PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland and its environs are all about scenery. From the Willamette River and spectacular Columbia River Gorge to the snow-capped summits of Mounts Hood and St. Helens, there are images and vistas that will swell your heart and your digital camera’s photo chip. It’s also a region known for its history – for American explorers Lewis and Clark and the native cultures that predated them – carrying forward its rich traditions today.
The same could be said for the 2006 Mitsubishi Raider that we recently drove through this region. It’s all about scenery. This new mid-sized truck is the product of an alliance with DaimlerChrysler and, if you took a picture underneath, you’d see that it’s really the Dodge Dakota, with Mitsubishi design cues fashioned to morph both the outside appearance and the cockpit ambiance into a truck that looks more sporty and sophisticated.
The new Raider is also powered by Dodge engines; shifts with Dodge transmissions; and steers, brakes and rides over pavement and dirt using the same exact equipment found on the popular and upgraded-for-2005 Dodge Dakota. But it gets a better warranty than the Dodge, offering an additional two years and 24,000 miles of powertrain and basic coverage over the Dakota.
The new Mitsubishi truck is about history, as well. As this Japanese automaker tries to get its sales wheels spinning again and rebuild its brand in America, the Raider – Mitsubishi’s first truck in more than a decade – joins an upgraded stable of models being advertised with the trendy, urban imagery of ‘J-Cool’ (Japanese-cool), tribal graphics and Taiko music, an ancient and powerful form of Japanese drumming. Developing a new ad campaign – Driven to Thrill – that will run across its car, sport-utility vehicle and new truck lines, this Asian manufacturer wants to call forth its Japanese DNA and create a cohesive new image of its full product line that will appeal to more adventuresome buyers who set themselves apart from the crowd.
We came to beautiful northwestern Oregon to look beyond the pretty scenery, however, and to see beyond the urban hip of J-Cool and Taiko drums. We came to drive this new truck and assess whether Mitsubishi has forged an identity of its own with its rebadged Dodge Dakota. What we found was a sculpted truck designed to attract young buyers and fun-seekers. The 2006 Mitsubishi Raider brings to market notable features, such as a V8 engine and the ability to carry six, making it an appealing offering in a competitive and still-growing market.
On sale in late September, prices for the 2006 Mitsubishi Raider will range from below $20,000 to around $30,000. Mitsubishi expects that 65 percent of sales will be 2WD, 35 percent part-time 4WD and 10 percent full-time 4WD. As for its success, exact pricing and probable incentives will likely carry more weight than tribal graphics and Taiko drums. But, as much as Mitsubishi has high hopes for its new truck, this three-diamond marque has higher hopes to trump with its new product line theme – Driven to Thrill.