Mitsubishi Concept-RA highlights diesel performance

  • 31-Mar-2008 06:26 EDT
Rear 34.jpg
Mitsubishi designers sought to give the slippery Concept-RA an almond shape, with a low roof and sloping rear window.

Mitsubishi provided a daring view of a future sports coupe with the Concept-RA, a car that combines the company’s trademark turbocharging and all-wheel drive with fuel-efficient diesel power. The 201-hp (150-kW) 2.2-L I4 common-rail diesel sits transversely between the front wheels in conventional fashion, but the Concept-RA’s forward bodywork is pulled down unconventionally low, exposing the top of the engine through an opening in the hood.

In an era when the mechanical character of even sporty cars is increasingly separated from the driver, this bit of showmanship could help reconnect enthusiasts with their car. Furthermore, rather than trying to hide the car’s diesel power, the design showcases it, said chief designer Dave O’Connell. “Diesel is the prime story in this car.”

The engine features variable valve lift technology for higher-rpm power, though no redline was given. A variable diffuser/variable geometry turbocharger also contributes to the engine’s ability to produce power over a wider rev range. The car uses a diesel oxidation catalyst, NOx trap, and particulate filter to achieve EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions. Although the engine in the concept car is a prototype, it is related to an engine the company is developing for production in 2.0-L form, O’Connell acknowledged.

While pedestrian protection requirements have forced automakers to raise hoods to provide crush space above the engine, O’Connell said he believes that the exposed engine could be made pedestrian-safe. “Engineers could work around that,” he insisted. The diesel engine connects to an all-wheel-drive system borrowed from the Lancer Evolution, but it is augmented with active steering and active suspension to maximize control.

The minimalist bodywork shrink-wrapped over the car uses plastic for the hood and fenders, while the chassis underneath is an aluminum spaceframe. Whether we will see a car that looks like the Concept-RA remains to be seen, according to O’Connell. It could presage the next-generation Eclipse or it could emerge as a new elemental model below the Eclipse that harkens to that car’s “purity of performance,” he said.

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