2006 Mitsubishi Raider

This September, Mitsubishi re-enters the pickup truck segment after a ten-year hiatus with a mid-sized offering, based on the Dodge Dakota platform. The Mitsubishi Raider is the only mid-sized import pickup truck with an available V8 engine. The Raider is built alongside the Dakota at DaimlerChrysler?s Warren Truck Assembly Plant, just north of Detroit.

Pricing for the base, two-wheel drive LS begins just under $20,000. The upscale all-wheel drive XLS will top out at about $30,000.

A Fuel Economical V8 Engine Runs on Regular Gas

The base LS grade comes with a 210 horsepower V6, mated to either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed automatic on the available V8 powertrain has an extra overdrive gear that gives it fuel economy numbers close to the V6. EPA figures for the V6 with automatic transmission and four-wheel drive are 15 m.p.g. city and 19 m.p.g. highway. Figures for the V8 automatic 4WD are 14/19 m.p.g. city/highway.

At a recent media event in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to compare performance of the V6 and V8 trucks. While I normally recommend buying the smaller engine, this one feels underpowered, especially during hard acceleration. The 230-horsepower V8 is a much better choice. It has 55 more ft.-lbs. of torque than the V6, and the ability to tow a trailer up to 6500 pounds. Both engines are relatively low compression, so they can run on standard grade fuel.

The double cab model with the V8 engine and 5-speed automatic has handling characteristics similar to a mid-sized sport-utility vehicle. The truck has plenty of power to accelerate from a stop into high-speed traffic, and the rack and pinion steering makes the Raider nimble on its feet. Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion into the cabin. A standard independent front suspension with stabilizer bar provides a compliant but responsive ride, while the rear live axle with stabilizer bar makes the truck easy to maneuver when towing. The V8 model easily towed a boat through a towing course at the media program.

DuroCross Model Has Enhanced Off-Road Capability

A DuroCross model should appeal to off-roading enthusiasts, with a standard skid plate package, and trail-rated tires on the four-wheel drive models. DuraCross trim is available with both engines and all three transmissions, in either extended or double cab configurations.

The four-wheel drive system has a two-speed transfer case, to provide low gears for off-road driving. Minimum ground clearance is 7.9 inches. The Raider easily cleared the tops of steep hills on the off-road course. It was easy to maintain control on both uphill and downhill grades in the lower gears. Turning radius was more than adequate to circumvent obstacles such as trees and rocks along the way.

Upscale XLS Has Available All-Wheel Drive

The XLS model will probably have limited appeal to most athletes, since it is only available with leather seating. However, it is the only trim level on which side-curtain airbags and four-channel ABS are offered. Other models come with a modified antilock braking system and rear drum brakes.

A full-time all-wheel drive system available on the XLS maximizes traction to all four wheels for better driving control on wet, snow or ice-covered roads. The XLS also comes standard with heated side mirrors and heated front seats, to make winter driving more comfortable.

Double Cab Has Comfortable Seating for Four Adults

Of the two cab configurations, the double cab will be more practical for most buyers, since it can comfortably seat up to four adults and has more interior cargo space. An optional bed extender adds about a foot to the 5.3 foot-long cargo bed. The cargo bed has four standard tie-down hooks. DuroCross models come standard with side steps and a cargo bed liner.

The rear seat has three-point safety belt harnesses in three seating positions, but the center seat is more practical for a small child or a child seat. Leg room in the rear is adequate for an average adult, but taller men will probably find their knees knocking against the backs of the first-row seats.

Both front seating positions are well-designed for adults of all sizes. There are lots of functional bins and cubbies around the passengers, including map pockets with bottle holders in all four doors. The center console between the front seats has an enclosed single-tier storage bin, a very large bottle holder, and a coin holder. There is also a small cubby up front that will hold a cellular phone or PDA, and two additional bottle holders near the instrument panel. The single-bin glovebox is small but functional.

Gauges are easy to see in all types of lighting, and the audio and temperature controls are easy to reach from both front seating positions. An optional sound package upgrades the standard AM/FM/CD player to an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, pre-wiring for Sirius satellite radio, and steering wheel audio controls. The XLS double cab comes standard with Bluetooth wiring, so passengers can mate their cellular phones to the in-car speakers, and enjoy hands-free operation. There are auxiliary 12-volt power outlets in the instrument panel and center console.

Access Cab Has a Versatile Rear Storage Space

While the rear seats in the access cab aren?t particularly functional, they flip up to create an interior storage space that?s large enough to hold a bike with the front wheel off. Space behind the front seats is also a safety benefit, since the passengers are protected from the rear glass in the event of a rear-end collision.

Signature Mitsubishi Styling

As Mitsubishi begins to make a comeback after some tough years in the US market, one of its most appealing attributes is its youthful, Japanese-inspired styling. The new Raider follows in that vein, with a bold, angular front grille, large fender flares and sharp, flush profile. The new Raiders roll into dealerships at the end of September and beginning of October. Specific pricing will be announced closer to dealer rollout.

Likes: Edgy styling sets the Raider apart from other pickup trucks in the midsized segment. The four-wheel drive double cab model has comfortable seating for four adults, true off-road capability and a comfortable ride on the highway.

Dislikes: The V6 engine feels underpowered, especially during hard acceleration. Only the upscale XLS grade is available with side curtain airbags and four-channel antilock brakes.

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