Trois Gymnopédies

The fine art of badge-engineering – Franco-Japanese style.

Mitsubishi Outlander. Parkers

Just as Karl had given life to the patentwagen in 1886, the emergent car industry’s Frankenstein-like adoration brought ever newer machines to market. In turn, ideas became distilled, since begging borrowing or stealing ideas was easier than inventing something from scratch. Financial incentives greased wheels leading to similar, if not identical machines wearing different badges; nothing new under the sun.

Concurrently, French composer, Erik Satie experimented to form three pieces for piano, sharing a common structure and theme. Possibly evolved from the French version of the Greek phrase, gymnopaedia, an annual festival where young men would dance naked, or unarmed. Beautiful, piquant yet melancholic, the Gymnopédies could easily represent the three vehicles that stemmed from one.

Lent et douloureux, et triste and et grave, define all three vehicle versions that stemmed from the new for October 2006, Mitsubishi Outlander. Dropping the first generation’s Japanese moniker, Airtek, the Outlander was based on their GS platform. Peugeot’s insistence on numerical values appeared logical; the anomaly being cousin Citroën. Assumptions the car would arrive christened the C7, the C-Crosser derivation derived from the Frankfurt 2001 shown concept of the same name. 

European versions landed the following February powered by a string of engines – the sharing constituent embracing both Volkswagen and PSA-derived motive power.

Plans hatched in Paris during October 2006 alluded to 30,000 sales per year. Considering the PSA group had been watching the nascent four wheel driven niche rise exponentially – with no French input – seems today, as ludicrous as their predictions. Collaboration with Mitsubishi would “prove a win-win” situation; the Japanese now having access to efficient Diesel engines, PSA the four wheel drive knowledge. 

Mitsubishi chose Volkswagen’s pumpe-düse two litre engine but even before sale, changed the melody to that of the PSA 2.2 litre, DW12 HDi mill. The French unit developed 156PS, the German only 140PS. Three years later brought along another key change; a 177PS, 2.3 litre 4N14 engine wearing the red diamond, thus concluding the Volkswagen element. PSA, assiduously playing the ivories, highlighted the Particle Emission Filter along with engines which could swallow 30% biodiesel – confirming their world leading clean engines rhetoric.

Those seeking petrol power were served by the Mitsubishi 4B12, 2.4 litre unit, generating 170PS. Torque was an impressive 230Nm. The diesel generating a healthy 150Nm more, along with better consumption figures led to minuscule petrol sales. Transmissions were all six speeds, manual or dual clutch. A fully automatic version was never offered.

They all got the same essential cabin layout. Autocar

Nominally, drive was to the front with on-demand four wheel drive. An electronic locking differential was also available from the dash mounted, circular switch. Road testers suggested farm tracks and loose gravel would cause no fuss. Pulling a heavy trailer across steep terrain would be an altogether different chord. The cars’ general characteristics proved sound for tarmac sojourns. In fact, for a seven seat, load-lugger, the handling received a general thumbs up. One slight thumbs down was only a four star NCAP rating. 

All three bodies would initially be built in Japan, the Nagoya plant based in Okazaki, Aichi Perfecture. Dimensionally, to within a few millimetres, the Outlander, C-Crosser and 4007 were identical. Wheelbase being 2,670mm (105”), a width of 1,800mm (71”), topping out at 1,715mm (67”) tall. The vehicles’ length altered by up to ten centimetres; the Citroën measuring 4,645mm (182”) with the Japanese 2010 version up at 4,765mm (182”). 

Demand for Mitsubishi’s Lancer forced a re-evaluation regarding production base; from 2008, all Outlanders would now hail from the Nedcar plant, Born, the Netherlands. Bizarrely, both Peugeot and Citroën models would maintain their oriental origins afore being sold in the occident. 

Should you, dear reader still be following the musical flow, we must now delve into the musically structural nuances, the cars’ looks, or perhaps more to the point, their differences. The Outlander was handsome enough, if typically straightforward Japanese. Inoffensive yet bland. The French obviously had better things on their mind – perhaps listening to Satie on the beach, imbibing something. Their input therefore was unequivocally minor.

“Here on your holidays then?” “Non, you four-legged fool, I’m French! ” No, you’re flippin’ not!” Citroen C-Crosser in conversation with a restless native. Citroenet

Barring a steering wheel badge or negligible rear end treatments, the front was where it was all (as some might say), at. From André, “An original, expressive front end with dynamic proportions and well balanced proportions.” As a badly played, out-of-tune railway station piano, sadly they continue. “The headlamps that follow the flow of the wheel arches, the expressive chevrons, the beautiful angles.” The prose is Doloureux, painful. At least external colours had jolly names such as Manitoba Grey, Mangaro Brown or Muzzano Blue. You could even spec a beige, dulce leather. Seven spoke Itoka 16” wheels were standard, Sycomore landed at 18” with a crooked horseshoe take. 

‘Drive Sexy’ in motion. Peugeot 4007. Carsot

Sochaux’s frontal treatment was for a more upright, chrome-laden affair with jutting plastic upper chin bumper. One would have to be a Peugeot aficionado c’est formidable to heap affection in its direction. Triste mean ‘sadly’, an apt phrase for a version that falls off the bland scale. 

At the rear, some chrome trim fell Citroën’s way but was otherwise identical to its Japanese sibling – and its other cousin, those of salt and pepper mill origins. Gravely forgetting to add a fission of métropolitan was unforgivable. Most vehicles are multinational by nature of components yet allow for varying levels of nationality to shine through. Pas ici. 

The only defining factor being the bottom line: the 4007 started at £24,364, rising to £28,234. The Double Chevron actually a soupçon dearer – £24,655 – £28,335 with the Outlander undercutting all at £17,044 rising significantly to £31,029. Value is an arbitrary metric. Used Outlanders of this ilk command decent money. And you last saw either of the others, when?

autogaleria.hu

Decampment of production to Kaluga, Russia in 2011 saw largo sales figures. Combined European totals in five years for the non-French duo being approximately 70,000. Outlander managed an extra 66,000 European sales. The wooden lid slammed shut on the keys in 2012, an international failure. 

Making music and cars are closely related. Satie’s work became more popular after his death. The Outlander keeps a steady rhythm. The other two, like the AO key; imperceptible to human ears, unused and forgotten.

A five minute video of a 2CV versus C-Crosser in a field carrying eggs.

Data sources: carsalesbase.com, citroenet.com 

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

20 thoughts on “Trois Gymnopédies”

  1. Good morning Andrew and thanks for the reminder of a vehicle about which I had completely forgotten. Not that I paid much attention to it when it was in production. For me, the most surprising thing is how relatively well the (non) French duo sold.

    The marketing spin for such vehicles is always hilarious, as they desperately trying and convince you that it’s a something other than the Mitsubishi-with-a-nose-job reality. How many potential or actual buyers really fail to recognise the truth? Actually, a much more effective sales pitch would have been be something like:

    “Behind the nose-job, it’s every inch a Mitsubishi, so customers can be confident that it will be better built and more reliable than our usual tat.”

  2. Theoretically, here in the Alps the two ‘French’ variants should have boosted Peugeot and Citroën sales, as it has been a major problem for these brands here that their line-up lacked 4WD cars. In practise, most customers stuck to the original, as the Japanese already had a solid 4WD reputation since the days of early Subarus or later Pajeros.

    What was certainly not helpful was PSA’s very patchy approach to 4WD cars. The eighties and early nineties saw some versions of 405, BX and AX with driven rear wheels, but these cars were lacking reliability and also improved successors, so the small success of the AX 4×4 (alongside the much more popular Panda) could not be sustained.

    Replacing the duo presented here with even more half-hearted Mitsubishi based cars in a smaller SUV class didn’t help, either. After that, only sme hybrid types (in the upper price range) offered more than two driven wheels. And Citroën’s C5 Aircross SUV doesn’t even get it, making it practically unsellable here. Probably this should help in positioning Opel, Peugeot and DS higher than Citroën.

  3. Bravo, Andrew! Getting Satie into a piece on a Mitsubishi/PSA 4wd is an achievement rivalling LJKS’ in seguing from the Mozart requiem to the then current Mazda 626! Do you share his love of music?
    (I’m off to Spotify now to catch up on the Gymnopédies)

    1. Totally sharing the love of music, especially classical. (among most other styles as well)
      It’s a long time since I last heard the Gymnopédies, maybe it’s a good opportunity to refresh my memories.

  4. I quite liked this version of the Outlander, neat and unfussy. I have seen a few of the C-Crossers, which I assume people bought on the basis of living close to a Citroën garage and wanting an SUV. The front end is very typical of Citroëns of the time, which is not saying much. Thanks for digging this one out.

    1. I agree, this Outlander is quite nice to behold, although my taste would like more wheelbase for its length. Unfortunately, the French frontal treatments added too much fuss and noise to the otherwise calm shapes.

  5. “Decampment of production to Kaluga, Russia in 2011 saw largo sales figures. Combined European totals in five years for the non-French duo being approximately 70,000. Outlander managed an extra 66,000 European sales. The wooden lid slammed shut on the keys in 2012, an international failure.”

    well, the failure did not prevent the brands of doing it again, with the Peugeot 4008 and the Citroën C4 Aircross being born from the Mitsubishi ASX/RVR. same fussy design cues, same international failure.

    can’t wait to see what they will do starting from Jeep designs!

  6. Afternoon all. Music is indeed a great love of mine; almost as much as I share toward the automobile.

    My headphones were enlightening with Satie’s Gnossiennes as I researching this piece. Hurriedly pressing onto the music in question and then everything seemed to fit. But there are Gynopédies and better versions, just like these blessed motor vehicles. Should you require what these ears believe best (and I’ve sampled a lot) seek out Pascal Rogé’s performance. The spatial awareness between notes, the correct amount of key pressure, the very humane performance is simply breathtaking. Shame all three pieces last only about nine minutes – resembling the cars in question all too sadly.

    On my commute home, I saw a brand new Outlander which, in white and with autumnal sunshine, stood out quite pleasantly.

    1. Interesting that you mention Pascal Rogé. I have a CD by him playing Brahms’ variations on a theme by Händel. Great music I haven’t listened to for ages. But still remember some of the pieces as if it were yesterday (especially the ones I tried to play myself). Another thing to dig out and revisit…

  7. Stylistically, the Outlander is, as one might have expected, the most coherent and actually rather handsome in my eyes. I like the way the ‘uptick’ on the outboard corners of the front grille is picked up in the rear quarter window. It’s nicely unaggressive for an SUV too:

    The C-Crosser is ok, but the 4007’s front end looks too bulbous and rounded for the rest of the design (as well as being horrible in isolation!)

    1. Of course, Mitsubishi couldn’t leave well alone. They facelifted the poor Outlander and gave it the full ‘big gob’ treatment:

    2. According to CAR this large Mitsubishi grille is meant to look like a samurai’s helmet

  8. Mitsubishi was casting its net far and wide, as ever: as well as badge-engineering some vehicles with PSA, and borrowing an engine from VW, it developed the platform with DaimlerChrysler. Their output included the Sebring, Avenger, Caliber and the Patriot and Compass which featured recently on DTW. For good measure, the Lancer saloon on that platform was rebadged as the Proton Inspira.

    The fourth-generation Outlander may not please Daniel either: based on the Nissan Xtrail, they seem to made sure that they were very busy on the areas that they could influence. He need not worry too much, as Mitsubishi’s European (later changed to UK/ROI only) withdrawal mean that he is unlikely to spot many.

    1. Yes, Tom, you are right. I’m so not pleased with this:

      It doesn’t even look particularly original. Sangyong got there first:

    2. I am starting to wonder if it isn’t becoming counterproductive for car companies to release optimistic concepts that only superficially resemble what they plan to produce? Reminds me of a very old song, perhaps some of us know it.

      Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby, just to let me down?

      For me the Mercedes EQS (nee Vision EQS concept) was an inflection point. They promised more, I expected more. Why do they build us up, just to let us down?

    3. In this case, I have to say the concept is equally horrible to my eyes. At least the production car got a decent window surface and a front end that’s a tad less massive and aggressive looking.

  9. Hi Andrew, just catching up with my DTW fix. You’ve enlightened me again, thank you. Although I was aware of all 3 motors, I’d never clicked that they were basically the same vehicle. I’ve never really taken to SUV’s, probably after owning a Freelander for a short while, so don’t take a lot of notice of them. Like to links to music too. 👍🏻

  10. Afternoon Andrew. Like Tim I have never been that interested in SUV’s either but thank you for the article nonetheless. I feel I should report the sighting of a BMW Z1 yesterday at the same place as I had my dashcam fitted. Only 80 left in the country according to the owner but I digress. Sorry.

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