Mitsubishi HSR-II

Note: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that the HSR-II was powered by a 4-cylinder engine. It's since been corrected.

Aren't concept cars fascinating?

While some, like the Nissan XIX just the other day, predict a more kind and gentle truck for city folk, the HSR-II predicts a future where all of middle America is stuffed into their four-wheeled F-15 for the road, to dice through traffic on the way to bingo.

OK, maybe Mitsubishi wasn't suggesting that everyone travel at more than 200mph in a low-slung sports car, but the marketing people were on fine form by naming it the second of the company's "Highly Sophisticated-transport Research" concept cars. For -II, an emphasis was placed on high speed driving and maneuverability—and it's fully drivable.

Paving the way for some of the features found on the GTO, the company's flagship (3000GT VR4 over here), the HSR-II had a laundry list of features that would just about all die on the show stand:

  • Variable coefficient of drag, from a Cd of 0.20 to 0.40
  • How? Air brakes and movable flaps, to help adjust the car at high speeds
  • An interior lined with video displays, readouts, and what looks like a restaurant order-taking terminal at the driver armrest
  • Rear video camera 
  • Powered by a 3-litre twin-turbocharged DOHC 6-cylinder engine with all-wheel-drive, believed to have come from the GTO
  • Horsepower was a stout 362, with torque at 341 lb-ft; weight was 1,200 kg (2,600 lbs.), which in my estimation would have allowed the concept to hit 320 km/h (200 mph)
  • I can't forget all the toys: 4-wheel steering, ABS, all-wheel-drive, and active suspension

Though its styling looks like a flattened Ultraman suit, Mitsubishi's push to future-ize its upcoming sports coupes made sense. After all, the company's automotive arm is just one part of the huge industrial giant—I think at one point my family even had a Mitsubishi TV. To familiarize people with soon-to-be-released features is an admirable…and smart one. Consumers don't generally like surprise.

Let's not forget that even in the late 1980s, all-wheel-drive had been on the market in a meaningful way for less than 10 years. Turbocharging was still a black art to most, especially in North America. Movable aerodynamics, which would be featured on the GTO (its lower bumper is nearly identical to the one on the HSR-II), never really took off.

If you'd like to drive the HSR-II, your copy of Gran Turismo probably features the car—Polyphony Digital has had it in their popular game for a while. 

Sadly now just a footnote in history, the HSR-II reminds me of two questions that we haven't quite figured out: Does technology make a car better? Does technology make a car better to drive?