CONCEPT WE FORGOT
Like all the concept cars we’ve looked at so far, the Mitsubishi HSR (Highly Sophisticated-transport Research) was launched in the ’80s boom period. While most automakers appeared to be feeding off one another by way of four-wheel steering and four-wheeldrive systems packed with gimmicky features, HSR designer Akinori Nakanishi must have been tied up watching reruns of The Jetsons.
Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1987, the first of six interactions drew heavily on striking ‘futuristic’ design elements that saw a large bubble roof and long sweeping panels. It was reported to be powered by “a 2.0-litre 16-valve turbocharged engine producing 295 bhp (220 kW)”, which translates to the 4G63 heart being stolen from a Galant and fitted up to form a fully functional and driveable concept car — unlike most of the era. In fact, Mitsubishi claimed a maximum speed of 186mph (300kph).
Much like the Japanese consumers, the Americans were impressed when the car visited the US — sleek design promising huge visibility all around the car in a skin more akin to what George Jetson drives than anything on offer in their market. The HRS was super low to the ground and didn’t have much in the way of headroom, but that was evidently never the intention. It was used to parade Mitsubishi’s new integrated electronic systems, which offered automatic control of drivetrain, suspension, steering, and brake components, as well as driving position, according to driving conditions and weather.
Come 1989, the buzzword in the industry was ‘aerodynamics’ — and the HSR-II didn’t disappoint. It had a heavy emphasis on active aerodynamics that used automatic chin spoilers, canards, and flaps — six moving pieces in all — which boasted an impressive drag coefficient of 0.20 to 0.40, depending on the configuration; unheard-of figures that are more commonly found in aeroplanes. This system was controlled by the ‘OSCII’ — an advanced electronic control system made up of seven computers that, in addition to the active aero control, performed the functions of course
tracing, automatic vehicle following, and automatic parking, earning it the nickname ‘computer midship’.
This kind of tech can be found on modern cars, but to be meddling with it back in the ’80s made the HSR truly ahead of its time. It proved effective, too, with the HSR-II achieving a 200mph (322 kph) top speed, and much of the technology finding its way onto the Mitsubishi HSX, the precursor to the automaker’s GTO.
If you thought it looked annoyingly familiar, the HSR-II featured as an unlockable car in Gran Turismo 4, Gran Turismo 5, and GranTurismo6.
As for the following four models, well, the HSR-III ( 1991) was repowered using the 6A10 1.6-litre V6, which is notable for being the world’s smallest mass-produced V6 and would be used in the Mirage and Lancer models. The HSR-IV (1993) gained a tickled-up version of the 6A10, and made use of four-wheel drive and an all-wheel anti-lock braking system. The following two models would debut Mitsubishi’s gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology and act as a test bed for the company’s active yaw control, traction control, and an automated driving system.
None of the six iterations would ever go into production, but that’s how concept cars tend to work. While the concept may have been viewed as a futuristic dream, in reality, many of the components were nothing short of groundbreaking. The HSR would donate power-train and suspension components to the Galant and Eclipse models — with the Eclipse specifically gaining from the HSR by way of aero styling that earned it an 0.294 drag coefficient — and active aero to the Mitsubishi GTO. The HSRs were not the car of the future, but they confirmed Mitsubishi’s strength as an automaker and even helped to shape many of the succeeding models as real cars of the future.