Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Coming Back
Same spirit, but so much has changed, it’ll likely have a different name
After several years of slowing sales and ho-hum product, Mitsubishi Motors appears to have turned a corner after significant internal restructuring. The company is rechanneling resources from an underperforming plant in Europe to bolster its North American factory, and announced a collaboration with the Renault-Nissan Alliance.That turnaround will see the company post record net profits for fiscal 2013. It unveiled three strategic SUV concepts at the recent Tokyo Motor Show that will form the basis of the company’s future core product lineup, which includes the next Pajero and Outlander and their plug-in hybrid versions.
In line with Mitsubishi’s “New Stage 2016” business plan spanning 2014-2016, company CEO Osamu Masuko said that his R&D team will streamline Mitsubishi’s current 23 models built on 12 different platforms to just 13 models on 7 platforms by 2016. Mitsubishi will also build two sedans using Renault platforms.And here’s a scoop: While the next-generation base Lancer will employ a Renault platform, the high-performance Evolution will not. “Huh, but we thought the Evo was in cryogenic freeze, never to see a successor to the current model Evo X,” I hear you say. Not so.In early 2011, one British publication reported that the “Evo series is dead with the Evo X.” Masuko made the unprecedented move to counter those claims when he responded, “The Evo as you know it is no more. The new model will take a completely different direction. What you will see in the near future will be a totally new Evo that employs innovative technology and inspired handling.”
Our source in Japan uncovered plans from inside the halls of Mitsubishi’s Tokyo HQ that confirm the company is well into the development of a next-generation Evolution. The image you see here is an artist’s impression of what the next-gen Evo might look like, following recent design cues from concept cars like the very stylish XR-PHEV concept revealed at Tokyo.However, from what we are hearing, the next Evo will be so different from the 10 versions of Evos that were churned out every two years since 1993 that it will probably get a totally new name.First, the demands on the performance and handling side are so great that no Renault platform could cope, says our insider.
The next Evo will be an extension of the huge strides that Mitsubishi has made in plug-in electric vehicle (EV) and battery technology as witnessed in the Outlander PHEV. The next Evo will be a fusion of “uncompromised handling with state-of-the-art plug-in hybrid EV technology,” stresses our contact.That’s why it has to employ a unique platform. The next Evo will be a showcase of technology and therefore has to sit on a specially developed platform. It all comes down to the cost effectiveness of next-generation EV technology that must achieve greater range while incorporating a smaller engine, smaller electric motors, and lighter, better-performing batteries.The company’s new modular technology will incorporate a “downsized” direct-injection turbo-diesel engine and a revised version of Mitsubishi’s proven Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), a vehicle dynamics system that integrates management of its Active Centre Differential, Active Yaw Control, Active Stability Control, and Sports ABS.Our source tells us the Evo’s R&D team is currently evaluating an enhanced version of the 135-hp 1.1-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine powering the sharp-edged XR-PHEV concept revealed at the Tokyo show in November. “This engine generates at least 35 percent more power than any comparably sized engine,” says our source, “so it should be plenty for the new Evo.”The next-gen Evo will also be 4WD, but not as you know it. Like the Outlander PHEV, the Evo will employ motors front and aft, but while they will generate similar amounts of power, they will be significantly downsized and the battery pack will be slotted under the rear seats, producing a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.Another source close to Mitsubishi informs us that when integrated with the front and rear electric motors, the next-generation S-AWC will achieve handling capabilities that will surpass any previous Evo, even the Evo X. And that is why, he says, the new Evo will not employ a Renault chassis. “Sure, the stock Lancer is slated to sit on a Renault Megane platform, but the Evo requires something quite special, a platform that can only be developed in-house.”Whatever name it gets, one thing’s for sure. Mitsubishi believes the new “Evo” will rival any competitor for performance, handling, and fuel efficiency, and with state-of-the-art plug-in hybrid technology making it all possible.