Dodge gives Mitsubishi a quick pickup boost

June 03, 2005|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Whether they're used for work or play, pickup trucks are a North American staple. Mitsubishi clearly acknowledges that fact and hopes to get in on the action with the new Raider.

It's no secret that this Japanese-based automaker has endured its share of rough waters in the past couple of years and has pruned its vehicle mix and instituted a lengthier bumper-to-bumper warranty on all remaining vehicles as a way of rebuilding sales and marketshare.

Now, with the addition of the Raider to the fold, Mitsubishi will join other import-base brands such as Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda in offering a pickup.

Actually, the Raider is not the first Mitsubishi truck to be sold on this continent. In the 1980s and '90s, there was the Mighty Max, a small-class truck known for is frugal ways and limited carrying capacity. This time around, the company is aiming at a different kind of buyer with a mid-sized machine that can carry significantly larger payloads and get the job done with plenty of available power.


The basis for the Raider is the new-for-2005 Dodge Dakota, a truck that has dominated the mid-size category since its inception in 1986. The new Dak is larger, has more standard power and greater load capacity than before, virtues that give the Raider a solid head start. Mitsubishi has shared technologies with Chrysler before, so it should come as little surprise that the Raider has more than a little Dakota under its skin. With some deft bodywork, the end product actually has a distinctive look and character that masks its DaimlerChrysler origins.

The Raider's front end features a stubbier nose, unique headlamps and distinctive grille that's similar to, but totally different than that of the Dak's cross-hair piece. That, plus a reworking of the taillights and a revised interior highlight the outward differences between the two.

In terms of pulling strength, the story remains the same. Both extended-cab and four-door Double Cab begin with Dodge's 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 that will suit economy-minded folks who won't be towing or toting a lot of heavy baggage. For the rest of us, the step up is to a more muscular 4.7-liter V-8 that increases the output to 230 horsepower. More importantly, the V-8's torque rating of 290 lb.-ft. at 3,600 rpm beats the V-6 by close to 20 percent, which closely matches the difference in displacement.

The V-6 Raider is connected to a six-speed manual transmission, or optional four-speed automatic. If the V-8 is your preference, you get a five-speed automatic.

As with its Dodge cousin, the Raider will be available in two- and four-wheel-drive variations and in LS and DuroCross livery (pictured). Base extended cabs begin with a number of comfort items, including air conditioning, rear-wheel anti-lock brakes, four-speaker CD player and a split-folding rear seat. A convenience package for the LS adds cruise control, keyless remote entry, a tilt steering column and power windows, locks and mirrors.

The DuroCross line provides bigger all-season rubber, heated fold-away mirrors, fog lamps, more and different exterior trim and a box liner.

At the top of the mountain is the XLS Double Cab, with its standard V-8/five-speed automatic combo, trailer-towing package, front bucket seats, leather interior, floor console, premium sound system and available full-time all-wheel drive.

A safety group, consisting of side-impact and side-curtain air bags and four-wheel anti-lock brakes, is also available.

So far, most of the standard and optional equipment and trim levels mirror those of the Dakota. But where the Raider should enjoy a slight edge, whether by accident or design, is with Mitsubishi's aforementioned new basic warranty, which stretches out for five years or 60,000 miles. This happens to be the longest comprehensive coverage of any pickup currently on the market. The extra two years/24,000-mile cushion, combined with a look that suggests brute-force capability, should shift significant numbers of truck lovers into the welcoming and grateful arms of Mitsubishi dealers across North America.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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