Mitsubishi has come one step closer to confirming that its next generation of ‘performance cars’ to replace the dead Lancer Evolution series will be ramped-up plug-in hybrids or pure EVs based on one or more of its future crossover SUVs.
We spoke this week with the executive vice-president of Mitsubishi's North American motoring division, Don Swearingen, about the company's four-year model rollout plan out to 2020.
As you can read in much more detail here, the rollout comprises a smaller next-generation ASX in about 2017, a bigger Outlander in about 2019 and a brand-new model in between during 2018.
Crucially, each of these models will use electrification, in the form of either next-generation plug-in hybrid or pure electric drivetrains, developed in part through Mitsubishi’s MiEV Evolution electric race car program, and previewed in the recent XR-PHEV II and eX concepts respectively.
These systems will be advancements on the defunct iMiEV and the industry sales-leading Outlander PHEV petrol-electric crossover, which is very much emissions-focused.
Boldly, Swearingen declared that if appropriately dialled up, perhaps via optional drive modes that utilise the battery pack’s full power, an electrified vehicle can match or better the old 2.0-litre turbo Lancer Evo in off-the-line acceleration. A claim Tesla would verify.
Whether any of this trio of electrified crossovers wear the Evo badge is not confirmed — we’d say it would be very unlikely — but it appears Mitsubishi believes it can juggle green motoring with performance. The company’s presence in off-road cross-country rallying and its presence at Pikes Peak confirms its ongoing interest in performance cars.
“You will most likely see a performance version of a CUV in the future,” he said. CUV is the acronym Mitsubishi uses for SUV.
We asked if a potential performance plug-in or pure EV crossover would be a separate variant or just the ‘regular’ version with a performance-focused driving model. Swearingen said the latter.
“One and the same. The key is, if you see how battery performance has changed… off the line it’s faster than the Evo itself,” he said. And in theory, he’s dead right. An electric motor provides torque immediately, therefore can be more responsive than an internal combustion setup.
“The key is we have to balance the cost of the battery and economy, and people all want to go fast when they need to - but they want to conserve energy, too.” A challenge indeed. Hence the drive modes.
As a stretch target, think of the Pikes Peak Hillclimb-winning MiEV Evolution race car, which benefited from the lossless nature of electrification at altitude, or even the Concept XR-PHEV Evolution Vision Gran Turismo with its supposed PHEV powertrain, eight-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) and active four-wheel drive with torque vectoring to all four wheels.
Mitsubishi’s recent concepts have also previewed both PHEV and full EV drivetrains. The XR-PHEV used a front-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid drivetrain comprised of a petrol engine, a 120kW electric motor and a power drive unit.
That drivetrain was capable of running in all-electric, parallel hybrid and series hybrid modes. In regular use, the system preferences being in all electric mode or using the petrol engine as a generator to recharge the car’s 12kWh battery pack.
The eX concept was (at least theoretically) driven by a pair of electric motors, one at each end, delivering 70kW apiece for a combined output of 140kW.
The system was referred to as a Twin Motor 4WD, combining a version of Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) dynamics control system with Active Yaw Control, the latter varying torque split between the rear wheels.
If you look at it, the puzzle pieces are being lined up. Ten points for boldness. Can we say good luck, Mitsubishi? Our inner WRC fanboys and girls are hoping for the best.