Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept is a high-performance electric SUV

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was one of the greatest performance cars of its time. A rally-inspired turbocharged pocket rocket based on the humble Lancer sedan, it has been sorely missed since production ended in 2015. But the “Evo” may return — in an unexpected form.

Debuting at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept aims to rekindle the spirit of the Lancer Evolution. But the concept is a completely different kind of vehicle. Instead of a small sedan with a turbocharged gasoline engine, it’s an SUV with an all-electric powertrain.

The e-Evolution concept certainly looks like a futuristic performance car. While the “Dynamic Shield” grille ties the concept to the current Outlander production model, the steeply raked windshield, ridiculously low roofline, and massive wheels are pure concept-car fantasy. This SUV looks like something a Stormtrooper might drive to work.

Mitsubishi would not disclose many technical details on what is admittedly just a concept car. Without disclosing power output or range figures, it said the e-Evolution has three electric motors, including one that powers the front wheels and two that power the rear wheels, giving the vehicle all-wheel drive.

The three-motor setup is similar to  the Audi e-tron quattro electric SUV concept, with the two rear motors providing torque vectoring. That means power gets shunted side to side, helping to turn the vehicle into corners and making for sharper handling.

With no bulky gasoline engine up front, designers placed the dashboard closer to the front of the car. This eliminates some of the viability issues that might have come with such a steep windshield angle. The dashboard itself is dominated by a horizontal digital display, consisting of one large screen flanked by smaller screens that show images from external cameras. In place of a traditional steering wheel, Mitsubishi fitted an aircraft-like yoke.

The Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept also features an artificial intelligence system. It monitors both road conditions and the driver’s actions, and interjects to assist the driver. Instead of fully autonomous driving, the A.I. is meant to augment a human driver. It even includes a coaching function to improve the driver’s skills. Keep in mind that it’s unclear if any of this technology will make it to production.

In fact, it’s hard to say whether the e-Evolution itself will ever evolve beyond the concept-car stage. Mitsubishi says the SUV concept indicates the direction its products will take in the near future. But Mitsubishi has shown many dazzling concept cars over the past few years, and none of them have made it to production.

Its health has improved somewhat recently, but Mitsubishi is still a relatively small player. A high-performance electric SUV would be a major coup for the automaker, if it could pull that off. Tesla has shown that electric cars can be sporty, but so far that idea hasn’t trickled down to more mainstream brands. It’s about time that changed.

Update: Added photos and official information