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Something's Coming:
Mitsubishi’s Sport Truck Concept is Showing the Design Way for a Company Looking for New Direction
By: BJ KilleenPosted: 01-06-04 07:45 PT

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With new leadership, new products, and a new awareness in the market, Mitsubishi is setting itself up for success. One way to prove that is with the new Sport Truck Concept Mitsubishi unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Calling it “steel that has a soul,” the Mitsubishians understand that it’s time to come back to the truck market, and this is the one that will begin the rebirth.

According to Gary Ragle, who is responsible for the exterior design of the concept pickup, this vehicle hints at where Mitsubishi design is headed. “We wanted to make people think about a tough urban setting, kind of like a cool urban loft in a gritty part of town,” said Ragle.

Urban is a key word here, because this truck is for those who spend more time driving in the city than fording streams in the wild, although it’s fully capable of doing so. It offers plenty of the functions of a pickup, but also fun-to-drive attributes for which Mitsu is known.

“This isn’t intended to be a work truck,” notes Ragle. “There are enough work trucks out there. This is a more realistic approach.”

By work trucks, Ragle means full-size, dirt-haulin dirt that are parked at the office for the night while the driver switches into his everyday vehicle. “This truck is more user-focused; that’s why it’s a mid-size. It fits the urban image better.”

The truck’s striking image comes courtesy of the wraparound front glass that hides the A-pillars and the barn style doors that allow for easy access, as the B-pillars are non-existent. The front end is aggressive, with a quad lamp setup and large intake area. From a head on view, you could mistake this vehicle for a sedan, but from the side, there’s no mistaking this truck for anything else. The bright work around the greenhouse and bed add elegance to the overall design, while pronounced wheel flares bump up the beefiness level. A front and rear track of 64.6 inches showcase the wide stance of the truck.

The bed operation is just as interesting; the tailgate is electric and has four positions: open or closed, and a semi-retractable position to be able to carry extra long items. The final function is where the tailgate completely disappears under the bed to make that pesky tailgate disappear so anyone can reach the far end of the bed.

To finish the exterior, large, 22-inch custom alloy wheels are placed at the corners to allow for more interior volume for passengers, with 305/45R22 rubber for traction.

The monocoque body supports a platform that is front engine and full-time all-wheel drive. It’s backed by a four-wheel independent suspension, which ties in well to the urban driving goal. It’s upper and lower A-arms in front with torsion bars. In back is a multi-link setup with coil springs over shocks. Stabilizer bars are located front and rear. The brakes are 4-wheel disc with ABS standard.

Those who do urban (and even sub-urban) driving want power, and the Mitsu Concept Truck aims to please, offering a 4.7-liter V-8 engine with an iron block and aluminum heads that produces 235 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Pair this with an electronically controlled 5-speed auto transmission with a unique dial-type shifter knob that can be rotated to give shift control to paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Those paddles also house other functions like turn signals and windshield wiper operation.

While the interior matches the exterior when it comes to a concept look, i.e., floating seats, clean IP, and cool fabrics, the distinctive feature here is the rear seat design. While other vehicles like to bring the outside in, notes Ragle, Mitsubishi’s Sport Truck Concept is bringing the inside out, with a rear seat that can slide together to make a bench seat or move up and rearward so it is actually sitting outside the cabin. The back window panel flips up to provide a type of “rumble seat” feeling, says Ragle. There’s plenty of room inside to do this configuration because the truck sits on a 133.1-inch wheelbase for lots of interior volume and a smooth ride that people want in town.

Mitsubishi’s designers at the Cypress studio, where the Concept truck was created, are making great strides in different lighting techniques. On the interior of this one, a system called Visopia features LED lighting that allows for unlimited designs of patterns, colors, and animations to allow the driver to adjust the interior to his own mood, attitude, or circumstance, such as a tailgate party.

While this is still a concept, there’s no question it will be production. It will be built on the same manufacturing line as the Dodge Dakota, even though the Dakota is body on frame while this truck will be unibody. The Dakota currently is being built at the Wayne plant in Michigan.

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