Drive: Mitsubishi Sport Truck Concept
By: Mike Magda,
05-06-04 17:14 PT
© 2004 PickupTruck.com
a 10-year absence, Mitsubishi will return to the pickup market next year
with a 2006 model based on the new Dodge Dakota platform. The announcement
was made at the 2004 Detroit auto show when Mitsubishi unveiled its Sport
Truck Concept, a bold urban-assault vehicle that obviously had few intentions
of hauling bricks (check out our Detroit
Mitsubishi concedes that the Big 3 truck makers dominate the industrial
and work truck market. The company’s partner, Dodge, has the fullsize
Ram and midsize Dakota, each with impressive credentials in horsepower,
torque, towing capacity and payload within their respective categories.
In fact, the Dakota pretty much sealed the coffin on the previous Mitsubishi
the Mighty Max? Remember the Macrocab? Mitsubishi had a thriving, value-driven
lineup of compact pickups for the US market, starting in the late ‘70s.
The company also made versions for Dodge and Plymouth called the Ram 50
and Arrow, respectively. Choices included two- or four-wheel-drive, regular
or extended cab, 4- or 6-cylinder engines. But when the Dakota was introduced
as a 1987 model, there was less emphasis on the Mitsubishi compact truck
The Arrow was last seen in 1982 as Plymouth tried to rebadge the front-wheel-drive
Dodge Rampage as the Scamp the following year. The Ram 50 was discontinued
in 1994, the same year Dodge came out with its all-new T300 fullsize truck
platform. Then Mitsubishi stopped offering the Mighty Max for sale in
the US following the 1995 model year, although the truck is still produced
for other countries, even as a crew-cab model.
Although the next Mitsubishi will be based on 2005 Dakota chassis, Mitsubishi
designers took a clean-sheet approach when sketching the Sport Truck Concept.
“What would be right for our brand?” Rich Plavetich, one
of the design leaders asked of his team. “Try and forecast where
we’re going with truck.”
Truck Concept received mostly positive reviews following its debut in
Detroit over the winter. There were enough innovations to draw interest
and a solid vision of what is possible on a production line. There was
a body that inspired passion and a restrained engineering team that kept
the truck focused on the intended market.
“We were trying to do a truck that’s more of a lifestyle
truck,” says Plavetich. “It still had to have durability.
On the other hand, it had to have more of a sense of style and fashion,
and it needed to be more athletic.”
In early May, the press was invited the crawl around its concept truck
and cruise around a closed course within a regional park in the Los Angeles
area. The concept was built on a 2004 Dakota platform, so there were hardly
any surprises. The rear suspension on the concept is an independent setup
pulled from a new Mitsubishi Endeavor SUV, but at 15mph there was no noticeable
increase in handling prowess or ride comfort.