|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Before going to the meat of the matter, it’s still worth nothing that Mitsubishi hasn’t passed this opportunity to extensively modernize the ASX’s looks. With a name abbreviated from “Active Sports Crossover”, the 2015 ASX certainly looks the part with its chunky proportions coupled with short overhangs and a long wheelbase. It’s hard to imagine this vehicle’s been on the market since 2010 because it still looks fresh. At the front, it gets a new re-sculpted jet-fighter grille (with honeycomb inserts) sandwiched by new super wide-range HID headlamps with retractable washers. The new lamps may not look any different from the previous ASX, but turn the headlights to low beams and you’ll notice how new complex reflectors beneath the projector-cluster scatter the bluish-white light for a wider coverage. At the sides, the ASX flaunt new 17-inch alloy wheels with a two-toned black-and-silver finish. The turbine-style design certainly elevates the ASX’s character.
The premium and sporty approach is echoed in the 2015 ASX’s interior that features a longer list of standard features. In the range-topping GSR variant, the ASX now has leather seats with contrasting white stitching. The all-black interior is accentuated by matte carbon fiber accents on the center panel while high-gloss metallic trim on the instrument cluster and shifter do a great job of breaking the color monotony. Like before, the ASX features a deeply-recessed twin binnacle cluster with a full-color LCD in the middle. At the center is a 6.5-inch touchscreen LCD monitor that plays a full range of multimedia from DVDs to iPods to Bluetooth audio steams. It also provides turn-by-turn navigation from AVT, Mitsubishi’s go-to supplier of choice when it comes to GPS maps. New for this year is the addition of cruise control and a push-button start/stop across the line.
And finally, you cannot talk about the 2015 ASX without touching on the panoramic glass roof with LED illumination. The expansive glass roof doesn’t open like a sunroof would, but it does let a small dose, well, actually a huge chunk of sky in with a glass roof that extends the entire length of the cabin. Seeing the accordion-style covering slide away is magical in itself and then you add the LED roof lamps. It doesn’t light up the ceiling the way a Rolls-Royce would, but it gives a much cozier atmosphere, especially at night. There’s probably no better way to stare up the night sky with your significant other.
After discussing the cosmetic changes, it’s time to dive deep into what really matters: the driving. The question of the day is this: how much difference can a transmission make? In this particular case, one hell-of-a-difference.
Combing through the specification sheets, nothing has changed with the ASX when it comes to its engine. It’s still using the tried-and-tested 2.0-liter 4B11 4-cylinder engine shared with the Lancer EX. It still makes 150 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 197 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. They’re pretty good numbers, putting the ASX squarely in the middle of the compact crossover pack. The improved performance is courtesy of the new INVECS-III CVT transmission. And this isn’t just about a simple re-program either. Mitsubishi has put in an entirely new transmission unit that’s 15 kilograms lighter. This actually makes the 2015 ASX lighter by 10 kilograms compared to the Lancer EX 2.0 GTA (1,350 kilograms vs 1,360 kilograms). It’s an amazing feat considering the previous ASX was once portlier than its sedan sibling. Next, it features revised ratios including a higher final drive for improved fuel efficiency. It’s also been made to mesh with the engine much better, taking advantage of the MIVEC’s “twin peak” torque curve.
Putting these changes to the test, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation organized a lengthy drive from Manila to La Union. Taking the full driving duties going to Thunderbird Resort, the final destination of the drive, the first thing you appreciate with the ASX is the high hip point. Together with the large glass area and generously-sized mirrors, it gives a great vantage point when maneuvering the ASX in traffic. Pushing the “Start/Stop Engine” button, the 4B11 cranks to life. It’s an all-too familiar sound by now; slightly coarse but largely quiet and refined. Slotting the transmission to ‘D’, it’s time to set off. Leaving DCT Holdings in Balintawak, the 2015 ASX’s improved grunt is very noticeable. The rubber band sensation of the previous CVT is gone and replacing it is immediate power. A slight step on the gas pedal surges the ASX forward and a glance at the instrumentation concurs that the engine revs matches nicely with the engine’s power band.
With no convoy to speak of for this drive, once the fleet of ASX hit NLEX (after a brief rest stop at Petron), it’s anything goes. The ASX is remarkably quiet even when hitting triple digit speeds with just a hint of tire noise from the Yokohama A-specs tires. As everyone else started fiddling with the panoramic glass roof, as a driver, the CVT’s revised ratios are very welcome. 100 km/h is achieved with less than 2,000 rpm registering on the tachometer. The standard cruise control helps avoid speeding tickets, though it must be said that the system doesn’t give an indication whether it’s currently active or not. It only tells you when cruise control’s on or off. Letting go of cruise control, the ASX is easily capable of speeds past 140 km/h while still managing 13.1 km/L after the NLEX, SCTEX, and TPLEX run (the round trip average is 10.2 km/L).
On narrow provincial roads, the ASX provides ample power for overtaking. You do have to squeeze the engine that extra bit when attempting to overtake multiple vehicles, but at least it gives you the confidence that you have power when you need it. Plus, the magnesium paddle shifters provide a quick downshift when needed. Through curves, steering is responsive and quick. However, as expected from a crossover, the softer sprung suspension and higher center of gravity do make it understeer midway through tighter corners, which can catch you off guard.
It may have been four years since its debut, but the Mitsubishi ASX is one forever young crossover. In fact, in its 2015 form, it actually feels and drives younger than when it first came out. Some will miss the loss of all-wheel drive, but with a much more competitive price point now (P 1,248,000), who’s honestly going to miss it? The 2015 ASX has not only gone through a successful nip-tuck, but it’s also been through the gym, emerging as a hunkier crossover.