Mitsubishi drops its first tease of the 2022 Outlander, which will get its official debut in February.

Struggling to remain relevant in a crowded market, Mitsubishi has been working hard to refresh its line-up. We got a first look at the new Eclipse Cross a few months back, and now the automaker is teasing its next-generation Outlander.

As is often the case for a Japanese brand, Mitsubishi’s brief release offers some cultural insight into the development of the new model, though one has to wonder whether the term, “I-Fu-Do-Do,” has the gravitas to resonate with American buyers. It roughly translates into “authentic,” and “majestic,” explains the automaker, which is the third leg in the stool known as the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

“The Outlander is an iconic SUV for the company, so when we developed the next generation model, we took inspirations from our rich SUV heritage to realize a bold and confident styling with a solid stance that excites our customers,” Seiji Watanabe, Mitsubishi’s global head of design, said in a statement accompanying this image.

(First look: 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.)

“The all-new Outlander is the first model epitomizing the new generation of Mitsubishi design and the frontrunner of our design strategy,” Watanabe added.

The undisguised 2022 Outlander was caught during a photo shoot by a passerby and wound up on allcarnews.

Mitsubishi’s teaser pic reveals precious few clear details of the 2022 Outlander — the automaker even taking steps to limit our ability to enhance the image using Photoshop magic. All to no avail, as the second pic seen here shows the undisguised Outlander which was caught, apparently, by an unnamed passerby while being used in a photo shoot. The pic was shared by website allcarnews on Instagram.

What it reveals is that the production model is heavily influenced by the design of both last year’s Outlander Prototype, as well as the concept Mitsubishi previewed at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show in the form of the Engelberg Tourer.

The production model features a pinched, dual-level grille and stacked headlamps, as well as a deeply sculpted silhouette with a bit of a floating roof element.

The Engelberg Tourer PHEV heavily influenced the design of the 2022 Outlander,

First launched in Japan in 2001 as the Airtrek, what soon became the Outlander has been one of the three-diamond brand’s product mainstays. Currently in its third generation, the crossover-utility vehicle has played a critical role in Mitsubishi’s electrification efforts, a plug-in hybrid version of the CUV introduced at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

The current crossover offers several engine options, starting with a conventional gas model using a 2.4-liter gas engine producing 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. A 3.0-liter V-6 bumps the numbers up to 224 hp and 215 lb-ft.

There’s also a plug-in hybrid that pairs a 2.0-liter inline-4 with a two-motor electric drive system to produce 190 hp. It also delivers 22 miles of all-electric range by drawing from a 12 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.

A plug-in version of the 5-seater seems all but certain with the fourth-generation Outlander. But, if the 2019 prototype is any indication, we can expect to see the current internal combustion replaced with a 2.4-liter alternative and range to nearly double to 43 miles.

The updated Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, first revealed in October draws inspiration from the e-Evolution Concept.

That would likely be essential to make the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander competitive with two key, similarly sized competitors. Honda has positioned its CR-V Hybrid as the sportiest version in the line, as has Toyota with its own plug-in RAV4 Prime.

(First drive: 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime.)

What’s clear, if unspoken, is that Mitsubishi needs a big hit with the 2022 Outlander. Once one of the hottest new import brands in the U.S. market, it all but collapsed during the past two decades – though it did see a 1.5% increase in sales for the third quarter compared to a year earlier.

Globally, Mitsubishi continues to struggle and recently announced it is largely abandoning the European market. There also have been rumors the company may be sold off by Nissan which rescued Mitsubishi from bankruptcy a few years back and which continues to hold a controlling stake in the smaller manufacturer.

(Is a Mitsubishi extended warranty worth the cost.)

So, a solid hit from a new Outlander could help prop up the brand.

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