The all-wheel-drive diesel sports coupe history has forgotten.

Name: Mitsubishi Concept-RA

Debuted: January 2008 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit

Specs: 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine with 201 horsepower, 310 pound-feet (420 Newton-meters) of torque, dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 21-inch wheels

Why We Remember It Now:

From its sleek body partially made from plastic resin to the diesel engine atypical for a sports car, the concept had a lot going for it.

There used to be a time when Mitsubishi’s concepts weren’t an SUV-only affair, and the RA is a prime example of when Mitsu used to develop seriously cool vehicles for enthusiasts. Unfortunately only a concept, the two-door coupe proposed the interesting idea of a sports car with a diesel engine hooked up to an AWD system inherited from the Lancer Evolution, but in a next-generation specification.

The Concept-RA had quite a few aces up its sleeve, including Mitsubishi’s proprietary Active Steering providing a more linear response by automatically controlling the front wheel turn angle based on the car’s speed and the driver’s steering input. It also had the Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC)  derived from the Lancer Evolution X, which meant that it came bundled with an active center differential, active stability control, and active yaw control.

At the heart of the Concept-RA was a turbodiesel 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection and variable valve timing. Playing the eco-friendly card, Mitsubishi promised low emissions and a relatively healthy output of 201 hp and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm). To cut fuel consumption and boost performance, weight was reduced by using plastic resin for some of the body panels on top of an aluminum space frame.

Then there was the styling, which isn’t too shabby even by today’s standard. Unveiled more than 11 years ago, the Concept-RA doesn’t look dated at all and with a few changes here and there, it would fit nicely in an image right next to an Audi TT, a Porsche Cayman, and an Alpine A110. Those center-lock 21-wheels are a thing of beauty, and so are those two exhaust tips shaped like cannons.

The interior is not half bad either more than a decade later, although the digital instrument cluster looks a bit busy. Nevertheless, the minimalist approach has withstood the test of time and we’d be perfectly ok with a hypothetical production version looking a lot like this. The scissor doors are an exaggeration considering this is far from being a supercar given its small four-banger, but acceptable for a showcar.

Mitsubishi recently explained the demise of its sports cars and why the chances of seeing a new one are slim. The fabled “Evo” badge might return one day, but most likely for an SUV.

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The MITSUBISHI Concept-RA offers a unique interpretation of the sporty coupe. This two-seat pure coupe concept explores the transversely mounted, front engine packaging theme. Generous helpings of technology create a vehicle that combines exotic appeal, outstanding, fun-to-drive dynamics and heightened sensitivity for the environment

Design

Developed as a technological showcase for Mitsubishi Motors, the Concept-RA displays athletic sport coupe proportions wrapped in dynamic flowing lines that provide a powerful and compelling showpiece for the car's advanced, high technology features. Broad, muscular wheel arches house 21-inch wheels and lend graphic expression to the high degree of road control and tenacious grip afforded by the next generation S-AWC system. Meanwhile, an exposed engine cover highlights the presence of the car's high output, efficient, clean diesel engine design. The Concept-RA's inverted-slant nose and trapezoidal grille fascia reinforce Mitsubishi Motors' new design identity, albeit suitably revised to reflect the concept's sporty coupe attributes.

Concept-RA's deep red exterior hue graphically accentuates the coupe's fluid, muscular body lines, and offsets a matte black engine hood that helps impart the vehicle's strong mechanical flavor. The interior has been developed to show a fusion of tradition with leading-edge touches. The cockpit's wraparound control layout uses minimal visual instrumentation and optimizes the switch and control layout. This reduces the driver's physical and mental workload, allowing full concentration on driving. The interior also makes extensive use of fine-quality natural materials in a design that delivers the utmost control, confidence, and vehicle involvement to the driver.

Mechanical

The MITSUBISHI Concept-RA's Super-All Wheel Control driveline is a next generation all-wheel-drive system that adds Active Steering and Active Suspension control to the ACD, AYC, ASC, and Sport ABS components that comprise the highly capable system used on the 2008 Lancer Evolution. Concept RA's S-AWC system integrally manages these components to realize advanced levels of control over drive torque, steering input, vehicle roll, and braking at each wheel, thereby raising traction, cornering and vehicle stability levels. Such capability affords Concept-RA intuitive, on-demand vehicle behavior that faithfully reflects driver intent by reacting instantly, under a variety of driving conditions, from everyday use to emergency avoidance situations.

MITSUBISHI Concept-RA is powered by a new, high output, high-efficiency 2.2-liter 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve turbo diesel engine with MIVEC. This clean diesel's MIVEC system incorporates valve lift control with low and high-speed cam profiles actuating the intake valves. A Piezoelectric injector, common-rail direct fuel injection system allows the engine to use of a lower static compression ratio. The new diesel showcases a VD/VG (Variable Diffuser / Variable Geometry) turbocharger whose internal vanes can control airflow over the turbine and compressor surfaces to produce optimum boost characteristics at all times. The efficient, low emissions diesel unit delivers a maximum output of 201 hp (150 kW) and maximum torque of 310 ft. lbs. (42.8 kg-m). For compliance with Tier 2 Bin 5 emission regulations in the United States, the clean diesel powerplant relies on a new catalytic converter system that combines a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), NOx trap catalyst (NTC) and diesel particulate filter (DPF) technologies.

In an effort to reduce vehicle weight to improve fuel economy, vehicle performance and safety, MITSUBISHI Concept-RA features a new, rigid body structure using an aluminum space frame made from extruded aluminum sections and die-cast aluminum components. In addition, the engine hood, fenders and other outer panels made from lightweight, impact-resistant and easily recyclable plastic resin.

MITSUBISHI Concept-RA specifications

  • Overall length (mm): 175 inches (4,445 mm)
  • Overall width (mm): 74.6 inches (1,895 mm)
  • Overall height (mm): 51.8 inches (1,315 mm)
  • Wheelbase (mm): 103.7 inches (2,635 mm)
  • F/R track (mm): 63.2 inches (1,605 mm)
  • Occupants: 2
  • Engine: 2.2-liter in-line four cylinder Clean Diesel
  • Max. output: 201 hp (150 kW)
  • Max torque.: 310 ft. lbs. (42.8 kg-m)
  • Driveline: Full-time 4WD (S-AWC)
  • Transmission: Twin Clutch SST
  • Tires: 285/30R21