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First look: Airtrek has substance with style

Double dose: Mitsubishi Australia plans to offer two specification levels in the Airtrek.

Mitsubishi puts its faith in an aggressively-styled Airtrek for sale Down Under

3 Apr 2002

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia plans to become a volume player in the booming compact four-wheel drive market when it launches this aggressively-styled version of the Airtrek soft-roader early in 2003.

Mitsubishi revealed this iteration of the Airtrek late last week at the New York auto show in the US, where the car will be called the Outlander.

But Mitsubishi Australia will stick with the Japanese market Airtrek name and plans to offer two specification levels for thefive-seater.

It is confident of achieving significant 600 sales plus per month volumes when it goes up against Honda's new CR-V, the popular Toyota RAV4, Nissan's X-Trail and the new generation 2.5-litre Forester.

Selling this car signals a seachange for Mitsubishi Australia which previouslypersevered with the capable but unexciting Pajero iO.

With the Airtrek, Mitsubishi is paying plenty of attention to style as well as substance.

Picking the more radical US styling was all part of that transition, said MMAL spokesman Kevin Taylor: "We thought it was more aggressive and more stylish in the way we wanted to be.

"Obviously, it's much more in-line with what the market wants in terms of style and flexibility than iO.

"It drives very much like a sedan and Mitsubishi is well known for its four-wheel drive systems, so it's still a very capable off-roader - okay, it's not a hard off-roader, but it's a very capable soft-off-roader.

"iO's been probably the best off-roader of the category but people are looking for style and flexibility more than off-road capability and this has certainly got style and flexibility, and certainly it's still got more off-road capability than most in the category."Unlike the iO, which will continue on sale, the Airtrek employs a car-like monocoque chassis and does not have low range gearing for serious off-road work.

Mitsusbishi has cherry-picked from around the world to help achieve its ambitious sales target for Airtrek, combining the US exterior with the Japanese/European interior.

But Australia's poor fuel quality also means the Aussie Airtrek will make do with the old 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine previously seen here in the Magna, rather than a hi-tech GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine.

The 16-valve unit powering our Airtrek will produce 105kW at 5500rpm and 205Nm at 3000rpm.

The Airtrek will be available as a four-speed automatic only, albeit with "Sportronic" semi-manual shifting mode.

Mr Taylor said pricing would be competitive with the likes of CR-V despite the lack of a manual option, suggesting an entry point in the low $30,000 bracket.

"We have some ideas on where we think it will be, but as spec is not finalised that will have some bearing on pricing, but it will need to be competitive," Mr Taylor said.

The Airtrek is fitted with a viscous-coupled centre differential tohandle four-wheel drive duties. Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link coil spring arrangement at the rear.

Minimum standard equipment levels are expected to include dual airbags, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, CD audio, remotecentral locking, alloy wheels and even cruise control.

Cabin flexibility is provided for by split and flat-folding rear seats.

* Mitsubishi also showed the mid-life makeover of the Pajero at New York. The popular wagon features a redesigned grille with chrome inner accents and smoother side body cladding. The spare tyre cover on the rear of the vehicle is also new.

The biggest change was a 3.8-litre V6 but Australia will stick with the 3.5 when the facelift flows through late this year.

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