2008 Detroit Auto Show: Mitsubishi RA Concept
What it Is
Mitsubishi Concept-RA Preview – Detroit Auto Show: Remember the Mitsubishi Eclipse? No, not the oversized, overstuffed two-door Galant boulevard cruiser that it’s turned into in recent years. We mean the original all-wheel drive turbocharged coupe that combined a low price with high performance in a way buyers hadn’t seen in decades. Apparently, Mitsubishi remembers it too, because the Concept-RA reminds us a lot of that old Eclipse: All-wheel drive, a turbo engine, and killer looks.
Why it Matters
Ask any enthusiast, and they will tell you that the Eclipse actually died in 2000, when the third-generation car grew considerably, lost its all-wheel drive and got a V-6 instead of a turbocharged four-cylinder. The Concept-RA portends a return to the original idea. Of course, it’s not called an Eclipse, and Mitsubishi makes no mention of it ever being an Eclipse. But if Mitsubishi is serious about remaking its image in the U.S., a new Eclipse with some of that old-school vibe would be huge.
What’s Under the Hood
Remember how we told you the Concept-RA had a turbo engine? Well, we may have neglected to mention that it was a diesel, one that's showcased under the RA's clear hood. But wait, this diesel has 201 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s connected to the same twin-clutch automated manual that we recently proposed to in the Lancer Evolution, and all that is connected to the same Super All-Wheel Control combination of active center differential, active yaw control, anti-lock brakes and active stability control. So the redline will be low, but hey, we’ll take stonkin’ torque over a screaming redline if we have to
What it Looks Like
The Concept-RA looks exactly like the next Eclipse should: a low-slung version of the Lancer Evolution, albeit with two scissor doors. There's a very Lancer-like nose, with the same big air intake flanked by similar headlights. The fenders bulge over gorgeous 21-inch wheels, and the doors are heavily scalloped thank to massive vents charged with clearing hot air from the engine compartment. From the rear you can see definite influences of previous Eclipses; the second-generation car is reflected in the way the sloping roofline meets the rear bodywork, and the rather robust tail pays homage to the current model.
One look at the Concept-RA's interior and you might think that Mitsubishi has luxury ambitions, but remember -- it's just a concept. Should a derivative of the Concept-RA eventually hit showrooms, buyers probably won't be able to get theirs with supple leather, generous amounts of genuine brushed aluminum, or a flat-bottom steering with plenty of shiny finishes. It's not all bad, though -- chances are the aluminum seat trim running along your spine would become bothersome after awhile.
What Mitsubishi Says
Mitsubishi’s angle on the Concept-RA is that it blends performance and environmentalism without compromising either. To wit: “Mitsubishi Concept-RA shows that thrilling performance and environmental responsibility need not be mutually exclusive concepts. This coupe concept features the S-AWC vehicle dynamics control system driveline and the Twin Clutch SST automated manual transmission used in Lancer Evolution, and is powered by a new high-output, high-efficiency clean diesel engine.”
What We Think
Tell you what, Mitsubishi. If you build this and put an Eclipse badge on it – and keep the turbo and all-wheel drive of course – we’ll forgive you for the third and fourth generation cars. M’kay? Hell, we’ll even forgive you for the Endeavour. How’s that for a bargain?
By Keith Buglewicz and Thom Blackett
Photo credit: Oliver Bentley