Ralliart Returns as Mitsubishi Rediscovers Racing
While the redesigned 2022 Outlander is a significant step forward, Mitsubishi’s cars haven’t been doing well critically as of late. It’s been one of the lowest scorers in Consumer Reports’ testing, partially due to cars like the Mirage. And while the Eclipse Cross isn’t bad per se, the decision to put a beloved performance nameplate on a crossover stung many enthusiasts. However, there are signs that the Japanese automaker is returning to racing. Chief among them is the news that Mitsubishi is reviving Ralliart.
Ralliart used to be the Mitsubishi equivalent of Toyota’s TRD and Nissan’s NISMO divisions
Car enthusiasts, especially rallying fans, have no doubt heard of the iconic Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. But that’s not the only performance vehicle Mitsubishi released, even ignoring tuner favorites like the Eclipse and the 3000GT. There was also the Pajero Evolution, one of the most successful Paris-Dakar racers ever. And helping support these endeavors was the Ralliart division.
Ralliart used to be the in-house racing and performance parts division for Mitsubishi, Forbes explains. Essentially, it was Mitsubishi’s version of the Toyota TRD and the Nissan NISMO divisions. Ralliart not only helped prepare Mitsubishi race cars but also sold parts to the public. And, just like TRD and NISMO, its name also appeared on several road cars.
Arguably the best-remembered model is the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, which stood in-between the base Lancer and the Evo, MotorTrend reports. Introduced in the US in 2004, the Lancer Ralliart wasn’t quite as powerful as the Evo, nor did it have all of the latter model’s upgraded components. But it still had several upgrades over the base car.
For example, the 2009 Lancer Ralliart doesn’t have Evo-spec suspension components or active differentials. But it does have upgraded shocks and an AWD system with two mechanical limited-slip differentials, Car and Driver reports. And it’s more powerful than the base Lancer. Plus, even in hatchback Sportback form, Recaro seats were optional, Car and Driver reports.
But the Mitsubishi Lancer wasn’t the only car to get the Ralliart treatment. There was also a Galant Ralliart, with more power, sportier suspension, grippier tires, larger brakes, and a trim-specific rear anti-roll bar. And while it was automatic-only, Car and Driver found it to be “a surprisingly athletic mid-size sedan.”
It’s been shuttered for years, but Mitsubishi Ralliart is making a comeback
Sadly, Mitsubishi closed the Ralliart division in 2010, Automotive News reports. And while Lancer Ralliart sales continued for a few years, the trim was dropped after 2015. Since then, the name hasn’t appeared on any new Mitsubishi cars.
However, that might be changing shortly. Earlier this month, Mitsubishi held its annual earnings call and presented its annual financial report. And besides information like revenue and dividends, the presentation also included a snapshot of the company’s future plans. Those plans include the return of the Ralliart brand, Autocar reports.
Initially, Ralliart will supply branded parts to owners of “existing Mitsubishi models,” The Drive reports. However, it will also serve as Mitsubishi’s reengagement with the world of racing and “realization of Mitsubishi Motors-ness.” And the financial presentation includes outlines of two models that, in all likelihood, will be new Ralliart models.
Based on their appearance and Mitsubishi’s current lineup, they’ll likely be crossovers or SUVs, Autoblog muses. But considering the following 90s Mitsubishi SUVs and vans have been garnering lately, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And if Ralliart can bring back an off-road-rally edge, it would undoubtedly give the Eclipse Cross some genuine performance cred.
Will it come to the US, though?
All that being said, it’s unclear how the relaunched Mitsubishi Ralliart division will approach its motorsports return. The company’s financial presentation includes imagery of an L200 pickup truck sliding through sand, which suggests off-roading and/or rallying. But Mitsubishi hasn’t commented officially on the matter.
Mitsubishi also hasn’t confirmed if the relaunched Ralliart brand will make its way to the US. As Road & Track points out, the name isn’t well known here. Even before Mitsubishi shuttered it, its US dealers didn’t sell Ralliart parts, AN notes. But considering NISMO, TRD, STI, as well as M and AMG, are still going, there’s some incentive for a Ralliart US presence.
So, fingers crossed, you could see a Mitsubishi Outlander Ralliart at a future Rebelle Rally or Baja 1000.
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