Picture this: it’s the height of an automotive performance era, and executives at a car company are burning the midnight oil trying to figure out all sorts of ways to inject excitement into their car line. Execs are open to anything and everything at this time, so the pitchmen start slinging some crazy ideas. Suddenly, someone comes up with a whopper: tossing the drivetrain of one of the company’s most powerful performance cars into a seemingly innocuous family hauler. The stars align, and the engineers and bean counters let the idea sneak through the door and onto the streets.
You probably thought I was talking about some crazy big block musclecar engine in a station wagon, right?
The title of this article should tell you otherwise. I’m talking about a small 3-row minivan that snuck out of the back door at Mitsubishi at the height of the 1990’s Japanese performance car era. And the drivetrain and underpinnings come from one of the most storied rally cars in all of history: the very first generation of the all wheel drive Lancer Evolution.
The vehicle I’m talking about is a Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT. Yes, that’s a lot of words. But when you add that suffix to the Chariot name, magic happens. It takes a pedestrian people mover and turns it into something positively nuts for its time. And we were allowed to sample one recently, fresh off the boat. Pardon the quick and dirty photos and let’s get down to business!
So, we’ve laid a baseline of expectations for you to ponder. The real question is how does it drive? In a word, entertaining, and in more ways than one. If you’ve driven any of the various 4G63T-powered vehicles over the years, the first thing you notice is that exhaust note. I’ve spent time in DSM cars and Evos over the years, and the audio is the same. The feel of that drivetrain is the same as well, which means this van pulls like a freight train once boost starts happening all the way to redline. It’s addictive, to say the least.
What’s not the same is that I’m sitting in what’s usually the passenger seat while doing it, shifting with my left hand, and fumbling for the turn signal stalk that’s on the right of the wheel instead of the left. This was my first time in a right hand drive car, and man, it’s STRANGE. You have to adjust your view and road position to accommodate so you don’t end up over the center line, and I spent about 5 minutes saying “Whoa, weird!” over and over. Then, there’s the seating position. These aren’t made for us large and tall Americans, and I felt like I was driving, well, a minivan. Because it IS a minivan. There are three rows of seats believe it or not, but it’s quite a bit smaller than something like a Dodge Caravan. You could probably park this thing in the back of one of those.
This also gave me flashbacks to another Japanese people mover that I used to own: my old 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX Wagon. Like my WRX, the 1-2 shift is basically a chore that gets you to the fun stuff in 2 through 5, as the AWD system requires a little finesse to get off the line. The driving experience is similar, the power level is damn near even, and even the shifter and pedal feel is nearly identical. It’s uncanny, and since I loved that little turbocharged wagon, it gave me the warm and fuzzies immediately.
Chris plans on keeping it stock for now, cleaning and maintaining the weird van and cruising in it with his family. But he knows all too well that mods are easy and proven, thanks to its platform-mate, the Lancer Evolution. More power is as easy as opening the wallet. No word yet if he’s tried pulling off a Scandinavian Flick on a gravel road nearby with the family in tow, but if there’s anything that can do it, it’s this thing!