The 2016 auto show circuit has barely wrapped up but we’re already getting a first hint of what’s to come for the start of the 2017 season when Mitsubishi will roll into the Paris Motor Show with a new, high-end SUV concept.
Make that a premium plug-in prototype dubbed the Mitsubishi Ground Tourer, something the automaker calls “the latest expression of (its) design ambitions.”
Targeted to ride above the Mitsubishi Outlander, the Ground Tourer concept also “further expresses” the struggling Japanese automaker’s push into battery-electric propulsion, with a plug-in hybrid driveline meant to deliver “effortless cruising in all driving conditions on and off-road.”
Mitsubishi has been betting big on going green, whether with high-mileage gas models like the latest Mirage sedan, the pure battery-electric i-MiEV, or the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, it plans to bring to market, starting with the debut of a plug-based Outlander.
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That focus on battery technology could become even more fundamental to the small Japanese automaker going forward, in fact.
In April, Mitsubishi admitted rigging the fuel economy numbers on four microcars it produces for the Japanese market. It now says it rigged other models going back as long as 25 years. That caused its home market sales to crash and its stock price to crater, allowing Japan’s second-largest automaker, Nissan, to come in and buy a 34% controlling stake in Mitsubishi.
Nissan and its alliance partner Renault have invested billions of dollars in battery-based technology for products like the Nissan Leaf, and it’s widely expected it will work with Mitsubishi on future electrification efforts.
We’ll have to wait for the unveiling of the Mitsubishi Ground Tourer concept at the Paris Motor Show in September to see exactly what the maker is packing under the hood, but it has been investing heavily in plug-in systems and shown a number of prototypes in recent years. That includes the GC-PHEV unveiled at the February 2015 Chicago Auto Show and considered a possible model for a future Montero.
Though it has yet to reach the U.S. market, the maker revealed a plug-in version of the Outlander at this year’s New York Auto Show. The PHEV version was largely identical to the gas model launched last year. In the concept version, it was equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine paired with twin electric motors drawing power from a 12-kilowatt-Hour lithium-ion battery. The package was said capable of delivering more than 32 miles per charge.
Whether that same drivetrain would be used to power the Mitsubishi Ground Tourer is uncertain. The larger, heavier vehicle might require some tweaks to deliver acceptable power and range, even if that just meant a larger lithium battery pack.
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Visually, it’s difficult to make out many details about the Ground Tourer from this teaser image but it appears to adopt a low, more ground-hugging stance than many current full-size SUVs. The most distinctive note is the red floating roof.
We’re betting a three-row layout promising to “accommodate€ passengers in a quiet, comfortable and luxuriously crafted interior.”
We’ll learn more in September, if not sooner.
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