Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a Baja Portalegre 500 rally car at the shakedown test

Mitsubishi Rally Comeback: The secret of the Outlander PHEV’s amazing riding comfort

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation decided to enter the Baja Portalegre 500 cross rally to be held in Portugal in October 2015, with the Outlander PHEV as its entry. The shakedown test for the rally version of the Outlander PHEV at the dirt course was held in Ikenotaira Wonderland in Aichi Prefecture.

Mitsubishi’s Hiroshi Masuoka will be the team captain and driver at the Baja Portalegre 500. I was lucky to be able to be riding on the co-driver seat during an important test.

I wore a helmet and sat on the co-driver seat, surrounded by the roll cage. My body was pushed into the bucket seat which had a hard cushion; a five-point harness seatbelt, twice the width of a passenger car’s seatbelt, was strapped on me. There was a disturbing feeling, no matter how I tried thinking of several things. I looked at the large gaps and jump ramps on the dirt course ahead. I was worried I might bite my tongue if I speak.

The riding comfort was better than I thought as the vehicle went down the hill towards the course. The vehicle entered the course and it sped up at once. It was anticlimatic. The course has an elevated ground height. Its suspension stroke achieved a riding comfort that’s good enough; I was amazed. Before I rode this rally car, I went to the course by riding the Delica D:5, a rental car. The former’s riding comfort is five times better than the latter.

Its body is not just flexible, but it also has a stable feeling. Despite all that, cornering is very stable in this vehicle and it turns and boots up without any difficulty. The cornering caused a suspension stroke and made the tire firmly hold the road. Its cornering is modest and fast, thanks to the S-AWC (and of course, Masuoka’s driving skills).

Of course, its PHEV powertrain also contributes to its riding comfort. Its distinct characteristic is its sound. Although it is not better than commercial vehicles in this aspect, it is a lot more quiet compared to other rally cars. In addition, the Outlander PHEV also has a feature in which it uses its engine to generate power. Thus, the sound has become almost constant. That seemed to be the reason why it led me to thinking it has a stable running performance.

After the test ride, I told Yasuo Tanaka, team manager and technical director of the engineers (an expert from the EV Component Research Department), “To my surprise, it had a good riding comfort.” To which he replied, “Of course, it does.”

How did this riding comfort came to be?

Tanaka: First, we increased its vehicle height. Then, we widened the gaps between the treads. I believe you would understand if you look at the over fender. The treads are quite wide.

Not only does it have big tires and increased vehicle height, but its entire body size has increased as well. How many centimeters were added?

Tanaka: Its ground height fairly moves up and down due to its specifications. We considerably increased its vehicle height because the wheel track at the Asia Cross Country Rally is deep. However, we believe that it can run well at the Baja Portalegre 500 in Portugal even though the increase was not too much. We also upgraded its drivability on bad roads. We withdrew from the difficult course of the 2013 and 2014 Asia Cross Country Rally. Our goal, however, this year is to finish the course.

Indeed, the Asia Cross Country Rally’s wheel track and holes are not common in Japan. What kind of specification does the powertrain system has?

Tanaka: Although we really did tune-up its powertrain, it was just a tuning based on the production vehicles. So, I could not really say the specific numbers.

What kind of thoughts do you have about the Portugal course?

Tanaka: We don’t have any experience in the Portugal course and we absolutely don’t know what to expect from our rivals. Nevertheless, we want to exhibit the magnificence of the PHEV in Europe by finishing the course.

(Translated by Natassia Jeronne D. Martinez)