Mitsubishi’s return to the pickup market was launched with a restrained but optimistic introduction of the Raider at the North American International Auto Show.
Mitsu is struggling following a year of disastrous sales numbers, the departure of its chief executive officer just days before the auto show, a recall scandal in Japan and the well-publicized financial separation from its partner, DaimlerChrysler. But Mitsubishi Motors has a strong pickup heritage in the compact truck market, starting in the late ‘70s and continuing through the early ‘90s. The Mighty Max was a value-driven, strong off-road performing pickup. Dodge eventually picked up and marketed the Mighty Max as the Ram 50 throughout the ‘80s and up until the introduction of the midsize Dodge Dakota.
Now Dodge is returning the favor by offering the Dakota to Mitsubishi (the deal was signed before DaimlerChrysler pulled its financial support from the company). And the new Raider will be a key element in Mitsu’s recovery efforts from near collapse. Unfortunately, Mitsu was not allowed to alter any of the mechanicals or offer performance upgrades to the powertrain or suspension. It did have some flexibility in styling, and there was one mandate.
“Our challenge was not so much to make it different from Dodge,” said designer Dave O’Connell, “but to make it good for Mitsubishi.”
Knowing that there was a deal in place to use the Dakota, the Mitsubishi Design Studio in Southern California came up a stunning concept vehicle that debuted at last year’s Detroit Auto Show. The new Raider shows hints of the concept but doesn’t exude all of the potential ground-breaking styling potential that the concept boasted.
“You always have limitations when going from concept to production,” admitted O’Connell. “From a styling perspective, we tried to give (the Raider) something not commonly seen in trucks. The concept truck we showed last year was really a glimpse into the future, perhaps if you were to skip a generation.
“If you look at the concept of (last year’s truck), it was an alternative to the mainstream,” added O’Connell. “That’s really what the Raider represents. Conceptually, we’re right on the money.”
Only the roof panel and back of the cab are common sheetmetal with the Dakota. The Raider does have a little “urban” flare and somewhat mirrors the new Eclipse that was introduced at the same time. But seasoned observers will see more Endeavor cues in the Raider.
“This truck is going to sit in the showroom with Endeavor,” said O’Connell. “So if you want to look at it as an Endeavor pickup, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.”
The Raider is curvy and features a thick lower bumper and a generous grille opening that’s separated by a single crossbar. The one design clue that the Raider is related to the Dakota comes in the flat-fenders sweeping back from the headlights. But the Raider’s edges are much softer and the transition to the doors is cleaner. The front and rear fenders are linked by character lines along the rocker panels, but the wheel arches actually surround the wheels on the Raider and allow the continuation of the rocker lines to the rear.
The Raider will be offered in 2- and 4-wheel drive models and in extended and double cab models. The drivetrain is identical to the Dakota with V6 and V8 engines available, although the upcoming High Output 4.7-liter engine in the Dodge won’t be shared with Mitsu.
Trim levels for the Raider include LS, DuroCross and XLS, although the latter won’t be offered in extended cab and you can’t get the base LS trim in the 4-door model. Some of the more notable options available include premium audio, leather seating, side and head curtain air bags, ABS and bucket seats. Off-road enthusiasts will get BFG All Terrain tires, high-pressure gas shocks, increased ride height, skid plates and limited slip differential with the DuroCross 4x4 package.
As with all other Mitsubishi products, the company will back the Raider with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty. The powertrain will be covered by a 10-year/100,000-mile limited warranty. The program also includes 24-hour emergency roadside service with free towing to Mitsu dealers for five years.
The Raider won’t go on sale until next fall. Pricing was not announced.