Some call them paparazzi, we call them spies. Our spies. And our intrepid spies have just scooped a tasty automotive nugget, a heavily- disguised next-generation Mitsubishi Outlander SUV. Launch date around 2021.
The current generation Mitsubishi Outlander has been around since 2013, albeit with one major and several minor facelifts and other shakeups. It remains a very popular choice for South Africa’s SUV market.
Back to the camo kid. Manufactures have to, at some stage, test new models in the real world. But they obviously do not want the real world, and their opposition, to know what exactly they are testing. The Outlander so spied was clad in a black and white swirly pattern that made it difficult to gauge the dimensions or to spot fake panels as sometimes used.
So far, we think its design will reflect the Engelberg Tourer Concept design. The lighting features front and back are similar to the concept’s, as is the blunt, upright nose. There is daytime running lights high-up on the face, with the main headlights lower down.
It seems bigger than the current Outlander, which is already big for its segment. The wheels seem bigger, perhaps 19”?
Mitsubishi is not saying, but there are rumours that 1.5-litre turbo could be fitted, as well as a plug-in hybrid with a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated engine and the twin motor design of the Engelberg. It is expected that the new Outlander will share its platform with the next generation Nissan X-Trail, as the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance seeks synergy among similar-size vehicles in its ranges.
It is not yet clear if or when this SUV will come to South Africa, but you can have a look at and test drive the excellent Mitsubishi Outlander on our showroom floor now.
It is obvious why car makers disguise their prototypes when on the road, but this has developed into a fierce contest. Carmakers try different ways to hide what they are doing, while journalists and photographers go to ever greater lengths to analyse the pictures they can get and try and match these with concept cars seen at shows, as well as rumours and little snippets that come out.
Apart from the zany vinyl wrap employed by Mitsubishi for this Outlander, car companies have used other methods as well. Some cover the entire car in a sort of fabric tent with holes to see through and the lights. Others use strips of duct tape and fake panels. Some use the camo as a promotional tool, like Land Rover with the wrap ‘peeled back’ to reveal a third row of seats. Others go extreme, with Bentley once adding a Mercedes grille to its prototype, or Audi putting an entire Polo shell on its A1. Hyundai famously used what was called a padded bra – strips of canvas across the bonnet, roof and boot with padded bulges on them.
It seems disguised prototypes are fun for all: the car companies, the motoring press and of course we car lovers.