This months issue of motor magazine caught my attention, not because of the horrible ugly lime green HSV on the cover, but because of the little blurb about the supercharged Mitsubishi 380, better known as the TMR 380. The news had been flying around for a while, that the TMR 380 was nearing completion, and it finally was.
I have always been a big critique of front wheel drive sports cars (The Integra being the odd exception) and when news of the 380 Supercharged surfaced, I had the same sort of feeling that I got from seeing a supercharged Toyota Camry or Aurion, Horror. Why strap a supercharger to a car that really can't handle it?
Nevertheless, Mitsubishi Motors Australia need a hero car, the Evo IX is starting to age a little and the Evo X and Lancer GSR aren't coming for another 18 months, so with that mind, a supercharged 380 sounded like a good idea and Mitsubishi Motors Australia is very keen to push the TMR into production, but Mitsubishi Japan has other ideas.
Firstly, having practically lost faith in the 380, the Japanese parent company isn't very keen to sink some more money into the 380 as it is already struggling to fight off the Aurion and new VE Commodore. But if the plans fall through, the 380 will be the only car in its class left without a performance model, as Toyota's TRD team is set to bring out the supercharged aurion and supercharged (or turbo charged from what we hear) Camry, relatively soon.
"We want to build the car. We are working on the plan to make it happen, I would like to have a decision by Easter. Originally, I wanted to have an announcement at the Melbourne Motor Show in March but we've run into a few snags. I would still rate it as better than a 50:50 chance — no, much better than 50:50.
"That car, plus some other vehicles we would like to bring to the full range, adds an emotional value and an aspiration value to the brand. We've had that before, but only in very limited appeal with the Lancer Evo."There has been no opportunity for people to step back to another car at Mitsubishi. If you look at Ford or Holden, they have the HSV and FPV cars, but you can also step back to an XR Falcon or SS Commodore. We also need to have that ability."
With a Sprintex supercharged engine producing roughly 230kW the TMR 380 is one hell of a car, when we saw it at the Brisbane International Motorshow, it was definitely getting some serious looks. With a proper bodykit, vented bonnet and lowered suspension, the TMR 380 made the 380 for once, look like an aggressive car.
So why dear god have they stuck with a front wheel drive package for the supercharged 380? Well mainly because the 380 is based on the Galant platform from the states, not the old Magna platform we had here in Australia which came in All Wheel Drive. Mitsubishi need to look like a real performance brand to increase some sales, there is only so much the Lancer Evo IX can do, especially with sales less than a quarter of its nemesis the Subaru Impreza WRX STi.
"This is an important part of trying to change the perception of the brand. We don't want to be a grey-cardigan company. We need to appeal to more than just fleet buyers, which has been the traditional situation at Mitsubishi. I think today we need to appeal to youth.
"One of the reasons we brought out the Ralliart Colt and the Cabriolet was to appeal to a younger, broader and more emotionally based consumer group." Rob McEniry said.
I have a very special message for Mr McEniry, being in the "youth" section that Mr McEniry is appealing to, I believe the TMR 380 is going to do more damage than good to Mitsubishi's image for the youth. A front wheel drive supercharged car is a bad idea, I don't care how many torque limiting and other steering assisted gadgetry you fit to this car, when 230kW is going to the front wheels, its just not going to work!