e.)
With the debut of the GC-PHEV concept, Mitsubishi officials all but guaranteed they will finally bring to the U.S. a version of the plug-in system the company launched in Japan in 2013. It has since been rolled out in a number of other markets, notably including Europe where it became the best-selling PHEV last year. In fact, the Outlander was the world’s third best-selling plug-based vehicle in 2014, behind only the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, according to industry sales data.
(Click Here for a closer look at the Mitsubishi GC-PHEV concept.)
In concept form, the GC – short for Grand Cruiser – was capable of automatically switching between pure battery and various hybrid modes, depending upon driver demand and road conditions. It’s also unclear if the 2016 plug-in system will be updated in line with what was shown motivating the GC concept.
Though the plug model is likely to come to the U.S., finally, that introduction has reportedly been pushed back until sometime in spring 2016.
Mitsubishi nearly collapsed mid-decade after years of declining sales and some major management mistakes. The company survived only after a major Japanese bailout. But the situation has improved significantly over the last several years, both globally and in the critical U.S. market.
“We’re profitable and our dealers are profitable,” Don Swearingen, the Executive Vice President of North American operations, said during an interview in Chicago last month. “Mitsubishi is here to stay in the U.S.”
(Click Here for more from that interview with Swearingen.)
Mitsubishi is expected to depend heavily on its ute line-up going forward but won’t abandon the passenger car side of the business. Among the four models slated to debut by mid-2016, it also has new versions of the Mirage and Lancer on tap.