We spent a lot of effort jawing about the Land Rover Discovery yesterday when perhaps the Mitsubishi Ground Tourer deserved more of our attention.
The Ground Tourer is a PHEV, with a four-cylinder petrol engine and three electric motors. Two of those are placed at the back. The Ground Tourer points towards Mitsubishi´s plans for a medium-large SUV and one which is intended to offer more agile behaviour than you’d expect. One way the PHEV power train delivers this is by the selective use of the power delivery from the rear electric motors. What agility means in a car is its willingness to turn around its own central axis. This behaviour can be encouraged by directing power asymmetrically to the rear wheels so the yaw velocity can be increased. It’s like giving the car a sideways nudge during a turn.
That’s the science part boiled down. Car Magazine has more to say about this if you want to read a bit more. They covered this car more generously than other outlets.
The styling caught my eye, however, and I can’t help comparing it with the Land Rover Discovery which was launched at the same time. The Mitsubishi’s exterior is very angular and composed of a lot near-vertical lines. It also manages to be rather butch and dramatic, especially the front end with its rather orderly mix of graphics and sculpting. I have to say I like it and if the world were fairer, it would have received more plaudits than the LR Discovery which is really a tweaked version of a familiar shape. The side view of the Ground Tourer also has a lot of character and plainly is after the same robust feel as the old Discovery.
Where it falls down somewhat is the rear three-quarter view. The wheel arches, bodyside pontoon and tail-gait make an unhappy mash-up. There are essentially three forms which collide. Rather forced transitional surfaces are used to join (and they only join) the main surfaces. It’s as if the car was considered in side and rear view (both good) but not in rear-three quarter (appalling). The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic have this effect only to a milder degree.
If Mitsubishi can make the interior (above) look as nice as it does in this photo, then they can probably capture some sales. I expect, alas, that standard Japanese blue-grey-grey-blue plastic will predominate.
Mitsubishi are in an unhappy situation. They are sometimes producing some technically interesting cars, some nice looking cars or some pleasant cars. They are seldom all three. The company has no continuous design heritage either and, as far as I can tell, the customers don’t care about this either way. So, when the Mitsubishi serve up something interesting like this car nobody’s paying a lot of attention.