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Mitsubishi to power-up 380 with new-look VRX

Muscle tussle: Series II 380 VRX will come in for a boost in October.

Extra power for 380 sedan mooted as Mitsubishi aims for more credibility and ‘fun'

3 May 2006

MITSUBISHI is expected to unveil a 190kW version of the 380 VRX large sports sedan at Sydney's Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) in October.

Although not officially confirmed, Mitsubishi Australia chief executive Rob McEniry said last week that another 380 model was in the wings – and he revealed that Mitsubishi would use AIMS to "showcase a new VRX sports model that picks up a performance appearance kit and a stronger, sportier stance".

"We might also have some other plans for the VRX, but who knows," he said. It is not clear whether the show car will get the new engine, which is due to arrive by next April.

The power increase, up from the current car’s 175kW, has been made possible by a redesigned exhaust system and other engine management tweaks.

"Market research tells us that prestige, sportiness and fun to drive are the key to giving brands real credibility and excitement," said Mr McEniry. "And that’s what we’re going to do."

21 center imageThe lift in performance for the VRX has been widely mooted but on hold until the company rolls out more important volume-selling new models like the Outlander, Pajero and Triton (pictured left).

"Remember, they are all our large-volume products so there’s real opportunity for incremental volume," Mr McEniry said.

The strengthening of the Ralliart brand was also key to Mitsubishi’s new model blitz.

The first new model salvo is in July when the new Triton 4x4 with a MIVEC V6 petrol engine and a new turbo-diesel arrives, followed by an upgraded Grandis and turbocharged Colt Ralliart.

The Colt Ralliart will be joined in September by two variants of the Colt Coupe-Cabrio, a normally-aspirated and a turbocharged model.

In October the new four-cylinder 2.4-litre Outlander all-wheel drive is due to arrive, followed in November by both short and long-wheelbase versions of the all-new Pajero.

A short-wheelbase sports-oriented Pajero Ralliart is also planned.

Early next year the Outlander range will be further strengthened by the arrival of the MIVEC V6.

The next-generation Lancer arrives in January, to be followed by the Triton 4x2 in March.

Mr McEniry said the time was right to move Mitsubishi beyond the 380, which will be helped by an all-encompassing marketing blitz to focus on the remainder of the range.

With the 380 ES entry model now starting at $27,990, Mr McEniry believes it represents the best value-for-money car in the large-car segment.

Visually, the Series II 380 ES upgrades are minimal and no specification has been taken out of the car to compensate for the price cut.

A new entry sports model will be known as the 380 SX. This car has the VRX front-end with its mesh grille, front air-dam and foglights, as well as the VRX interior with leather steering wheel gear shifter and handbrake lever as well as cloth-covered sports seats.

Externally, it gets bright headlight treatments, the VRX rear bumper and oval chrome exhaust.

To compensate for the lower-brow sports SX, the VRX has received equipment upgrades. It now gets leather trim, electro-chromatic mirrors and sun visor extensions as standard, as well as new eight-spoke alloys.

The standard luxury model is now the LS, at $42,990, which Mr McEniry believes puts it in the "luxury car sweet spot". It has 16-inch wheels and softer suspension settings.

The main change to the GT is to make the power sunroof optional, which has helped reposition pricing at $44,990.

"You might ask why we’re taking this price action – it’s quite simple really," Mr McEniry said. "We’re not Falcon or Commodore and quite frankly we don’t want to be.

"Remember we said prior to the (380) launch that there was a position that wasn’t taken and that was between the sporty Mazdas and Hondas and the larger Falcons and Commodores." Given that some other imported products Mitsubishi competes against have repositioned their prices over the past five years, some by as much as $10,000, the company needed to be "price and feature competitive".

As a consequence, Mitsubishi now believes the 380 ES represents a value proposition of between $1000 and $7500 better than its key rivals.

Driving home the Mitsubishi message will be a new corporate campaign starting mid-year that will focus on technology and motorsport.

What's coming from Mitsubishi:

All-new Triton 4x4 ute - July
Colt Ralliart hatch - August
Updated Grandis people-mover - August
Colt Coupe-Cabrio convertible - September
All-new Outlander SUV - October
All-new Pajero LWB SUV - November
All-new Pajero SWB SUV - November
Outlander V6 SUV - January 2007
All-new Lancer hatch - January 2007
Triton 4x2 ute - March 2007
380 VR-X Sports sedan - 2007
"i" mini-car - 2007
Colt-Plus wagon - 2007

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