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Concept-Mitsubishi Concept-RA Preview

Concept-Mitsubishi Concept-RA Preview

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
Critical Knowledge:
  • Sport-coup_ design builds on latest Evolution (Evo X)

  • Showcase for diesel-engine technology

  • Design emphasizes Mitsubishi's AWC-S all-wheel drive (AWD)

  • Almond-shaped body section

  • Promises 40 mpg highway fuel economy

  • Low-emissions operation

  • Scissors-style doors move upward and outward

  • Two-passenger cockpit inspired by jet fighter design

  • Step-type instrument panel
Introduction
For Detroit's North American International Auto Show in 2008, Mitsubishi wanted to unveil a stunner of a sport coup_, which also would serve as a technology showcase. The end result, named Concept-RA (for Road Alive), emphasizes the sport coup_'s AWD layout and diesel engine. To draw the eye toward Mitsubishi's Super AWC-S AWD, the wheels are pushed about as far outward as possible, with 21-inch tires mounted.

To highlight the diesel engine, no regular hood is installed. Instead, the front compartment is enclosed by a series of engine covers. Mitsubishi claims the high-torque, 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine, which produces 201 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, can yield fuel economy of 40 mpg in highway driving. A new catalytic converter helps the RA's engine meet Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions regulations, according to Mitsubishi. Active Steering and an Active Suspension have been added to the S-AWC system.

No one is stating that an RA will actually be produced. On the other hand, the chief designer says "elements" of the Concept-RA "will absolutely" be found on future Mitsubishi models. Like many concept vehicles, this one could evolve in a variety of directions, but the "overall target will be the same," says the Mitsubishi spokesman.
Sketched and designed in California, the RA Concept was built in Japan. Built on an aluminum space frame, the RA accentuates light weight as well as vivid style.

Exterior Design
Lushly shaped sport coup_s with flowing lines aren't uncommon, but the RA maximizes this design idea with a simple shape, devoid of extraneous decoration.

Designers sought to blend a sport-coup_ profile with Mitsubishi's focus on technological advances. The basic body section is shaped like an almond: above and below the crease lines, each body panel winds inward. In addition to installing widely-spaced wheels, exterior designers made the wheel clearances strongly spherical, with wheel forms that blend smoothly into the body itself. Mitsubishi describes the RA as "aggressive, even intimidating in its looks."

Among the most noticeable design elements is the front end, with its "forward-leaning, jet-fighter nose" and inverted trapezoidal grille. The front end is intended to suggest Mitsubishi's newest "design identity." Body panels are made of recyclable plastic. Each body area is defined by a chamfered line. Side extractors vent hot air from the engine compartment. The scissors-type doors, rather than simply raising upward or moving outward, do both: As they go up, they flow outward to make access easier.

Interior Design
Inside the 2-passenger cockpit, designers had a twofold goal: true sport, coupled with elegant comfort. Inspired by the cockpit of an F-35 jet fighter, they wanted to combine a warm driving environment with utterly modern technology. Like a jet, the RA cockpit has "pared back all the functional aspects," according to the interior designer. Light-colored leather helps give it a rich appearance, yet the driver's seat looks like a serious spot to occupy.

Unlike many high-performance sport coup_s, which contain plenty of carbon-fiber and other dark, "cold-looking" materials, the RA looks warmly inviting. Its interior designers were influenced by the interiors of Italian sports cars of the 1960s.

The cockpit features a step-type instrument panel, with the most important information located closest to the driver. Because Mitsubishi's Twin Clutch-SST transmission (as in the Evo X) is installed, rather than a manual gearbox, the gearshift handle could be fully integrated into the design. To the left of the flat-bottomed steering wheel is a grip handle with a 4-way thumb control. It lets the driver cycle through a set of menus for driving operation. Selection is made by pulling a trigger. A matching grip handle on the right handles gear selection for the transmission.

Climate controls atop the central console were inspired by the slider switches on an audio mixing board. They could be operated almost by feel, Mitsubishi claims.
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