The Forgotten Mitsubishi Concept; The Mitsubishi Concept-RA
Let’s refresh our minds on the history of the all-wheel-drive diesel sports coupe that seems to have been forgotten. The name? Mitsubishi Concept-RA. When did it debut? It debuted on January of 2008 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit and the specs offered were 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine with 201 horsepower, 310 pound-feet (420 Newton-meters) of torque, dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 21-inch wheels.
WHY DO WE REMEMBER IT NOW?:
From its sleek body, made partially from the plastic resin to the diesel engine, which was typical for a sports car, the concept vehicle had a lot going for it.
There was a time when Mitsubishi’s concepts weren’t SUV-only, and the RA is a prime example of when Mitsubishi used to develop seriously cool vehicles for enthusiasts. Unfortunately only a theory, the two-door coupe proposed the exciting idea of a sports car with a diesel engine which was hooked up to an AWD system inherited from the Lancer Evolution, but in a next-generation specification.
The Concept-RA had the Mitsubishi’s proprietary Active Steering which provided a more linear response by automatically controlling the front wheel turn angle. That is based on the car’s driver’s steering input and speed. Also included was the Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) which was gained from the Lancer Evolution X, which meant that it was bundled with an active center differential, active yaw control, and dynamic stability control.
At the heart of the Concept-RA was a turbodiesel 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection and variable valve timing. Playing the eco-friendly card, Mitsubishi promised low emissions and a relatively healthy output of 201 hp and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm). To reduce the fuel consumption and to boost performance, weight was reduced by using plastic resin for some of the body panels on top of an aluminum space frame.
Then came the styling, which isn’t too bad even with today’s standard. Presented more than 11 years ago, the Concept-RA doesn’t look old at all and with a few changes throughout, it would fit nicely in an image right next to a Porsche Cayman, Audi TT, and an Alpine A110. Those center-lock 21-wheels is a sight to see, and so are those two exhaust tips shaped like cannons.
The interior is not half bad even after a decade later. The minimalist approach has withstood the test of time and a hypothetical production version looking a lot like this is acceptable. The scissor doors are adequate for a show car.
DEMISE OF SPORTS CARS:
Rob Lindley spoke to CarThrottle at the Geneva Motor Show. Lindley disclosed that Mitsubishi is focused on SUVs and crossovers, with no plans to build a sports car. A company as Mitsubishi that is very small has to scrape and claw for every tenth percent of market share they can come up with, so their strategy makes sense.
However, the same cannot be said for a comment that Lindley made. “As a business that sells 1.2 million cars worldwide, in a global sense, it’s not a big business. If you try and be in all the different segments of the market and follow trends, like sports cars, it would be difficult to be economically viable,” he said.
In other words, Mitsubishi says that they can’t follow trends while confirming that it will, indeed, follow directions. Let’s remember that Mitsubishi is the same company that built the Eclipse. It came back as a crossover.
Indeed, Mitsubishi dumped all of their cars, with the notable exception of the Mirage, years before Ford made the news. Ford opted to do the same. Most folks don’t know that Mitsubishi still sells cars in the US.
Despite the death of sports car development by Mitsubishi, there’s a good chance that the once-legendary Evo name will return as a crossover. The Evo’s rival, the Subaru WRX STI, will be able to compete with the formerly JDM-only, which is the limited-production S model, later on, this year when the S209 heads out. They sure know how to keep everyone on their toes, don’t they?
The RA is a compact two-seat sports convertible idea similar to the Porsche Boxster with its curvaceous and relatively long rear deck, and the Audi R8, which sports its low set front graphics. The RA has its engine in the front, unlike those design, and a new diesel powerplant. The model has been created to show the original power source, which is prominently displayed uncovered at the front of the car.
Speaking with exterior designer Gary Ragle, he described how the design for the RA was to have a four-wheel-drive look with an elevation from front to rear, unlike most cars available. The shut lines of the butterfly doors, which run to the front wheel arch, are introduced. Lancia Stratos was also an influence on how the large wheel arches meet the main body idea.
Inside the car, Christopher Schuttera wanted to capture a modern fighter-jet feel in the driver-focused cockpit area. Also, having the execution of the instrument binnacle design as well. It has a combination of colors and materials more typically associated with classic sports cars.
You can search the inventory of Mitsubishi’s at University Mitsubishi. Make sure to stop by for a test drive and see if this model and make is the car for you.