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First look: Magna drives all before it

Launch date: Mitsubishi will launch the AWD range to the press in November with general sale not expected to start until next year.

Four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Magna leads the way for local car-makers with Sydney reveal

17 Oct 2002

MITSUBISHI has won the race to be the first domestic manufacturer to get an all-wheel drive vehicle into production, revealing an all-paw Magna this morning at the Sydney motor show.

The show car, which cleverly flips apart to show off the locally-developed four-wheel drive system, is based on the mainstream Executive model, but an AWD Verada and Sports will also be offered.

However, VR-X and Ralliart versions are still as much as 12 months away because of engineering issues believed to be related to their 17-inch wheels.

Mitsubishi will launch the AWD range to the press in November with general sale not expected to start until next year. The company is building several hundred AWDs before Christmas, but says the entire run has already been sold.

Pricing and specification have yet to be announced, but the plan is to sell them at a premium of around 10 per cent more than the two-wheel drive variants.

Holden will follow with AWD Commodore crew-cab and wagon variants in 2003, while Ford will unveil the E265 cross-over wagon in 2004. Holden is also expected to underpin forthcoming short and long wheelbase passenger cars with its AWD system, while Ford has so far said it is not planning an all-wheel drive Falcon.

The AWD Magna has been locally developed combining the Diamante viscous-coupled AWD built in Japan, some "vital elements" of the Lancer Evolution series and the local Magna 3.5-litre V6 engine and suspension.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia president and CEO Tom Phillips praised the company's engineers for their ability to develop the car in a short two-year timeframe.

"There were many challenges to overcome," Mr Phillips said. "They tackled each one of them head-on, and finished up with a car that Australian motorists will say will set the benchmark for safety and traction in a large, locally produced sedan."Mitsubishi is confident enough about the public reception the Magna AWD will receive to predict demand could outstrip supply. At this stage Mitsubishi only has the capacity to build 300 AWDs per year.

Mitsubishi Australia executive vice-president, sales and marketing, Bill Pike said the AWD was part of a concerted effort by the company to break out of its conservative image.

"We have had the image of not being the most sexy product in the marketplace," he said.

"I have got to tell you we have a lot of product coming that will make us a far more acceptable day-to-day proposition than we have been.

"The guys have allowed themselves to become very conservative. We are about to burst through that.

The next significant step for Magna will be a major facelift due around mid-2003, codenamed XR, with the styling work overseen by Mitsubishi's world design boss Olivier Boulay.

More AWD and Ralliart variations follow toward the end of 2003, with an all-new short-wheelbase Magna replacement due in 2005. A long-wheelbase car will follow in 2006.

* A V6 Limited Edition Magna was also unveiled at Sydney. Based on the Executive 3.5-litre V6, Mitsubishi claims it adds $4600 worth of equipment for no extra cost, including passenger airbag, leather interior trim and alloy wheels.

Outlander not Airtrek

OUTLANDER has replaced Airtrek as the name of Mitsubishi's new compact off-roader due on sale early in 2003 in Australia.

Airtrek is the name the five-door wagon has in Japan, but Outlander is the name it gets in the US, and it has been decided, most other overseas market.

The Outlander - both vehicle and name - was unveiled to local car buyers this morning at the Sydney motor show.

Powered by Mitsubishi's SOHC 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine which has previously seen service here in the Magna, the Outlander will come in two specification levels.

Outlander features include a car-like monocoque chassis, auto transmission only, a viscous-coupled centre differential to handle four-wheel drive duties, MacPherson strut suspension up-front and a multi-link coil spring arrangement at the rear.

Minimum standard equipment levels are expected to include dual airbags, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, CD audio, remote central locking, alloy wheels and even cruise control.

"It's going to be pretty well priced and well-specced," said MMAL sales and marketing chief Bill Pike.

"It's going to appeal to that younger demographic that have had small and mid-sized sedans and don't want to go to the full-sized vehicles, perhaps looking for something a little more flexible."It is believed Mitsubishi is aiming for as many as 600 Outlander sales per month, up against the likes of the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail.

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