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Mitsubishi Motors Debuts SSU Concept Vehicle

5 January 1999

Mitsubishi Motors Debuts SSU Concept Vehicle
             'Extreme Sports Vehicle' is a Unique Combination of
                     High Performance and Interior Space

    DETROIT, Jan. 4 -- At this year's North American
International Auto Show, there are hundreds of new sports cars, sedans,
convertibles and sport utilities, but, you're unlikely to find anything more
unique than Mitsubishi Motors' SSU concept vehicle.  Making its world debut
here, the SSU -- or "super sports utility" -- combines the fun-to-drive
attributes of an exotic sports car with the room of a sport utility vehicle.
    "A high performance rally car for five passengers and all their gear is
what we had in mind when we began plans for the SSU," said Michael Desmond, a
designer at Mitsubishi Motors' R&D design studio, the Southern California
facility that created the vehicle.  "After all, what fun is a fast, sporty
handling car if doesn't have room for friends or all the equipment you'll need
for an adventurous weekend?"

    SSU Concept Defies Conventional Descriptions
    Perhaps the best way to understand the SSU -- which, unlike most concept
cars, is fully driveable -- is to avoid trying to put it in a conventional
automotive category.  It's roomier and has more ground clearance than a sports
car, yet is too agile and fast to be an SUV.  And it's certainly cooler than a
wagon could ever be.  When pressed, Desmond calls the car-based, unit-body SSU
an "extreme sports vehicle."
    "The SSU is perfect for 'adrenaline junkies,'" he adds, describing people
who enjoy extreme sports such as sky surfing and other activities that make
bungie jumping seem tame.  "It's designed to hold lots of adventure gear, but,
at the same time, is capable of 150 mile-per-hour laps around a race track and
some serious 'air time' off-road.  And, the SSU looks just as good at a
concourse as it would a ski resort with a couple of snowboards on top."

    WRC Rally-Winning Drivetrain
    According to Desmond, the SSU's designers began with Mitsubishi Motors'
own 3000GT VR-4 grand touring sports car as inspiration.  Therefore, it's no
surprise that the SSU has a twin-turbo V6 -- producing 310-horsepower -- and
all-wheel drive to get all that performance to the wheels with the most
traction.  This drivetrain is matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission with
Mitsubishi Motors' Sportmode, allowing the SSU to be shifted as a conventional
automatic or clutchless manual.
    The SSU also has Mitsubishi Motors' Active Yaw Control (AYC), the same
technology that's on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V which recently won the
1998 World Rally Championship.  AYC transfers drive torque between the left
and right driving wheels as required, providing a significant improvement in
cornering performance.
    In addition, handling is enhanced by huge 295-50R20 Goodyear run-flat
performance tires mounted to 20-inch wheels, both of which were produced
specifically for the SSU.  And with Baer racing disc brakes at all four wheels
-- 14-inch with twin pistons in front and 13-inch at the rear -- this is one
concept car which promises to stop as well as it goes.

    Room of an SUV
    While the SSU has the running gear similar to that of a 3000GT, its roomy
interior is reminiscent of yet another Mitsubishi Motors' classic, the
Paris-to-Dakar Rally winning Montero luxury SUV.
    The SSU's flexible seating allows first-class comfort and limousine-like
legroom for passengers, with a cargo area large enough for lots of gear.
Recaro seats -- with unique red and black leather inserts -- are provided for
all five passengers.  Multi-adjustable front buckets have integrated 3-point
seat belts as well as elbow rests for long distance touring, yet don't
interfere with aggressive driving.  A bucket-style rear bench -- complete with
armrests and cupholders -- seats three or can be completely folded out of the
way for even more cargo capacity.
    Within the doors, exposed billet aluminum beams serve double duty as both
side guard protection as well as an armrest.  And a cargo net in each door
allows every possible square inch of the SSU to be efficiently used.

    Personal Computer Controls & Functions
    Just as its interior incorporates only what is necessary for a spirited
driving experience and the comfort of its passengers, the SSU's switches are
likewise very simple and straightforward.  In fact, using the SSU's 600-watt,
8-speaker Infinity(R) audio system and automatic climate control are not
unlike clicking the mouse of the personal computer at your home or office.
    Sitting center stage in the SSU's dashboard is a large color monitor
displaying "virtual switches" for the audio and climate systems, which are
entirely controlled through a simple-to-use, computer mouse-like disc.  Both
the monitor and control disc are mounted conveniently between the driver and
front passenger, allowing the system to be intuitively and safely used while
the vehicle is in motion.
    In addition to the audio and climate controls, the SSU's computer system
also incorporates satellite navigation, a hands-free phone, as well as pager
messaging.  When the vehicle is parked, the SSU's computer and monitor can be
used to play DVD discs or video games, or to access the Internet and send
E-mail.  And, for the ultimate in efficiency, the instrument panel has a PDA
port so that passengers can add or change their scheduling between home, work
and while traveling in the SSU.

    Aggressive, Powerful Exterior Design
    The SSU's interior room, sports car performance, and state-of-the-art
controls are wrapped in an exterior design that is as aggressive as it is
simple.  Each styling aspect of the SSU is there for a purpose, continuing the
highly successful "geo-mechanical" design theme Mitsubishi Motors introduced
on the SST sports car concept at last year's Detroit show.
    "Geo-mechanical styling is inspired by common shapes and forms that
represent strength, power and motion," said Desmond.  "For the SSU, we used
sleek, high-speed trains, military aircraft, Indy race cars, high-tech
sunglasses, and sports watches as inspiration to create a strong, intense
shape that looks powerful and agile -- almost like a cross-training shoe on
    Indeed, seeing the SSU for the first time, you're sure to be blown away by
its extraordinary width -- the vehicle is 3-inches wider than a Chevrolet
Suburban.  At the front -- which has a look that could be from a Marine
helicopter -- the SSU's striking size is accentuated even more by large,
horizontal air intakes.  To continue this particular styling element, the
horizontal intakes are repeated just behind the front wheels to provide
additional cooling for the engine and front brakes.
    Exaggerated wheel arches, which create spherically-shaped quarter panels,
were added by Desmond to "appear as if the wheels were being thrust through
the surface."  This styling treatment also ties the SSU visually to its SST
sports car cousin.
    Another unique element of the SSU's exterior is its boldly sculpted hood,
which, according to Desmond, was designed specifically to leave no question
where the vehicle's power is sourced.  The raised area of the hood continues
stylistically into the passenger compartment, where the body-colored section
houses the SSU's systems monitor and its control disc, as well as the
transmission shifter.
    The SSU's doors are also uncommon.  All four doors are center opening,
with no B-pillar to interfere with the loading of passengers and cargo.
    As a final component of its geo-mechanical design philosophy, the SSU is
constructed of materials -- including composites and carbon fiber -- which are
in their rawest, purest form.  Exposed hinges, rivets and screws as well as a
racing fuel filler continue the unique styling theme.  In fact, even the SSU's
deep, metallic candy apple red mimics the look of anodized metal.

    World's First Use of Laser Taillamps
    Perhaps the most dramatic design elements of the SSU are its exterior
lighting systems.  The thin, vertical headlamps and huge, round driving lights
are an LED system that provides brighter light, lower weight and more styling
flexibility than conventional units.  The LED system is repeated as two
clearance lights on the roof, just above the windshield.
    Nothing, however, will prepare you for what you'll find at the back of the
SSU.  At first glance, you'd swear the designers concentrated so much on the
unique, inverted "U"-shaped hatch that they forgot to include the taillamps.
That is until the brake lamps activate, and incredibly bright laser lights
shine out from underneath dark tinted glass.
    Developed by Visteon Exterior Lighting, Inc., the ultra-thin laser lights
are placed in an intricately designed, billet aluminum vertical housing that
makes a perfect finishing touch to the aggressive styling that begins at the
SSU's front.

    Clever Features for Active Lifestyles
    Remembering this concept vehicle was being developed for people with
active lifestyles, the design team incorporated several unique features that
makes the SSU ready for fun and adventure.  For instance, since the SSU
doesn't have a conventional trunk to hide valuables such as a camera or
attache, the team added a lockable "safe" within the hatch.  Channels built
into the roof combine with integrated, spring-loaded hooks to carry bicycles
and other gear, without the need for a conventional roof rack.  And, when the
adventures are over, a clever waterproof "drawer" built into the SSU's rear
bumper is perfect for wet or dirty items, such as sandy wetsuits or snowy ski

    Will This Unique Vehicle be Available Soon?
    In all, Mitsubishi Motors' SSU concept vehicle is such a good idea, it's
almost a wonder no automaker has thought of an "extreme sports vehicle"
before.  In fact, the combination of a sports car's performance with the room
of a large SUV may just become the "must have" vehicle of the future.
    "Our team has had fun developing the SSU," said Roger Zrimec, MRDA studio
director.  "As we track consumer practices and trends, it was clear that it
would only be a matter of time until someone combined exotic performance with
lots of interior space -- and with Mitsubishi Motors' sports car, SUV,
turbocharging, all-wheel drive and Rally-winning experience, we knew that we
could do it first and better than anybody."
    Will the SSU be a production car in the near future?  Mitsubishi Motors
isn't saying, other than they're gauging consumer reaction at the auto show.
    The Cypress, Calif.-based Mitsubishi Motors R&D Design Studio (MRDA) is
one of three design studios worldwide contributing to the interior and
exterior designs of cars and light trucks built by Mitsubishi Motors
Corporation.  In addition to vehicles built for markets around the world, MRDA
is responsible for all design -- including interior, exterior and color and
trim -- of Mitsubishi Motors' vehicles produced at Mitsubishi Motors
Manufacturing of America, Inc. (MMMA) in Normal, Ill.
    Among its many projects, the Cypress studio was responsible for the
designs of the current-generation Eclipse sports coupe and Spyder convertible,
exterior updates for the 1999 3000GT grand touring sports car, as well as the
interior of the all-new 1999 Galant mid-size sedan.
    Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc., was established in 1982 by
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, Tokyo, and markets a full line of vehicles,
including coupes, convertibles, sedans and sport utility vehicles.