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Triton to extend Ralliart reach

Show and go: TMR Triton looks similar to Triton Fastback, but adds over 30 per cent more torque.

Mitsu expands Ralliart range via Lancer Sportback and TMR Triton but i-car no closer

20 Oct 2008

MITSUBISHI says it has reached “critical mass” with its Ralliart performance range, which will this week be expanded by the Ralliart Lancer and will soon also comprise the Ralliart Triton.

The Ralliart Lancer Sportback arrives in dealerships now as the flagship of the new five-door Lancer hatchback range, while the four-door Ralliart Lancer lands midway between the mainstream (non-turbo) Lancer sedans and the range-topping Lancer Evolution, which will not become available as a five-door like its circa-$60,000 turbocharged all-wheel drive rival, Subaru’s Impreza WRX STi.

Powered by the same Evo-based 177kW/343Nm 2.0-litre turbo four, both Ralliart Lancers will be priced at $42,490 with a standard TC-SST dual-clutch automated manual transmission (there will be no manual) mated to an Evo-sourced active AWD system.

The high-output Ralliart versions of its volume-selling model represent Mitsubishi’s first direct rival(s) for the AWD WRX, which arrives in new sedan and upgraded hatch (195kW) guises in December, as well as Volkswagen’s similarly popular Golf GTI, which is also priced from $39,990 as a manual, since the Mitsubishi’s own 1992-1996 Lancer GSR invented the AWD-turbo phenomena.

Also revealed at this month’s Sydney motor show was a tweaked Triton ute that GoAuto understands will find its way into Team Mitsubishi Ralliart (TMR) dealers alongside the lither Lancer models.

The TMR Triton appeared in Sydney as a working prototype (rather than a concept) with 12 per cent more power and 31 per cent more torque than the Triton’s standard 3.2-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine.

Produced by Alan Heaphy’s TMR engineering centre at Dandenong in Melbourne’s east, the TMR Triton delivers 132kW at 3800rpm and a walloping 450Nm of torque from 2000rpm, pitching it at the same market as Toyota’s 225kW/453Nm 4.0-litre petrol V6-powered TRD HiLux, which is priced from $59,990.

Like the TRD HiLux, the TMR Triton is a dual-cab 4x4 ute - this time based on Mitsubishi's flagship GLS turbo-diesel one-tonner, which itself now comes standard with the brand’s Super Select on-the-fly switchable 4WD system.

The TMR treatments also adds Koni 8240-series shock absorbers, four-piston front brake callipers with Ferodo high-performance brake pads gripping 343x29mm slotted and ventilated two-piece brake rotors, all behind a set of 18x8.0-inch Dakar alloy wheels with Pirelli Scorpion ATR 255/55 R18 tyres.

21 center imageLeft, from top: TMR Triton rear and interior, Triton Fastback, Ralliart Lancer Sportback, Ralliart Colt and i-MiEV. The senior manager of corporate communications at Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL), Lenore Fletcher, said the TMR Triton will likely become part of the Ralliart range, but is already available through Mr Heaphy’s TMR outfit for those who cannot wait.

“The TMR Triton is not an officially recognised Triton variant at this point, but if you were to speak with the factory direct at Dandenong you will most likely be accommodated,” she said.

“The potential for new Ralliart models and options is amazing, so every time we do a concept the end game is always for it to be part of the range, but whether that happens with the TMR Triton is yet to be confirmed.” The hottest Triton seen so far also features a sports headlight kit, chrome upper and sports lower grilles, unique TMR badging, stainless steel scuff plates, full carpet mats and an Eclipse CD3200 multi-source sound system with four 50-Watt speakers, USB input and integrated Bluetooth hands-free and iPod music compatibility.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited president and CEO Robert McEniry told GoAuto in Sydney the company’s Ralliart business, which also includes the Ralliart Colt that was last month slashed by $5000 to $24,990, was now worth up to 5000 annual sales to MMAL “The Ralliart Lancer is a good progressive step up from the VRX to the Evolution, so we think it will do pretty well,” he said. “We’ve now got a really good core of Ralliart products for the Ralliart dealers to sell.

“They’ve now got the Ralliart Lancer, half of them have the Evo and the Ralliart Colt has been repriced and repositioned, so there’s a good critical mass out there now. We see the Ralliart business as worth between 4000 and 5000 sales per year as part of our overall sales.” Meantime, garden-variety versions of the new Lancer hatch also go on sale this week priced from $20,990 – the same as the corresponding entry-level Lancer ES sedan, which is powered by the same 113kW/198Nm 2.0-litre DOHC petrol four.

Mr McEniry said that, supply permitting, the new Sportback should almost double the number of Lancers Mitsubishi sells, which last month totalled about 1400 to be a distant third behind small-car sales leaders in Toyota’s Corolla and the Mazda3.

If MMAL succeeds in its goal to sell 1200 Sportbacks and at least 2000 Lancers overall per month, the brand’s new model will easily cement its third position in the small-car sales race ahead of Holden’s Astra and Ford’s Focus.

Mr McEniry said he expected the Sportback to account for 50 per cent of Lancer sales going forward, but wouldn’t rule out sales substation between the two body styles.

“We’ve really only been competing in 50 per cent of the small car segment, so we really see a great opportunity with the Sportback to double sales. I know there will be some cannibalisation along the way but it will be very minor.

“The dealers and sales team have reacted extraordinarily positively to the car so we’re very excited. We think it’s a great opportunity. We think the draw will come from those two (Corolla and Mazda3),” he said.

Confusingly, Mitsubishi also heralded the official release of another new Triton variant at Sydney in the Triton Fastback, which is based on the Panther concept vehicle that proved unexpectedly popular following its 2007 Sydney show debut.

The cosmetically enhanced Triton Fastback comprises many of the Panther concept’s features and also donates them to the TMR Triton, including futuristic rear sports bars, a hard tonneau cover, unique front bumper protector and 17-inch alloy wheels on the outside, plus leather trim for the seats, steering wheel, gearshifter and transfer lever, an electric sunroof and automatic climate-control air-conditioning.

The Dakar-inspired Triton Fastback will be available through Mitsubishi dealers nationwide from November, priced at $51,990 for the manual and $53,990 as an auto.

“We knew that one of Triton’s strengths – apart from its rugged, go-anywhere four-wheel drive ability and excellent on road manners – was its out-there stylish design. And we also knew that drivers in this segment were very switched on to styling trends,” said Mr McEniry.

“But we simply didn’t expect the avalanche of enquiry we received regarding this vehicle. The interest was so great that we couldn’t resist introducing the Triton Fastback as an ongoing variant in the Triton utility range.” In other Mitsubishi news, Mr McEniry has continued to lobby MMAL’s case for the “i” city-car and its all-electric derivative with head office in Japan, but said the cost of Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification, relative to potential sales revenue, remained the biggest stumbling block.

“We’re still very keen on that car,” said Mr McEniry. “(But) we are struggling with homologation and the cost of homologation from a volume point of view, so we haven’t made much progress.

“It’s a slow process. I’m up there next week to try and get the message through,” he said at the Sydney show, before returning last week with “nothing further to report”.

The electric version, dubbed the i-MiEV Sport, is scheduled to go into limited production for fleet buyers next year, before entering full-scale manufacture for private customers in 2010 – at the earliest. Nissan has promised to deliver Australia its first electric car in 2012.

Read more:

Sydney show: Lancer’s hatch dispatch

Hot Colt, 300C prices move

Lancer lot!

Mitsu hatches Lancer plan

First look: Lancer Sportback set for Paris debut

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