Mitsubishi carved its reputation as a manufacturer of performance cars with the rally-bred Evolution Lancer sedans built from 1992 to 2016 – but such niche models have been difficult to justify in the modern automotive world as buyer tastes shift to SUVs.
So Mitsubishi has teased enthusiasts in recent years with Evolution concept vehicles in an attempt to warm them to the idea a future performance car could be an SUV – and have some form of hybrid or electric power.
Indeed, Mitsubishi described its most recent Evolution concept vehicle from the 2018 Geneva motor show as a “technical prototype to illustrate the strategic direction of a renewed (Mitsubishi) brand that incorporates the strengths of SUVs and electric vehicles”.
“Under this new ethos,” Mitsubishi explained, the company will “expand its customer base, leveraging its strong pedigree of driving performance and reliability with breakthrough SUVs and crossovers. As a first-mover in electric vehicles, (Mitsubishi) will expand and accelerate its electric vehicle deployment and … push the technological envelope.”
So it came as a surprise when the chief operating officer of Mitsubishi globally, Ashwani Gupta, told media during a briefing in Australia last week that the option of a 2.4-litre petrol engine in the ASX city SUV was in some way designed to fill the performance void in the Mitsubishi line-up.
When asked if he thought there was room for another Evolution model of some kind, Mr Gupta said: “We do the concepts no doubt about it, but then what we try to do is extract from the concept what is meaningful to the customer and meaningful to the business. The ASX 2.4-litre has come from somewhere. That category of customer is asking for a performance engine and we came up with the 2.4-litre (engine).”
Mr Gupta added: “These kind of strategies we always do and we come up with the right specification which the customer is aspiring for. Maybe three years or four years (ago) the ASX customer was not expecting a 2.4-litre engine and was happy with a 2.0-litre.”
As for something more than a 2.4-litre engine under the bonnet of the ASX (pictured below) – or another model altogether that might resemble a performance car in the Mitsubishi line-up – Mr Gupta said: “We have a variety of technologies and a variety of engines, it’s just a question of when the customer is ready to pay for it and when we are ready to afford the (investment in development).”