Mitsubishi's tiny D:X PHEV adventure van future-proofs Delica splendor
Mitsubishi has presented the all-new D:X Concept as a first look at what the legendary little Delica, prized the world over as an adventure van canvas, could evolve into. Following in the footsteps of the Delica D:5, the tiny electrified 4x4 van concept smashes together MPV space with SUV toughness, becoming a true all-terrain multitool born to kick up all the snow, dust and gravel Mother Earth can dish out. Next-gen mods like projection lasers, an AI-driven terrain-analysis system and a see-through hood and pillars further help the little van meet Mitsubishi's big brief: "maximum space and safety for humans, maximum off-roader for boundary-less adventure."
The D:X isn't quite as lovable as the gen-3 or 4 Delicas that have become popular for import in the US and other markets, serving loyally as 4WD mini-camper vans and adventure shuttles. But it does return to a simplified monobox form, straying away from the more dual-box minivan direction Mitsubishi went with the fifth-generation (D:5). That, plus the loss of the over-styled grille seen on both the toothy original D:5 and overly "Dynamic Shield-y" 2019 refresh, automatically make the D:X design an upgrade over anything D:5 in our eyes.
Keeping the D:X from reaching past-generation heights of Delica glory, the stacked skid plate, bumper and windscreen design, used in both front and back, comes out way too chunky, disjointed and over-designed, clashing hard with the sleek, slim T lights. It feels like the design team tried a bit too hard to express the rugged, adventurous intent of the concept, after being charged (inexplicably) with carrying the Dynamic Shield front-end into the future.
That said, we do like the D:X's wraparound glass, beefy contrast wheel arches, oversized AT tires and protective rocker panels that flip down into side steps. We also like Mitsubishi's overall evolution of the concept of a ruggedized people-carrier that has all the space and interior flexibility of an MPV combined with SUV-inspired sportiness and all-terrain construction.
Mitsubishi ensures that the D:X monobox has the integrity it needs to protect passengers on- and off-road using a D:5-derived wraparound "rib-bone"-pillared structural frame. Inside that frame, the van has six independent seats with swivel and up/down motion capabilities. Each seat also has integrated headrest speakers as part of the premium Yamaha 3D sound system.
A highlight for all passengers is the see-through hood, which uses a strip of windshield-underlining lower glass to provide a better view of the ground ahead, particularly useful for rough off-road conditions. Mitsubishi compares it to an aerial cockpit.
The lower edge of that glass blends into a third-level frontal view, a large front camera-fed screen that continues the seamless look ahead, overlaying digital information to identify hazards and point out the clearest path forward. The screen works in conjunction with a voice-interactive AI concierge that also provides local information, weather updates and more.
Everything about the concept's styling – not least of which, the pencil-thin laser-projecting headlights – screams "electric vehicle," but the concept is tied more closely to Mitsubishi's current production family with a PHEV layout. Mitsubishi doesn't get into powertrain details but imagines the plug-in system delivering four-wheel drive and its S-AWC (Super-All Wheel Control) for active traction management in all weather and road conditions. Drivers would select between all-electric and hybrid modes, as well as from a set of additional modes tailored to different surfaces and conditions.
Mitsubishi doesn't say a word in its announcement about the big, ol' roof box up top, but it looks more like an off-road light-fronted rooftop tent than a cargo box to us. Either way, it's blacking out the concept's large panoramic glass roof.
The D:X concept is the centerpiece of a Japan Mobility Show exhibit that Mitsubishi has designed to "awaken the adventurous spirit within." Other adventurous show models include a beastly electric quad it calls the Last 1 Mile transporter, which looks best fit to connect the roadless mile between a dirt road pull-off and an off-grid cabin deep in the wilderness; a prototype of the all-new Triton pickup; the utterly adorable new Delica Mini; and a Mitsubishi Ralliart team of Triton competition truck and Delica D:5 support rig from the 2023 Asia Cross Country Rally.