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Raider puts Mitsubishi in the pickup market

December 16, 2005|by TIM SPELL//Motor Matters

Mitsubishi's first hint it was building a pickup came on the 2004 auto show circuit with its Sport Truck Concept. This forerunner to Mitsubishi's new-to-the-market 2006 Raider midsize pickup was created to provide a sporty-yet-practical pickup for the urban consumer.

While not as bold and futuristic-looking as the concept, the Raider fulfills this mission. It shares its chassis and powertrain with Dodge's new-generation Dakota, but has an exterior design all its own.

Starting price for the Raider is $19,180. It's available in extended-cab and four-door Double Cab configurations, two- and four-wheel drive (part-time and full-time), with V-6 and V-8 engines. Trim choices are LS, DuroCross and XLS. The V-8 is optional on the DuroCross and standard on the XLS.

The Double Cab XLS 4WD test-truck rolled in with V-8 power and a long list of upgrades, including the 4.7-liter V-8 engine. Its base price is $33,920, plus $645 for destination and handling.

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Mitsubishi boasts it's the only midsize pickup with an import nameplate offering V-8 muscle. This eight moves the Raider with 230 horses and 290 lbs.-ft. of torque.

Coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission and 3.92 rear axle ratio, the tester's towing max is 6,300 pounds. In 2WD form the Double Cab can tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Maximum payload in the Double Cab's 5-foot-3-inch-long cargo box (6 feet 4 inches for the extended cab) is 1,250 pounds with 4WD and 1,440 pounds with 2WD.

The V-8-powered Raider burns regular unleaded gas at an estimated 14 city and 18 highway miles per gallon for the 4WD models and 15/20 for 2WD models.

Most of the test-truck's time was spent on long highway cruises. Its V-8 moved the 4,762-pounder confidently, leaving plenty of pedal to make quick work of passing at highway speeds.

Those choosing the 3.7-liter V-6 don't get a weakling. It cranks out a respectable 210 horsepower and 235 lbs.-ft. of torque, and can be paired with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Mitsubishi rates the 2WD/auto tranny combo with the best fuel economy in its lineup - 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

The test-truck's ride quality is excellent on the highway and relatively smooth in town until it encounters substantial road irregularities, which can cause bucking.

It rolls on P265/65R-17 tires, centered with five-spoke chrome-clad aluminum wheels. These bright wheels contrast nicely with the pickup's Cobalt Blue paint - one of six XLS colors.

There's even more brightwork up front with an aggressive XLS grille treatment, clearly signaling it's a Mitsubishi. Akin to the styling of the Sport Truck Concept, a large opening is cut into the snout - deeply notching both the power-bulge hood and lower bumper fascia.

This opening is filled with black mesh and traversed with a thick bright-finished bar featuring a distinctive triangle sprouting from the top-center. This bar effect wraps to the sides, beneath the headlamps. Grilles on other Raider models are body color.

In similar fashion to the concept's front end, the bulging fender sides are shaved flat. This theme is picked up on the Raider's lower body sides and continues to the rear fenders. Taillamp design departs from truck-utilitarian, providing a bright surround for the ruby lenses to give them the look of giant pieces of jewelry.

Inside the cab, styling is more subdued. The dashboard is cleanly designed with a large speedometer providing the only hint of boldness. A bit of flair comes with bright, metallic-look trim on the center stack, gauge cluster surround, A/C vent bezels and door panels.

Raider XLS models treat the driver and front passenger with leather-covered bucket seats, well-padded to minimize body fatigue on long trips. Both seats are heated and the driver's seat benefits from six-way power adjustability. Other models come standard with a 40/20/40-split cloth-upholstered front seat.

All Raider models are fitted with a 60/40-split rear seat. Cargo space is created by folding these cushions to meet the seatbacks. Importantly, legroom - even with a front bucket slid far back - is adequate for most adults.

This modern-design cab also incorporates XLS-optional side-curtain air bags that protect passengers in the front and rear.

Filling the cab with stereo music is an XLS-standard 276-watt, six-speaker audio system featuring an AM/FM/six-CD changer with MP3.

With its roomy cab, distinctive exterior and V-8 muscle, Mitsubishi's Double Cab XLS Raider merits a test-drive for those demanding a high-end, well-packaged midsize pickup.

(Tim Spell is the automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.)

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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