Friday, September 29, 2006

Mitsubishi Outlander Concept and 2007 Pajero (Europe) unveiled at Paris Motorshow

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Mitsubishi Motors lineup at Paris Motor Show

— World Premiere for "Global Standard All-round SUV" New Pajero —

Tokyo, September 28, 2006 — Mitsubishi Motors Corporation today gave the new "global standard all-round SUV" Pajero*1 its world debut at Le Mondial de l' Automobile 2006 (Paris Motor Show 2006) being held in Halls 1-8 of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles from September 28 (September 30 for the general public) through October 15. Also on display are the Outlander Concept, based on the Japanese market Outlander on-road SUV with styling and powertrain tailored to the European market, and debuting alongside the new Pajero is the new Pajero Evolution which the company plans to enter in the 2007 Dakar Rally. The company is showing a total of 13 vehicles (18 when the show opens to the general public).

Features distinguishing the new Pajero (European market specification) include: a similar all-round SUV specification (approach and other ramp angles, ground clearance) as its predecessor; the Super Select 4WD II driveline developed to Mitsubishi Motors' All Wheel Control (AWC) concept to deliver outstanding go-anywhere all-terrain performance; Active Traction & Stability Control (ASTC) system that has been upgraded to allow the installation of and to work with a new rear differential lock; a classy uptown interior design; and a Rockford Acoustic Design Premium Sound System™.

Outlander Concept is tailored to the European market through a number of changes to the Japan market model. It is powered by a Volkswagen 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC direct-injection intercooler-turbocharger diesel engine that is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. In its styling Outlander Concept sports the Mt Fuji-style front grille that serves as one of the design identity elements for Mitsubishi brand models in Europe.

The Pajero Evolution rally machine has won the Dakar Rally four times in a row since its debut in the 2003 event. Now in its fifth year, the latest iteration features improvements to the suspension and driveline and, as on the new Pajero regular production model, features a redesigned front visage with the underside of the headlights swept up to serve as a motif for the eyes of a wildcat (from which the model derives its name).

At its press conference held on September 28 at the Paris Motor Show, the company introduced the four drivers expected to be representing Mitsubishi Motors in the 2007 Dakar Rally: Japanese ace pilot Hiroshi Masuoka, 2006 overall champion and former alpine ski champion Luc Alphand (France), overall champion two years running in 2004 and 2005 Stephane Peterhansel (France) and the young rising star Nani Roma (Spain).

*1: Montero in Spain / Shogun in the UK

1. Product features: New Pajero (European market specification)

* New Pajero is offered in 7-seater long and 5-seater short body types to accommodate diverse customer needs and lifestyles.
* Diesel models are powered by a 3.2-liter common-rail direct injection diesel engine that clears Euro-4 emissions regulations and is 15% quieter than its predecessor. (Maxima: A/T models 125kW(170 PS) / 373 Nm; M/T models 118kW(160 PS) / 381 Nm). Gasoline models are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 SOHC MIVEC engine that produces a maximum power output of 250 PS.
* The engines are mated to a 5-speed manual or to the INVECS-II 5-speed automatic transmission.
* The new Pajero uses the electronically-controlled Super Select 4WD-II driveline well-received on its predecessor for the superior off-road capabilities it delivers. The driver can select from four drive modes to match surface conditions and his driving preferences: the 2H 2WD mode and three 4WD modes (4H, 4HLc and 4LLc).
* The Active Traction & Stability Control (ATSC) system that regulates drive and braking force at each wheel on an individual basis to achieve superior handling stability and off-road performance has been upgraded to accommodate and work with a rear differential lock and extend the Pajero's capabilities over unmade surfaces.
* The new Pajero retains the independent double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension configuration of its predecessor. The use of different spring constants and overall tuning of the suspension have reduced roll by 25% and more to improve handling and stability at all speeds and to make for a flatter and more comfortable ride.
* Long body models are fitted with a third row of seats that fold away under the floor when not required, a feature which proved popular on the previous Pajero. The head restraints also stow neatly under the floor.
* Built into the tailgate is a generous two-tier storage box: the top section provides free space for stowing a first-aid kit or tissue box while the bottom section holds the emergency triangle.
* The new Pajero sports a new Rockford Acoustic Design Premium Sound System™ comprising a 860 Watt amplifier, 12 speakers, a digital signal processor (DSP) and a 5.1 channel theater surround system that creates a soundstage with soulful heavy bass and a high acoustic energy flow.
* Mitsubishi's on-board navigation system houses a 30GB hard disk drive with a 7-inch LCD display and uses dedicated LSI circuitry to provide ultra-fast search and route finding capabilities.

2. Product features: Outlander Concept

* Outlander Concept sports an eye-catching Red Metallic body finish using silver accent coloring for the grille, roof rails and other elements to give a sporty dash to the overall appearance. The car rides on 20-inch 6-spoke alloy road wheels that give the lower body a tauter look as well as leaving no doubt as to Outlander Concept's on-road SUV personality.
* The powertrain mates the 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC direct-injection diesel engine that produces maxima of 103 kW and 310 N-m and powers the Europe-market Grandis sedan to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Outlander Concept uses a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to meet Euro-4 emission standards.
* The driveline uses an electronically-controlled 4WD system developed from Mitsubishi Motors' All-Wheel Control (AWC) approach to deliver optimum drive torque for any particular situation or driving conditions and realize economy and go-anywhere performance that do justice to an all-round SUV.
* All-round independent suspension delivers responsive and accurate handling with a pliant ride. The aluminum engine hood, as used on the Lancer Evolution, reduces roll to improve road holding and increase stability.
* In-car entertainment is provided by the same 650 Watt 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate Premium Sound System™ acoustically tuned to the interior of, and well-received on, the Japan market Outlander.
* Outlander Concept uses the same split tailgate as the Japan market model with separate upper and lower sections that facilitate loading or unloading of different sizes and weights of luggage. It also uses the same fold-and-tumble second row seats and occasional-use third row seats, normally stowed under the floor, to produce a cavernous luggage compartment or to provide seating for seven as required.

Gallery (click image to enlarge):

Pajero (European market specification)

Outlander Concept (Show car)

-Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cyprus Rally PWRC: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution wins second rally win in succession

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Japan’s Fumio Nutahara scored a sensational third FIA Production Car World Rally Championship win of the season on the Cyprus Rally, which finished in Limassol this afternoon. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver had been at the forefront of the competition over three days’ of driving on the Mediterranean island – just as he has been throughout the season – before clinching a four-minute win after the 22nd and final stage north of the rally’s coastal base. This is Nutahara’s second PC WRC win this month, having clinched 10 points in Japan, three weeks ago.

Fumio Nutahara / Daniel Barritt
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Nutahara, who has now won three of his four PWRC outings this season, is now among the favourites for this year’s world title among the Group N drivers. A further two victories on the final two rallies of the season – Australia and New Zealand – would clinch a first ever world title for the 42-year-old, who is also leading the Japanese Rally Championship after four straight wins in his home series.

Fumio Nutahara / Daniel Barritt
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Despite heading into today’s six stages – which were again run in hot and sunny conditions – with more than four minutes in hand over the second-placed driver, Nutahara, who is co-driven by Britain’s Daniel Barritt, acknowledged this had been a far from easy day aboard his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The only minor problem came 10 kilometres from the end of the first test of the day, when Nutahara finished with a broken windscreen.

"That wasn’t a very nice way to start the day," said Nutahara. "Other than that, it’s been good. The roads are still slippery and, of course," said Nutahara. "It’s been a very hard day and rally. There was so much to lose all of the time. I didn’t have to drive flat out, I had to drive with my head and be sensible. We had two punctures during the event, but they were the only problem for us – the car has been good for the whole event. It’s great to win again, now we have to see what we can do on the next two rallies."

A new feature on this year’s Cyprus Rally was the Down Town Special test, a 3.4-kilometre asphalt stage run through the centre of Limassol ahead of a packed, capacity crowd. Not even the switch from rough gravel roads to a super-smooth sealed surface could foil Nutahara’s efforts to continue the winning form he found in Japan earlier this month.

Simone Campedelli / Danilo Fappani
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII

There was more Mitsubishi success further down the leaderboard, with 20-year-old World Rally Championship debutant Simone Campedelli making the most of his chance with the Errani Team Group, where he replaced regular Lancer Evolution driver Stefano Marrini. Campedelli made light of his inexperience at this level to drive sensibly to the finish, despite two punctures on SS18 this morning. His fourth place in the PC WRC standings clinched five points for the Italian team after a mechanically trouble-free run through this arduous event.

Fumio Nutahara / Daniel Barritt
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

This year’s PWRC title can now only be won by three drivers. Nutahara has the biggest scoring opportunity, with 30 points and a further 20 possible. Nasser Al-Attiyah has scored 38, but can only add 10 more to his score. San Marino-based Mitsubishi man Mirco Baldacci is the other man in with a shot at the title; the former Junior WRC regular has 19 points, but two wins would allow him to end the season on a potentially championship-winning 39.

At the front of the field in Cyprus, Sebastien Loeb clinched his eighth win of the season to move him closer to a third successive drivers’ world title. The Citroen man now only requires six points from the final four rounds to be crowned champion. Ford men Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen were second and third respectively.

The next round of the PWRC takes place on Rally Australia (October 26-29).

-Mitsubishi Motors Motorsports

Cyprus Rally Final Leg

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Cyprus Rally - Leg Three

Sebastien Loeb

Sebastien Loeb finished Cyprus Rally with the win, and the reigning World Champion added a 28th FIA World Rally Championship victory to his ever-expanding record. Loeb began the third and final Leg holding a relatively slim lead of BP-Ford's Marcus Gronholm. Loeb was bested on a handful of stages during the third Leg, but at no point was he ever in danger of being overtaken by Gronholm.

Marcus Gronholm finished Cyprus Rally the same as he finished Rally Japan only a few weeks prior, in second overall behind Sebastien Loeb after holding the rally lead after the first Leg. Gronholm drove a competitive day, and in fact, only two errors caused him the rally victory, a spin and tyre choice during the second Leg.

Marcus Gronholm

The Cyprus Rally was a very positive event for the BP-Ford team despite their number one driver not coming away with the victory. Thanks to Mikko Hirvonen's solid performance during the entirety of the rally, Ford had two drivers on the podium at the end of a rally for the fourth time in 2006. Hirvonen drove the third Leg with little chance of catching either driver in front of him (barring an accident or mechanical failure) and he himself was in almost no pressure to push with a massive barrier between him and the driver behind him in the overall classification.

Manfred Stohl went unnoticed for much of Cyprus Rally because of the battles around him, but Stohl completed fourth overall. His result in 2006 did not match his second overall in 2005, but Stohl should be pleased with his classification this year. Stohl drove a trouble-free rally, only complaining of over-steer during the opening Leg.

Toni Gardemeister

Toni Gardemeister finished Cyprus Rally fifth overall, and after a problematic rally, the Finn should be delighted with his position. Gardemeister's third Leg was mostly problem-free though he was able to afford an eased pace after finding himself in a comfortable position. His result in Cyprus was his fourth point scoring rally of the season, though his best result this season came in Monte Carlo where he scored third.

OMV-Peugeot Norway World Rally Team's Henning Solberg completed the rally seventh overall. After sitting eighth at the beginning of the third Leg, problems for his younger brother and Xavier Pons allowed the elder Solberg climb into sixth overall. Henning did not escape the third Leg without incident however, as the Norwegian's Peugeot 307's co-driver's door opened midstage during the morning's loop of stages. Henning's co-driver, Cato Menkerud, did manage to hold the door closed during the remainder of the stage, but holding the door closed reduced his ability to read his pacenotes. Despite the troubles, Henning completed a rally with drivers' points for the sixth time this season.

Dani Sordo

Xavier Pons also went largely unnoticed during Cyprus, but the Spaniard finished the event seventh overall. Pons drove a clean rally, and after a disappointing German round earlier in the season, he was looking to regain confidence. Pons had held sixth after the final stage of the rally, but the Spaniard suffered transmission troubles en route to the service park and was given a five-minute penalty as a result. Pons has not been nominated to score points for the Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team since before the midseason break, that honour went to Dani Sordo, but Pons' performance in Cyprus may give Kronos Team Boss Marc Van Dalen something to consider for the remaining rallies of the 2006 season as Kronos has not yet nominated their second points scoring driver for any remaining event.

Subaru World Rally Team's Petter Solberg was the eighth overall finisher after a difficult and dejecting rally for the former world champion. Solberg suffered problems ranging from bent wheels to a collision with a rock on the final stage of the rally. Solberg began the day seventh overall, and the Norwegian drove hard despite the problems he suffered. Solberg did have a top-three stage time, claiming third overall on the rally's 17th stage. Solberg was also third quickest through the Down Town Special stage, though the stage was cancelled by an FIA Safety Delegate when he determined the stage was unsafe for an actual running. Drivers were allowed to drive through the stage to allow fans a close view of the sight and sound of a rally car.

Petter Solberg

Stobart VK M-Sport driver Juan Pablo Raies withdrew from the rally after stage 17 as his co-driver Jorge Perez Companc was too ill to continue the rally. It was a disappointing moment for the duo who was contesting their first-ever European rally. Raies was 10th overall before withdrawing from competition.

Chris Atkinson held fifth overall during the second Leg, but an engine stall late into the second Leg caused the Australian to go off the stage. With no spectators to help him back onto the stage, Atkinson was forced to restart the third Leg under SupeRally but the Australian was able to completed the Cyprus Rally ninth overall.

Matthew Wilson

Matthew Wilson also held a points position during the second Leg, but problems, including a faulty gearshift saw the young Brit back to service during the second Leg's group of stages. The third Leg almost spelled disaster for Wilson as he and co-driver Michael Orr were forced to use hand signals when their onboard communication system failed during the first Leg of the morning. The pair switched helmets and repaired the problem during the afternoon's service. Wilson finished the rally 10th overall.

During the cancelled Down Town Special stage, Dani Sordo locked his brakes and slid into a concrete barrier surrounding a roundabout. Sordo badly damaged his Citroen Xsara and the young Spaniard was unable to continue the rally. Sordo's misfortune gave the BP-Ford World Rally Team a massive opportunity to edge closer in the manufacturers' standings.

Neither Red Bull Skoda driver contested either the second nor third Leg of the Cyprus Rally after electrical problems before the rally had even begun ended their event after just one competitive stage. Water had damaged electrical components, and the team decided to focus on Red Bull Skoda's next event, Rally Turkey.


Cyprus Rally Leg 2

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Cyprus Rally - Leg Two

The second leg of Rally Cyprus began very similarly to previous day's action, Marcus Gronholm creating an early lead with three stage victories on the morning's loop of stages. Gronholm began the second day with a slim lead over Sebastien Loeb, 6.4 seconds, and despite solid performances from both drivers, it was not until the afternoon's loop of stages that either driver was able to break free and take solid control of the rally.

Sebastien Loeb

It was Sebastien Loeb who accepted the challenge, and it was Loeb who found himself with the rally lead after the end of the second Leg. Loeb dominated the second half of the day, reducing Gronholm's rally lead and eventually overtaking the Finn to hold a 21.8 second advantage going into the final day.

Mikko Hirvonen

Mikko Hirvonen finished the second Leg holding third overall, and much like the previous day, Hirvonen was unable to match the pace of the two drivers before him, but he was faster than the drivers behind him. Hirvonen seems destined to become more than familiar with 'no man's land' as he is nearly a minute ahead of Manfred Stohl and well behind his team-mate who currently holds second overall.

Stohl has driven a very quiet rally, not causing stir or drama, and because of his clean runs through the day's stages, Stohl continued to maintain possession of fourth overall. Stohl looks unable to match his best-ever result (second overall in Cyprus Rally 2005), but a solid points finish will be very rewarding for a driver who has provided consistent performances throughout the season.

Toni Gardemeister

Toni Gardemeister had been as high as third overall during Cyprus Rally, but problems during the first leg saw Gardemeister drop well out of reach for a podium position. Thanks in part to troubles suffered by many of his rivals and a solid performance of his own during the second leg, the Finn ends the leg in fifth overall.

Xavier Pons drove with renewed confidence during the first and second Legs, and the Spaniard has found immediate results. Pons ends the second Leg sixth overall, thanks in part to problems his competitors suffered throughout the two Legs. Pons is not nominated for manufacturer points for the Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team in Cyprus (that honour went to Dani Sordo), and it seems the alleviated pressure has been beneficial for him.

Petter Solberg

Petter Solberg began the day in 11th, but several solid stage times helped the former world champion move into seventh overall by the end of the second Leg. Solberg suffered traction problems throughout the day, but was able to avoid any rally-ending problems, like those he suffered during the first Leg, to end the day on a positive note. Though he was unable to claim a stage victory, Solberg did manage to post several top-five stage times during the day.

Henning Solberg suffered an off early in the day, and fell from fifth overall to eighth by the end of the second leg. Solberg also suffered mechanical problems during nearly the entirety of the second Leg, with water splashing from underneath his dashboard onto he and his co-driver. Though they performed repairs between the stages, Henning professed to be a poor mechanic, and the problem was not resolved during the day's action. The Norwegian driver remained optimistic and finished the day in the final points position despite one problem after another.

Matthew Wilson

Chris Atkinson ran as high as fifth during the second Leg, but an engine stall and eventual off during the second loop of stages saw Atkinson return to service early, without completing the final two stages. Atkinson's Impreza rear suspension was damaged and he was unable to return to the road section when no spectators were available to help him back onto the stage.

Also suffering problems during the second day was Matthew Wilson. Wilson suffered gearbox troubles and had an off as a result. The young Brit was unable to get his car back onto the stage and was forced to return to service early. He was 10th outright at the time of the incident.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Cyprus Rally Leg 1

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Cyprus Rally - Leg 1

Cyprus Rally is widely known as one of, if not the most, difficult events in the entire FIA World Rally Championship. Slow, rocky terrain with dry, dusty conditions make Cyprus one of the most demanding rallies on both man and machine, and the field this year experienced all of these qualities, and a few more, during the first leg of the rally.

Marcus Gronholm

The rally began with BP-Ford World Rally Team driver Marcus Gronholm jumping to an early lead, which he held throughout the opening leg. Though Gronholm claimed the quickest times on each of the morning's first three contests, Sebastien Loeb was never far behind the Finn and the battle for first overall was the highlight of the opening day. Loeb completed the leg second overall, and the battle for the rally lead promises to dominate the second and third legs of the rally. 6.4 seconds separates Loeb and Gronholm as the duo moves into the second leg.

Toni Gardemeister began the day posting blindingly quick times, and found himself in third overall, which he held through the opening three stages of the rally, but BP-Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, who drove a cautious pace through the morning's first contests, claimed third overall on the fourth stage of the day. Gardemeister and Hirvonen looked as though they would provide a dramatic battle for the final podium position until the fifth stage, when Gardemeister suffered a puncture, which effectively ended his hunt for a podium position during the first leg. Gardemeister finished the opening leg eighth on the leaderboard, though he sits only 0.1 seconds behind seventh overall.

Toni Gardemeister

OMV-Peugeot Norway World Rally Team's Manfred Stohl found his best-ever result in the WRC when he finished second in Cyprus in 2005 with a Citroen Xsara in second overall. Stohl seemed comfortable in the Peugeot 307, despite complaining of under-steer problems after several of the day's stages. Stohl completed the leg fourth overall, thanks in part to the troubles endured by Gardemeister.

Subaru World Rally Team's Chris Atkinson found himself as the highest placed Subaru at the end of the opening leg. Atkinson finished the day fifth overall, and despite a rough run through the leg, the Australian vowed to drive a careful rally to ensure his presence at the end of the event. Dani Sordo retired from sixth with a broken engine on the penultimate test.

Chris Atkinson

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team's Matthew Wilson completed the day sixth overall. Wilson is contesting his first Cyprus Rally and after an accident during shakedown where Wilson broke his steering-arm on his Ford Focus. Wilson's Focus was repaired and since, the young Brit drove a clean rally, opting for the slow and steady method of accruing points before stopping after the final stage of the afternoon with a faulty battery. Wilson was unable to continue and will return for the second leg after suffering a time penalty which dropped him to 10th overall as day one ended.

Xavier Pons began the day much slower than most of the World Rally Cars, but Pons drove a clean leg and found himself sixth overall after the completion of the opening day. Pons drove a mostly uneventful day and is looking to regain his confidence after a disappointing run in the OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland.

Luis Perez Companc finished the day eighth overall. Companc, who had also never contested Rally Cyprus prior to 2006, finished a dramatic day mostly unscathed.

Both Red Bull Skoda drivers (Andreas Aigner and Harri Rovanpera) suffered overheating troubles in their cars' electronics system and they will not restart tomorrow.

Petter Solberg

Subaru's Petter Solberg suffered mechanical problems during the second loop of stages, where he lost all but one of his Impreza's gears. Solberg's performance during the opening leg was almost schizophrenic, claiming a stage victory on the fourth stage of the day, but posting inconsistent times during several of the day's other stages.

OMV-Peugeot's Henning Solberg also had a dramatic day, posting quick stage times and in one instance a blindingly fast time with a broken drive-shaft. Solberg went off the road on the day's final stage, when he was blinded by the sun. He will return to competition Saturday under Superally.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart completes African tests with New Pajero Evolution

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-New Pajero* Evolution to debut at next week’s Paris Motor Show
-MMSP appoints Henri Magne’s successor Lucas Cruz Senra

Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart has now completed a pair of two-week shakedown and development tests of its new Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution in North Africa, in readiness for the Japanese manufacturer’s defence of its Dakar title for what the team hopes will culminate in a seventh successive victory in January 2007.

The revised car, codenamed the MPR13, will be shown to the public on the Mitsubishi stand at next week’s Paris Motor Show and will make its competition debut in November’s UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the 2006 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.

The Pont-de-Vaux-based team has also announced that the Spaniard Lucas Cruz Senra will be the replacement co-driver for Spaniard Joan ‘Nani’ Roma. Senra, who has over six years’ co-driving experience in Cross-Country rallying and the FIA World Rally Championship, will fill the gaping void left by the tragic loss of the experienced Henri Magne during June’s Orpi Rally of Morocco.

The development program for the MPR13 has been jointly undertaken by staff at Okazaki R&D and Design in Japan and engineers at MMSP SAS (Company for Mitsubishi Motors Motorsport activities) headquarters at Pont-de-Vaux. Initial computer-based studies began in May 2005 and the MPR13 was tested for the first time in Morocco during the first two-week test in June.

The team completed the second two-week test at Erfoud in Morocco last Sunday (September 17th), where team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Luc Alphand were joined by Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka.

Peterhansel and Roma carried out testing during the first week, with Alphand and Masuoka taking over for second-week duties. Co-drivers Jean-Paul Cottret and Pascal Maimon were present for both weeks of the test and were joined by newcomer Lucas Cruz Senra and Alphand’s co-driver Gilles Picard for one week apiece. MMSP’s President Isao Torii also attended the test at the mid-point.

“We have now completed two crucial African tests with the revised car and everything has been extremely encouraging,” said MMSP’s Team Director Dominique Serieys. “We carried out 6,000 km of testing over the last two weeks and a total of 11,000 km over the two tests and everything has gone according to plan. Our rivals have also been making progress, but I am looking forward to showing the new car to the public at the Paris Motor Show and am confident that the new MPR13 is a car capable of giving Mitsubishi another victory in the Dakar Rally in January.”

The new car features a revised cooling system, new air ducting and a repositioned radiator assembly. Weight distribution has been improved through the re-positioning of the fuel tank and spare wheel holders and the MPR13 has a lower center of gravity. Driver and co-driver in-cockpit comfort has been improved and there have been improvements in both leg and head room.

There are subtle changes to the exterior design - with an improved front approach angle - and technical staff have worked to improve brake cooling. There are improvements to suspension geometry, suspension settings and MPR13 benefits from a new transmission casing to fit in the new chassis dimensions.

“I completed one week of the test this time and I was so impressed with the improvements that the team has made to the car, especially the suspension and the center of gravity,” said Peterhansel. “I carried out a long test, including some work in the dunes. The new car is stable and corners very well. It rides safely in all situations and I am completely satisfied that we have made big improvements on last year’s car. We suffered a little from understeer in the MPR12, but this car is much better.”

Spaniard Roma was also upbeat about the new car: “I carried out several thousand kilometers of testing with Stéphane in some good and bad weather conditions,” said Roma. “The new car is much better for me. I am tall and there is more space inside the cabin for my legs and head. It is more confortable.

“It has a lower center of gravity and that makes it handle more like a World Rally Car. To be competitive in the dunes, on the tracks and in the camel grass, you need to have a compromise and I feel that the MPR13 is the ideal balanced car. It is lower and easier to drive. I will test again in the dunes after the UAE Desert Challenge and continue my own physical preparations on a daily basis in the build up to the Dakar.

“I will never be able to replace Henri and his vast experience, but I have a good feeling about my partnership with Lucas. We speak the same language and I am sure that we will have a successful working relationship.”

“MPR13 has been a joint effort between Okazaki R&D in Japan and our staff at Pont-de-Vaux, with the valuable input from key suppliers such as Repsol, BF Goodrich and Valeo,” said MMSP’s Technical Director Thierry Viardot. “We will continue to fine-tune the car and make some small improvements over the coming weeks, based upon the feedback from the latest Morocco test.”

The new Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution MPR13 will be shown on the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s (MMC) stand in Hall 3 at the Paris Motor Show, starting on Friday, September 29th.

*Montero in Spanish-speaking countries/Shogun in the UK

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution MPR13 (left) pictured with the base passenger car Pajero 2007 (right)

Lucas Senra Cruz, Joan "Nani" Roma's new co-driver

-Mitsubishi Motors Motorsports

Mitsubishi Motors launches Triton urban sports pickup (Japan)

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Tokyo, September 21, 2006 — Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) today announced the Japanese market launch of its Thailand built Triton urban sports pickup, priced at 2,940,000 yen including consumption tax and available from affiliated dealers throughout Japan.
MMC started taking advance reservations on August 7 for the first 300 Tritons, and has already well received firm orders for 180 units. With the launch, further 300 units have been made available.

Since debuting in Thailand in August 2005, Japanese customers have been longing for a Japan launch of Triton, with particular interests shown by enthusiasts of marine sports, winter sports, and other outdoor sports. User demand was further heightened by the fact that there had been no new model launches in the pickup segment since 2004, and by consistently high price for used pickup market in Japan. Triton is the only pickup sold as new in Japan by domestic manufacturers.

Triton's principal features are a stylish, sporty exterior not found in earlier pickups, a functional but comfortable interior, and in terms of function, a ladder frame body structure and suspension providing particularly good reliability and durability. Triton also provides a spacious cabin designed for back-seat comfort, enabling the vehicle to carry five adults without feeling cramped, but still having a cargo bed with freely usable utility space. Customers making advanced reservations were particularly attracted by the novel styling and by the cargo bed that makes Triton so flexible for outdoor and leisure purposes while still meeting the requirements of a commercial pickup.

Triton has been selling well in Thailand and Europe, with a total of over 81,000 units being made in the first year or so (August 2005 to August 2006) since production started.

1. Triton product features

Triton for the Japanese market is a four-door double cab 4WD pickup with a seating capacity for 5 passengers, powered by a 3.5-litter V6 gasoline engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.

(1) Exterior and interior

* Triton offers unprecedentedly stylish and sporty exterior to a pickup. The purposeful front mask and strong side-view with large fender flares produce an impressively strong appearance, appropriate for the Mitsubishi stable, and with clear visual links to Pajero Evolution Dakar Rally car.
* Exterior design features a parting line and roofline that appear to seem to cradle the cabin, combined with curved side lines for the cargo bed, creating fresh styling that retains its attraction over time.
* A quality interior that combines both function and comfort includes advanced design in and around the instrument panel, with blue illumination for meters, a specially-designed steering wheel, a large floor console, and bucket seats in the front. The overall effect is to create a sporty but comfortable cabin.

(2) Engine, etc.

* Triton is fitted with a 3.5-litter V6 gasoline engine (maximum power: 131 kW (178 ps), maximum torque: 295 Nm (30.1 kgm)) that provides unstressed acceleration. It is particularly strong at low and middle speeds, giving powerful performance both on- and off-road.
* The drivetrain includes an Easy Select 4WD transfer box that enables the driver to switch between 2WD and 4WD on the move. The rear differential is also equipped with a rear hybrid LSD to provide traction and driving stability on slippery surfaces.
* The suspension is configured with double wishbones at the front for reliability and durability, and uses leaf springs at the rear. Each of these suspension setups has been further refined to enhance stability on-road and traction off-road.
* The ladder frame design for the structure delivers the reliability and durability required for a sports pickup, while at the same time ensuring steering stability and a comfortable ride.

(3) Utility features

* The length of the spacious cabin and other design features contribute to rear seat comfort, enabling Triton to carry five adult passengers without feeling cramped.
* The freely usable utility space provided by the cargo bed with a 400 kg load limit can be utilized for a wide variety of purposes, including shopping or carrying camping gear, mountain bikes, or other equipment for outdoor pursuits.
* The retractable rear window provides useful additional access along with ventilation and gives passengers a feel of spaciousness. It can be lowered or raised by touch-button operation from the driver's seat.

2. Manufacturer's recommended retail price
Double cab
3.5-litter SOHC V6
Drive mode
4A/T Easy Select
4WD 2,940,000 yen
(N.B.; Prices exclusive of recycling surcharge, insurance, taxes (but inclusive consumption tax) and registration and related costs.)

- Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mitsubishi Motors launches new eK Wagon & eK Sport (Japan)

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Tokyo, September 13, 2006 — Mitsubishi Motors Corporation today launched fully redesigned eK Wagon and eK Sport models at affiliated dealerships throughout Japan on September 13, 2006. Developed to a "convenience", "peace-of-mind" and "feel-good" theme, features distinguishing the new eK series include a power sliding door, the first on a bonnet-type passenger minicar, and a comprehensive small-item storage and utility specification that offers outstanding usability. Tax inclusive prices for 2WD and 4WD eK Wagon models range from 913,500 yen to 1,222,200 yen, and for 2WD and 4WD eK Sport models from 1,260,000 yen to 1,484,700 yen.

The first eK series debuted in October 2001. It was developed to establish a generation- and gender-transcending "minicar standard" that would enjoy the support of a wide spectrum of users. Features defining the concept and readily embraced by its broad customer base include its "simple, clean and basic" design, its "semi-tall packaging" that is just right for easy ingress/egress and for Japan's multi-level tower car parks and its comprehensive equipment and amenities specification that gives careful attention to owner needs. These selling points drove total eK series sales over 480,000 units to make it one of Mitsubishi Motors best selling models.

Development of the second generation eK Wagon and eK Sport was directed at retaining and evolving the well-received "practical and basic minicar standard" position that defined the first series. Taking its cue from Mitsubishi Motors "Back to the basics of car building excellence" stance, the company conducted extensive research to obtain a detailed understanding of latent needs in a broad spectrum of current and potential owners and users. The research included: conventional user clinics; behavioral studies of consumers at supermarket car parks; interviews with parents at children's class meetings; and interviewing pet owners and vets at veterinary surgeries.

The research led to a number of "discoveries" that had gone unobserved to date and related to unexpected instances of joy, happiness and dissatisfaction on the part of minicar users. These discoveries are reflected in the Multi-position Utility system that allows the interior to be easily customized and other "evolving" changes as well as in the "deepening" detail improvements made to component and parts. The new eK brings a real smile to the driver and passengers as they feel for themselves the evolution in the "convenience," "peace-of-mind" and "feel-good" elements that make it the "great minicar wagon" and the daily life partner it is.

Photo Gallery (click images to enlarge)

eK Sport R

eK Wagon

eK Sport interior

eK Sport dashboard

-Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mitsubishi Pajero 2007 and Dakar Rally Pajero Evolution 2007 MPR13 revealed

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World Premier for the next generation of Pajero (European market specification) at Paris Motor Show
— 2007 Dakar Rally Pajero Evolution also unveiled —

Tokyo, September 8, 2006 — Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) is to give the new global standard SUV Pajero* (European market specification) its world debut at Le Mondial de l'Automobile 2006 (Paris Motor Show 2006) to be held in Halls 1-8 of the Paris Expo porte de Versailles from September 28 (September 30 for the general public) through October 15.

More than 2.5 million Pajeros have been produced in the approximately 25 years since the first generation was launched in 1982. Sold in over 170 countries and regions today, Pajero has earned enormous popularity as a sport utility vehicle boasting outstanding durability and endurance that enable it to deliver safe, secure and comfortable performance over any and all types of road surface.
Debuting at the Paris Motor Show, this Pajero is the fourth in the series. The latest Pajero offers reliability forged in the crucible of grueling competition and use under the harshest conditions to be found on our planet. It retains the all-round SUV specifications of its predecessor, as seen in its approach angle, ground clearance and other all-terrain performance parameters. New features that distinguish the fourth-generation Pajero include:

* A powertrain applied a new 3.2-liter 4-cylinder diesel with common rail direct fuel injection or a 3.8-liter V6 MIVEC*1 gasoline unit.
* A 4WD system comprised of the sophisticated Super Select 4WD-II transfer case while both ASTC*2 and the rear differential lock available — developed on the bedrock of MMC's All-Wheel-Control (AWC) concept and delivering significant improvements in both off-road and tarmac performance.
* Tastefully designed dashboard and interior complemented by high-end equipment such as Rockford Acoustic Design Premium Sound System™ with a new 860W 12-speaker.

This latest Pajero is to be produced at Pajero Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. MMC plans to start shipments to Europe in September, followed by shipments in Japan and to Australia in October. Eventually the company plans to export the car to some 170 countries and regions in the Near & Middle East, Central and South America, and Asia and ASEAN regions.

Debuting alongside at the Paris Motor Show will be the similarly-styled next generation of Pajero Evolution which will be entered at the 2007 Dakar Rally.

MMC will hold its press & media briefing at 2:30 pm on Thursday September 28 at the Mitsubishi Motors stand in Hall 3.

* : Montero in Spain / Shogun in the UK
*1 : MIVEC, Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system
*2 : ASTC, Active Stability & Traction Control
*3 : Pajero II, a concept car showcased in 23rd Tokyo Motor Show (1979)
*4 : PX-33, the first Japanese full-time 4WD passenger car (1936)

Image Gallery
(click for bigger image)

Mitsubishi Pajero 2007 5-doors

Mitsubishi Pajero 2007 3-doors

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 2007 Dakar Rally Edition [MPR13] (left) and Mitsubishi Pajero 2007 (right)

PX-33 (left), Pajero II concept (middle), and Pajero 2007 (right)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mitsubishi Motors Announces 2007 and Early 2008 Model Year Vehicles Meeting Voluntary Safety Commitment

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September 1, 2006 -- CYPRESS, Calif. --

As part of its ongoing participation in industry-led voluntary efforts to improve vehicle safety, Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) today announced that the majority of its 2007 model year vehicles and early model year 2008 vehicles will comply with the voluntary design and performance criteria set out in 2003 by member companies of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

These voluntary design and performance safety criteria pertain to vehicle compatibility in front-to-front and front-to-side impact collisions, and are helping to drive the adoption of numerous vehicle safety enhancements ahead of federal requirements. Mitsubishi is among the sixteen automakers participating in this voluntary effort.

In front-to-front collisions, MMNA's family of model year 2007 SUVs - specifically the Endeavor and the all-new Outlander -- meet the voluntary design criteria and newly added structural assessment. The purpose of these criteria is to enhance the front-to-front crash compatibility between SUVs and passenger vehicles by promoting better alignment of the front-end energy absorbing structures. Manufacturers have been working to improve this architectural feature by modifying truck frames. The voluntary standard governs structural alignment for the entire light-duty vehicle fleet. While the compatibility initiative has set 2009 as the deadline requiring 100 percent of each manufacturer's vehicle line to comply, Mitsubishi is proud to announce that 100 percent of its applicable vehicle line is now in compliance.

In front-to-side collisions, the model year 2007 Outlander, Endeavor, Galant, Eclipse, Eclipse Spyder, and early Model Year 2008 Lancer - all equipped with side air bags - meet the new voluntary performance criteria. Front-to-side collisions, where the striking vehicle is a light truck or SUV, represent significant compatibility challenges. The new voluntary performance criteria place a high priority on enhancing the protection of occupants inside vehicles struck in the side. One of the ways to accomplish this is by enhancing head protection of occupants in struck vehicles.

To evaluate the performance of its vehicles against these industry-led voluntary design and performance safety criteria, Mitsubishi Motors conducted extensive studies and performed actual crash testing. Mitsubishi Motors fully embraces the safety performance criteria embodied in the industry-led effort and remains committed to improving the performance of Mitsubishi vehicles and their safety systems.

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for all manufacturing, finance, sales, marketing, research and development operations of the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Mitsubishi Motors sells coupes, convertibles, sedans and sport utility vehicles through a network of nearly 700 dealers throughout North America. For more information, contact the Mitsubishi Motors News Bureau at (888) 560-6672 or visit

Front-to-Side Compatibility Confirmatory Data
Vehicle Information
Model Model Year
Galant 2007
Lancer (New) Early 2008
Eclipse Coupe 2007
Eclipse Spyder 2007
Outlander (New) 2007
Endeavor 2007

Front-to-Front Compatibility Confirmatory Data
Vehicle Information
Model Model Year

Outlander (New) 2007
Endeavor 2007

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Citroen returns to WRC in 2007

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After a full season of absence this year, Citroen once again has announced formally that it will come back to the WRC in 2007. Citroen has been very busy developing their new breed of rally car, the C4 WRC, as a replacement to the highly successful Xsara WRC. Sebastien Loeb has been very much involved with developing of what is to become his next rally car in the 2008 season, after he and co-driver Daniel Elena, has been reserved the seats for one of the two manufacturer scoring cars. The other seat goes to Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, who were also nominated to score points in Japan this year.

The exciting part of this news is how ready is the C4? Is it tough enough, worthy to be named as successor to the Xsara? The Xsara was way successful already, and a proof to that, Kronos is running a Xsara that is mostly 2005 spec. Yet, Ford and Subaru is having a hard time outscoring Citroen for manufacturer's title in the WRC, with their new,totally re-engineered 2006 spec cars.

Citroen's success in 2005 as a manufacturer team, and this year under the private team of Kronos, can all be attributed to a well-engineered car, and a very skilled driver in the person of Loeb. If the C4 performs as well, Citroen is set to dominate the WRC for the next season, with Loeb and Elena adding a lot of points to their record, as they are now the most succesful driver and co-driver in the entire history of the WRC. We'll see how this new machine perform against the Fords and the Subarus, and later with Suzukis. Monte Carlo will be waiting.

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Sunday, September 3, 2006

Dani Sordo excluded from Rally Japan

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Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team driver Dani Sordo has been excluded from Rally Japan on safety grounds as both he and co-driver Marc Marti failed to put their seat belts back on after stopping for Luis Perez Companc when the Argentinean went off the road on the penultimate stage of the rally.

Prior to his exclusion, the Spanish driver had complained to the Stewards that he was delayed on the 24.88 kilometre Penke stage as a result of Companc going off. Finding that nobody was injured, Sordo and Marti continued at competitive speed through the stage.

Whilst investigating Sordo's claims of being delayed, the Stewards looked at the in-car footage from his Citroen Xsara in an attempt to find the length of any delay. On viewing the tape, they noticed that after the Citroen crew had restarted, both he and co-driver Marc Marti failed to put on their full harness seat belts.

Sordo and Marti were duly summoned to appear before the Stewards and excluded from the event.

Loeb sets new record after win in Japan

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After Sebastien Loeb's win in Rally Japan, he has surpassed Carlos Sainz's record of 26 WRC wins. That puts him in first place with 27 WRC wins to his credit, at only 32 years of age. In 2005, he also scored a record by winning 10 FIA World Rally Championship events and on that year he managed to win 6 rallies in a row, yet another record.

His co-driver Daniel Elena is equally pleased as he continue to earn co-driver championship points. Elena broke Luis Moya's record by winning his 25th win in Italy this year. His win in Japan makes it the 27th for the record. Together with Loeb, the duo can very well be on a long streak of winning record.

Congratulations Sebastien and Daniel!

Rally Japan Final Leg

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Rally Japan Leg 3
11th Round FIA WRC 2006
3 September 2006

Overall Final Results qualified for points after 27 Stages

After claiming second overall in last month's Neste Oil Rally Finland, Sebastien Loeb was forced to wait for the next opportunity to claim his record breaking 27th FIA World Rally Championship victory. Rest easy Loeb fans, Sebastien has come through and passed the legendary Carlos Sainz in the record books.

Due to problems during the second leg, Loeb was able to move past then rally leader Marcus Gronholm. Gronholm, who led the rally until midway through the second leg, began the third day of action 25.6sec off Loeb's pace. Though Gronholm battled harder than any other driver during the third leg, the time difference was just too great for Gronholm to overcome. For the second time in 2006, Gronholm was forced to settle for second overall behind Loeb.

Mikko Hirvonen ran a relatively non-pressured rally after the mechanical troubles of Petter Solberg during the rally's opening leg. Hirvonen completed the rally two minutes 40.9sec behind his team-mate and three minutes 21.3sec ahead of Subaru World Rally Team's Chris Atkinson. Hirvonen joked earlier in the rally that he had become more accustom to driving without pressure on either side of him, even going as far as to say that he believes his pace has improved when he is not under pressure.

Atkinson was the highest placed Subaru at the end of Rally Japan. Though Atkinson suffered 'cosmetic damage' to his Impreza WRC and a penalty, the Australian driver was able to put together several solid stage times in an effort to claim the highest position possible.

During the second leg, it seemed as though the battle for fourth overall was going to be one of the more exciting contests, but Manfred Stohl was unable to keep pace with Atkinson. Stohl was not able to find the speed necessary to move beyond Atkinson during the third leg either, but after a clean run through the final day, Stohl finished with a well-deserved fifth overall.

Toshi Arai began the third leg in eighth overall, but the problems that Petter Solberg suffered with brakes throughout the morning allowed Arai to move beyond his team-mate for the weekend.

Dani Sordo held sixth at the beginning of the day, but Luis Perez Companc inadvertently prevented Sordo from holding sixth overall at the end of the event. Sordo finished Rally Japan, his first attempt of Rally Japan in a World Rally Car, seventh, gaining much needed points for Kronos as the team moves forward in hope of capturing the manufacturers' title.

Petter Solberg completed the event eighth after running as high as third. Solberg suffered through problems with his brakes throughout the weekend, and the third leg was no different. Solberg began the day by losing his brakes on the opening stage, and was unable to compete with Dani Sordo, and eventually Toshi Arai, for a position higher than eighth.

Luis Perez Companc went off-stage during the rally's penultimate stage and was unable to return to action. Companc caused quite a stir with Dani Sordo, who lost at least one minute because of the blocked stage. Reports said that only three metres of clearance sat between Companc and the foliage.

Gareth MacHale, also contesting his first Rally Japan, drove a clean rally through the first two days and well into the third leg. On the fourth stage of the day, however, MacHale ran into a bridge, effectively ending his chances of a top-ten finish.

(photo and story:

Rally Japan Leg 2

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Rally Japan Leg 2
11th Round FIA WRC 2006
2 September 2006

Overall Leaderboard after SS 21

The day began with BP-Ford World Rally Team's Marcus Gronholm on top of the leaderboard, but the fourth and fifth stages of the day saw the Finn suffer a spin and an off which caused him to relinquish the lead to Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team's Sebastien Loeb which the Frenchman held until the end of the second leg.

Mikko Hirvonen, in true form, found himself driving without pressure during the second Leg of Rally Japan. Hirvonen ended the day nearly three minutes ahead of Subaru World Rally Team's Chris Atkinson and over a minute behind his team-mate, Gronholm. Hirvonen stated that manufacturer points were the goal in Japan.

The battle for fourth overall came down between Subaru's Chris Atkinson and OMV-Peugeot Norway World Rally Team driver Manfred Stohl. Stohl, who held fourth coming into the second leg, gave away his position early in the day, and found himself gradually slipping further and further behind Atkinson as the day progressed. Stohl stated that he was going to be cautious and not drive his Peugeot 307 beyond its limit to try and match pace with Atkinson.

Dani Sordo held sixth overall at the end of the second day. Sordo, who is competing in his first Rally Japan in a World Rally Car, commented that he began to gain confidence of the event, and despite the rally taking place on gravel rather than his preferred tarmac, Sordo managed to post several competitive times throughout the day.

Subaru's Petter Solberg began the day in eighth overall, but several competitive stage times - though no stage wins - saw the Norwegian move into seventh on the leaderboard by the end of the day but was marginally behind Dani Sordo by the end of the leg.

Amid a flurry of problems, home-round favourite Toshi Arai completed the day eighth overall. Arai suffered an off-stage incursion which resulted in a major loss of time. Driving through a line of trees which damaged the side of his Impreza WRC 06, Arai managed to finish the stage and return to the afternoon's service to complete the day without major difficulty.

Luis Perez Companc, contesting his first event in the 2006-spec Ford Focus, completed the event as the highest placed Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver after a series of problems (failed turbo charger and getting stuck in a ditch while allowing Atkinson to pass during a stage) for his team-mate Matthew Wilson. Wilson will return for the final leg of stages after having his turbo charger replaced.

Gareth MacHale continues to drive a clean rally and claimed the 10th overall time at the end of the second day. MacHale, driving the 'slow and steady wins the race philosophy', has said that his goal is to gain experience and prepare for future years in a World Rally Car in Japan. Earlier in the year, it was MacHale, following a similar style of driving, who found a surprise points finish in the Corona Rally Mexico.

(photo & story:

Saturday, September 2, 2006

The new Honda CR-V 2007

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Honda Motor Europe Ltd. today announced the all-new, third generation CR-V, successor to a range that has achieved just under 2.5 million sales worldwide over the past 11 years. The latest CR-V continues to offer SUV practicality but with more car-like driving dynamics and styling, greater comfort and a more luxurious interior, reflecting growing customer demand for quality and premium products in the compact SUV market.

Generous equipment levels are matched by cutting edge technology including two systems that are unique to the segment: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), the radar-controlled cruise control function which maintains a set distance to a vehicle in front, and Collision Mitigation Brake System (CMBS), which initiates a series of warnings to the driver if the distance to the vehicle in front decreases beyond an acceptable level, before applying strong braking and retracting the front seatbelts if the situation becomes critical. Both these systems are optional depending on grade.

The sportier styling is characterised by a ‘cab-forward’ look and a coupe-like tapering side window profile, reflecting the enhanced vehicle dynamics. The frontal styling is also much bolder with a prominent bonnet, distinctive double grille flanked by projector-style headlamps and a large bumper. Muscular lower proportions, a wide track and standard 17 inch wheels emphasise the CR-V’s SUV credentials. At the rear, the vertically opening tailgate’s rounded glass and a sculptured lower panel add further distinction. The spare wheel is now located beneath the load compartment floor.

A full complement of passive safety measures includes dual stage SRS front airbags, side airbags for front seat passengers, full length curtain airbags, and front and rear seatbelt reminders, all fitted as standard, with active front headrests on most grades.

The new CR-V also incorporates Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) which together with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) ensures that towing safety is continuously monitored and corrected. In addition, towing capacity on petrol manual models rises from 1500 to 1600 kg; on the diesel engined CR-V it is increased from 1500 kg to a very competitive 2000 kg.

Active Front Lighting (AFS), a system whereby the driver’s view of the road ahead is enhanced by the low beam headlamps turning in the direction the vehicle is turning, is also available on the CR-V for the first time.

In common with other recent Hondas, the CR-V features Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure technology for excellent crash safety characteristics. A polygonal frontal structure reduces the potential for vehicle to vehicle misalignment and upper and lower energy absorbing pathways optimise energy distribution. High tensile steel now makes up 58 per cent of the monocoque body. Honda anticipates a Euro NCAP 5-star rating for occupant protection, 4-stars for child protection and a 3-star pedestrian rating.

Interior accommodation remains generous and the dimensions are generally the same as for the previous CR-V, although the load space is effectively extended backwards to take up the space vacated by the former tailgate-mounted spare wheel. Passengers enjoy the same ‘command view’, while access has been improved by larger doors that open wider and lower sills.

The new, premium interior features metallic trim elements applied to fascia and doors contrasting with soft textured black trim. Front seats are larger and more comfortable and the steering column is adjustable for reach as well as rake. Relocation of the gear lever to the base of the centre stack brings it closer to the steering wheel and frees up floor space.

The availability (depending on grade) of a driver’s 8-way adjustable power seat, leather upholstery, 18 inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera are an indication of the CR-V’s more upmarket specification.

Like the Civic, the CR-V offers the option of a Panorama glass roof which stretches from the windscreen to a point above the rear seat to provide an even lighter cabin. If desired, it can be closed off by two electric blinds which are covered in the same material as the roof lining.

Rear seats – the base is split 60:40, the seat back 40:20:40 – can be slid to maximise leg room or luggage space, can be reclined for added comfort, and the centre section can be folded flat to enable longer items to be carried while still accommodating two rear seat passengers. With the seats tumbled forward and stored upright a capacious load area is opened up, sufficient to accommodate two mountain bikes with their front wheels still in place.

Added flexibility is provided by the novel Double Deck luggage area, formed by a substantial shelf which sits at a height of 330 mm above the load floor – sufficient to allow a standard stroller to be stowed beneath it. It means luggage can be subdivided, with that on the lower level more easily accessible; the shelf is also hinged across its width for added convenience. When not in use, the shelf can either be removed or stored snugly in a recess in the floor.

Power is provided by a 2.0-litre petrol or a 2.2 diesel engine. Honda’s advanced 140 PS 2.2-litre i-CTDi diesel continues unchanged; but with the new CR-V’s aerodynamic efficiency improved by 12 per cent, fuel economy is even better.

The petrol engine is an all-new unit based on the 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC of the Civic range. That means in addition to the very latest VTEC and friction reduction technologies; it also features a further innovation: delayed closure of the intake valves combined with a wide open throttle valve during low-load driving conditions to reduce pumping losses and boost fuel economy.

Petrol engine models are also equipped with brand new transmissions: either a 6-speed manual or an optional 5-speed automatic.

Maximum power and torque figures are 110 kW/150 PS at a slightly lower 6,200 rpm, and 190 Nm at 4,200 rpm – and the engine’s greater efficiency together with the improved body aerodynamics and the new gearboxes boost fuel economy. Performance is also enhanced, with the 0 to 100 km/h time dropping from to 10.2 seconds (manual) and from 13.1 to 12.2 seconds (automatic).

The Real Time 4WD system combines a quiet, fuel-efficient, dual-pump system with a one-way cam unit to significantly enhance sensing of front-wheel slippage – all in a lightweight, compact design. The system transfers power - 20% more torque compared to existing unit - to the rear wheels promptly, and significantly improves stability during startup and cornering on snow-covered roads and other slippery road surfaces.

The new CR-V’s handling characteristics are now more car-like in their character. Key changes include a centre of gravity lowered by 35 mm, a track that is wider by 30 mm, and larger 17 inch wheels, together with a number of changes to the steering and suspension geometry. Crisper responses to driver input, more directional stability and greater all-round agility are the result.

The new CR-V will receive its international show debut in during September and sales begin in January 2007.

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Gallery: (click on photos for larger images)

(photo and story: Honda Motors Corporation)