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The Mitsubishi 4 × 4 that made history

When Mitsubishi unveiled the Outlander PHEV at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, it brought an entirely new concept to the market: the world's first all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid SUV. The Outlander PHEV is also the latest descendant of a long Mitsubishi tradition of four-wheel-drive vehicles, beginning in 1935 with the PX33.


The PX33 is a benchmark for Mitsubishi as it was the first 4WD vehicle with the three diamond logo. Developed by the firm, at that time Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), emerged from a first prototype, PSF33, equipped with a gasoline engine, which was finally released in December 1935. In 1936 the second prototype of the PX33 emerged, from which they produced only four units. All were tested under extreme conditions, which they passed with flying colors. However, MHI was hesitant to continue serial production of the model and the PX33 project did not continue.

As a tribute to Mitsubishi's 4WD roots, Sonauto (French MMC dealer at the time) developed a rally replica of the 33 PX1936, using the Montero's racing equipment. A specimen passed into the hands of a seven-man team at the 1989 Paris-Tunis-Dakar Rally, finishing 31st with Frenchman Jean Pierre Jaussaud at the wheel. As additional recognition, a replica of the PX33 is now on display in the brand's museum, in the recently remodeled Mitsubishi Auto Gallery, located in Okazaki, Japan; near the company's R&D center.


The second chapter in Mitsubishi's four-wheel drive history began indirectly 17 years later, in 1953, when the company signed an agreement with Willys Overland Corporation to manufacture its famous Jeep (CJ3) under license in Japan. The first model was the Mitsubishi Jeep J3. No one in 1953 imagined that production would last until 1998, with approximately 200.000 units, including short and long body variants, as well as a station wagon.


While producing Jeep models at its Nagoya, Japan, factory, Mitsubishi began to plan for its future, engaging in the development of its own four-wheel drive technology that led to the Forte pick-up capable of hauling a ton. In the early 70s, Mitsubishi felt that a more passenger-oriented styling would have greater appeal to the commercial vehicle segment audience, but at the same time retaining the robustness required by professional users and with the addition of a four-wheel drive. . After a period of intense research and development, the Forte debuted in 1978, and was launched in many foreign markets such as the L200. It had been eight long years from design to production, but they were well spent. Sales in its first year reached 45.000 units and increased dramatically to more than 100.000 the following year. The 4WD powertrain was introduced in 1980.

The Forte (1st series L200) held a special place in the history of the company, known since 1970 as Mitsubishi Motors (after the then powertrain division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Co. was spun off to become a separate corporate entity), as it planted the seeds of 4WD technology, which subsequently developed the Montero SUV (May 1982) and the Delica 4WD MPV (October 1982 in 4WD format).


Mitsubishi anticipated the demand for more modern off-road vehicles so it groped around with various SUV prototypes, based on existing models such as the Montero I (1973), until the definitive Montero was released. In 1979 the Montero II prototype was unveiled, and three years later the first-generation Montero was unveiled, beginning a new chapter in the genesis of SUVs and ushering in the now-popular trend of modern compact SUVs geared to the style of lifetime. From 1982 to date, more than three million copies of the Montero have been manufactured, which means a true success story that continues to this day.

Equally comfortable on the road as it was off it, the Montero added the unique racing brilliance to its credentials when Mitsubishi and Sonauto decided to take part in the essential race in the off-road world: the legendary Dakar. Since its entry in 1983, the Montero has built up an impressive racing history that includes a record of 12 victories between 1985 and 2007, as well as the 2003 FIA World Cup in Cross Country Rally.

Mitsubishi's 4WD technology, applied to rugged off-roaders like the Montero and L200, became an unbeatable weapon in rallying during the 2.500s and led to the emergence of a new generation of cars like the Lancer Evolution, which quickly became an icon. Mitsubishi Motors originally developed the Lancer Evolution from the Lancer sedan, a 1996-unit model for homologation in Group A, to compete more effectively in the World Rally Championship. The rest is history: ten successive generations of Lancer Evolution, multitude of victories and several WRC titles: four of pilots with the Finn Tommi Makinen (1997, 1998, 1999, 1998) and one of brand (XNUMX).

Through its successful participation in the World Rally Championship, the Group-A Lancer Evolution provided the opportunity for Mitsubishi to develop the most advanced automotive technology, which it then applied to the production model. One of the best examples is its sophisticated All-Wheel Control (later evolved to the current Super-All Wheel Control system) whose basic principles are still found in the Outlander PHEV. Initially applied to the 4 Galant VR1987, the system later introduced active yaw control (AYC), also on the Lancer Evolution; and in the latter an active central differential (Active Central Differential) was added in 2001.


Based on the four-wheel drive technology developed and perfected in the Lancer Evolution, the Outlander PHEV S-AWC integrates control of the 4WD, ASTC ABS and AYC (Active Yaw Control) systems. In addition, together with the PHEV system, the S-AWC distributes power to the front and rear axles, between the left and right wheels, to improve driving stability and handling precision. The S-AWC reduces differential force limiting and front wheel slip while optimizing the power distribution between the two axles to ensure powerful acceleration from a standstill. In addition, the “4WD LOCK” function improves response through the transfer of power between the two axles, which improves traction and stability in a straight line, on snow, mud and other slippery road surfaces. Backed by over 80 years of all-wheel drive experience, this latest evolution to an electric 4WD system has made the Outlander PHEV the flagship of Mitsubishi technology.



Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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