It may be one of Japan’s smaller automakers, but Mitsubishi staked out a big presence at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show with a pair of new concepts vehicles, one focused on design, the other emphasizing its growing reliance on battery power.
Both the Concept XR and eX show cars are expected to find their way into production in the near future. And we’re likely also to see some of the new technology show up on a variety of future Mitsubishi products, including the self-parking and auto-charging system.
Both models pick up some cues from the current Mitsubishi line-up, rather than adopting the almost cartoon-like exteriors seen on some other recent show cars from the brand. But they also reveal where Mitsubishi plans to take its design language moving forward.
Of the two concepts, the Mitsubishi eX is getting the most attention at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. Set to slot in below the current Outlander, the production model will offer a gasoline powertrain as its primary motivator. But an electric option seems highly likely, as well.
In concept form, the eX is driven by a pair of electric motors, one for each axle, making 94 horsepower each. They draw power from a 45-kilowatt lithium-ion battery tucked underneath the passenger compartment. The through-the-road all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased but can vary the torque split.
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Mitsubishi ambitiously entered the battery-car market with its pint-sized i-MiEV a couple years back, but hasn’t scored much success, especially in the U.S. market. Weak performance and minimal range are two reasons why.
The twin-motor eX should deliver enough power to improve launch feel, and the bigger battery pack, the maker claims, should deliver range closer to 400 km, or 250 miles. That number will likely drop in U.S. testing, however.
The Mitsubishi eX boasts semi-autonomous capabilities, with a variety of cameras and other sensors scattered around the vehicle.
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One of the more intriguing features is the self-parking system that allows a driver to get out of the car, tap a button and let the eX go off to find its own parking space. The system also can find a wireless charging spot, if needed.
The show car also features a so-called “augmented reality” windshield, a variation of the head-up systems currently in vogue. The system moves key driver information up directly in front of the eyes, with only a minimalist collection of gauges and displays left on the traditional instrument panel.
Visually, the Mitsubishi eX carries over some elements of the current brand design language, such as the X-shaped grille, but even there, designer Tsunehiro Kunimoto adopted a black-out design with a functional purpose. An electric vehicle needs less airflow than a gas vehicle, so the black grille here is used to conceal some of those forward facing sensors.
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The Mitsubishi eX, meanwhile, adopts a distinctive “floating roof” design that gives the side glass the look of wrapping entirely around the vehicle. We’ll wait to see if that feature holds through to production.