Mitsubishi Shows GC-PHEV "Neo-Montero" in Chicago
High-Tech SUV Gets Hybrid Power, Augmented-Reality Windshield
Mitsubishi gave a North American debut to a futuristic SUV at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, called the Concept GC-PHEV (Grand Cruiser Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle). Looking every bit like a Mitsu Montero from the year 2030, the GC-PHEV has the Monty’s blocky profile, but with more angles and cut lines than a set of Ginsu knives.
Mitsubishi claims the GC is as capable off-road as its brawny styling suggests. In theory (this is a concept car, after all), a supercharged 3.0L V-6 with MIVEC variable valve timing combines with the company’s MiEV high-output electric motor and lithium-ion battery to produce 335 combined horsepower, driven through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels via the company’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC). That same branding is applied to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s all-wheel-drive system, although we’d bet the GC-PHEV’s system is optimized for off-roading rather than high-speed rally racing.
According to Mitsu, the exterior design “is marked by the carefully placed angular creases in the sheetmetal that, when combined with the overall imposing dimensions and muscular silhouette of this vehicle, express a sense of performance, capability and safety.” We notice that the company left words like “organic beauty” and “sensual design” out of the press blast, since the GC-PHEV is definitely more aggressive than svelte. Its brash styling is downright weird from some angles, but Mitsubishi is no stranger to polarizing and risky concept designs.
The company says the GC was designed to look like it had been hewn from a solid block of granite, a description we fully agree with. However, Mitsu also incorporated a number of aero-enhancing features, helping reduce parasitic drag and improve performance and efficiency. The pencil-thin side-view cameras and active grille louvers that open as needed by the cooling system, for example, smooth out the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
The side profile is very imposing, with high body sides and aggressive sculpting around the wheel wells. The red beltline trim is one of the few subtleties on this exaggerated design, breaking up the expanses of earth- and metallic-toned bodywork. The pinched rear quarter glass looks pretty cool, making the rear almost look like the aft portion of an airplane’s fuselage. A big tailgate features integrated taillamps and dual glass elements, helping with rear visibility (at least on the concept, which doesn’t feature a third-row seat).
The two rows of seats that do appear on the concept are placed in a pretty amazing setting. The GC-PHEV is right-hand drive, with a futuristic steering wheel that’s extremely squared off at the top and bottom. The dark grey dash top and carpeting are joined by light-tan upholstery for the seat faces, door panels, and dashboard, with very sporty orange trim strategically placed in the lower third of the interior. Up top, a tan headliner is broken up by a massive X-shaped panoramic moonroof, featuring integrated LED interior lights. All four bucket seats are very stylish, with asymmetrical bolsters that look very supportive.
Mitsubishi says the concept features several futuristic safety features, including an augmented-reality windshield. Several different displays can be projected directly onto the windshield, including navigation information, lane-departure alerts, the distance to the car ahead, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. That last bit shows that the GC-PHEV is a “connected car,” meaning it’s capable of communicating with other connected cars to improve safety and efficiency.
The big Mitsubishi also comes with the expected modern safety systems, like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane-departure warning. However, the concept can also detect pedestrians in the roadway and automatically brake to prevent an accident. Additionally, using the front-view camera and a variety of safety sensors, the GC-PHEV can detect and mitigate pedal misapplication (hitting the gas when you meant to hit the brake) using its Unintentional Vehicle Move Off Control system. Finally, a Driver Monitor uses sensors in the driver’s seat and steering system, as well as a camera trained on the driver’s posture and eye blinking, to detect drowsiness and alert the operator to any erratic driving behavior caused by fatigue or inattention.
Mitsubishi’s engineering targets for the GC-PHEV include an electric-only cruising range of 25 miles, greater than 35 mpg in normal driving, and exceptional performance on- and off road.
Over the years, the Mitsubishi Montero gradually morphed from a basic utility vehicle to a large, luxurious family SUV. In fact, the last-generation Montero Limited was intended to rival the contemporary Toyota Land Cruiser in terms of off-road capability and on-road comfort. If Mitsubishi receives a warm response from the public for this GC-PHEV (which hopefully they rename “Montero”), we think it would make a fine rival for the likes of the Volvo XC90 at the top end and the Honda Pilot at the bottom. To be honest, we think the styling needs to be toned down a bit, but if the company wants to maintain relevance in the United States, it needs more SUVs for our crossover-hungry appetites, and the GC-PHEV just might fit the bill.