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1997 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution - An Unappreciated Dakar Raider

1997 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution - An Unappreciated Dakar Raider

The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution is a street-legal Dakar raider that’s relatively affordable

It’s no secret that Mitsubishi is a pale shadow of its former self. Having numerous successes in rallying, the brand has switched to making bland, cheaply-made crossovers and compact cars. Although Mitsubishi currently finds itself in a state of survival (they put the Eclipse name on a crossover), things were quite different in the 1990s. Not long ago, we talked about the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Ralliart, which was essentially the two-door “EVO” everyone wanted but never got. But long before it, there was this – the short-wheelbase-only Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution. And there’s a lot to say about it.

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2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Ralliart - What Mitsubishi's Sports Car Should Have Been

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Ralliart - What Mitsubishi’s Sports Car Should Have Been

This Mitsubishi Eclipse is basically a two-door Evolution, and the fate of the Eclipse could have been different.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse was one of the most praised compact Japanese sports coupes. Sadly, the third generation of the car (2000-2005) was a letdown, compared to the success of the previous two. The fourth-generation was significantly better, but shared too many similarities with the previous model, like the lazy transversely-mounted V-6, which at least had power this time and the front-wheel-drive layout.

Although the 3.8-liter 24-valve SOHC V-6 had a decent output, everyone wanted it to be the sleeker two-door equivalent of the Lancer Evolution. This meant a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four and all-wheel-drive. Apparently, the specialists from Mitsubishi’s Ralliart department thought the same, which is why they got to work on making the Eclipse we all wanted. This resulted in the, introduced at the 2005 NAIAS, Mitsubishi Eclipse Ralliart Concept.

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2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Driven

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Driven

Everything about the Tesla Model Y looks like the car of the future. From its pod shape, to its silent but explosive acceleration, to its all-encompassing infotainment screen with no physical buttons, the electric-car maker’s new entry-level crossover is more about sensibly reducing gasoline usage. It gives you a peek into the decades to come, and it gives you a rollicking good time while you do it. It’s not just an electric car, but a special vehicle that triggers a powerful emotional response. This is one way to electrify an SUV.

Then there’s Mitsubishi’s way: the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport PHEV. All-electric cars eventually run out of charge, even long-range models like Teslas. So Mitsubishi made a plug-in hybrid whose gasoline engine can help out when you use up the battery or need more power. To keep costs down, the battery isn’t huge and the motors aren’t wildly powerful. And Mitsubishi already makes many gas-powered crossovers, so rather than wasting resources to develop a new one, it retrofitted electric components into its flagship model, the compact Outlander.

The result is a left-brain approach to the segment — the Outlander PHEV makes perfect sense, but it’s an improved present rather than the future. At best, you’ll feel something between mildly impressed and grudgingly accepting. It’s hard to imagine falling in love.

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