With permanent all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s happy to deliver power all the way up to the red line, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution — or Mitsubishi Evo for short — has long held a reputation for being the poor man’s supercar. And with 0-62 times for high-end models in the 4-second territory, it’s not difficult to see why.
But all that power comes at a cost. In the case of the Evo, that cost is fuel economy and emissions, making it something of a problem for a company keen to promote itself as green. As a consequence, Mitsubishi won’t be making any more Evos after the end of 2015.
Yet after the tenth and final generation of Mitsubishi Evo officially ends production this year, it now appears the Evo badge could live on… as a high-end performance plug-in hybrid crossover.
As AutoCar explained yesterday, Mitsubishi is keen to keep hold of the Evo badge as a symbol of high-performance motoring, and is considering using it on a high-performance, all-wheel drive variant of its upcoming next-generation 2017 Mitsubishi ASX.
That car is expected to be based on the XR-PHEV II concept car that debuted at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, with a powerful 160 horsepower plug-in hybrid front-wheel drivetrain as standard.
It’s a clever move that should help the Japanese automaker continue to build on the reputation of its motorsport legend while continuing its drive towards lower-emissions and more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
“In the future, we would like to launch such a vehicle with Evo characteristics,” Mitsubishi CEO Tetsuro Aikawa told AutoCar recently. “In Japanese, when you pronounce ‘Oh’ [in Evo], it means ‘king’. So we would like to launch this type of car, featuring EV and PHEV technology, which is the ultimate of its kind. ‘EV’ for electric vehicle, ‘O’ for king – Evo.”
“It has to be light and fast — something performance-oriented,” he continued. “That’s what we want.”
But while we’ll see the next-generation ASX debut some time next year as a 2017 model year car, don’t expect the ASX Evo to join it for some time to come. Like many other automakers who have chosen to offer a range-topping, sporty plug-in hybrid to a model lineup, Aikawa said a potential ASX Evo would be “far in the future.”
“To develop these kind of vehicles, we have to sell a lot of the base models, so we can cover the research and development costs,” he said. In the case of a possible ASX Evo, that would include building an all-new four-wheel drive setup for the usually two-wheel drive ASX, as well as refining the kind of sporty acceleration and road holding that made the gasoline-powered sports sedan famous.
Mitsubishi’s decision to delay an Evo variant of the ASX will certainly give it time to develop a vehicle truly worthy of that famous name, but in the intervening time, Mitsubishi could easily lose out to other automakers.
By the end of this year, Volvo, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen all aim to have plug-in hybrid crossovers in the marketplace, not to mention Tesla’s all-electric Model X luxury SUV. Each vehicle will offer impressive performance as well as unprecedented fuel economy for their each automaker and their respective segment offering.
For an automaker with a small market share like Mitsubishi, being last to the party could cost it dearly.
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