It's no secret that Mitsubishi is not having the best of times right now. Aside from the rally-star Lancer Evolution and the swoopy new Eclipse, its overall lineup trails the larger Japanese manufacturers in terms of breadth and newness. One gap long left unfilled since the demise of the Mighty Max was a pickup. Although not quite as chummy as it once was with DaimlerChrysler since the sale of its stake in Mitsubishi, the companies had a good enough relationship to collaborate on coming up with Mitsubishi's new truck, the Raider. It just happened to coincide nicely with Dodge's introduction of an all-new Dakota.

But, whereas the Dakota mimics its big brother Ram with a squared-off chromey grille, the Raider opts for a raked back, sporty schnoz, giving it a strong family resemblance to the new Eclipse and other Mitsubishi models. Whether you like its unconventional look or not is up for debate. That it's effective at getting attention is not. Wherever this truck goes, heads turn. If getting noticed was Mitsubishi's objective with the Raider, it certainly succeeded.

Both foreign and domestic trucks have long since passed the point where they're simply utilitarian devices. Today's trucks can be fitted with everything from DVD players to memory seats. The Raider is no exception. Although our DuroCross didn't have leather or a sunroof, it had just about every other option in the book, including Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth phone interface capability, power driver seat, and auxiliary radio controls on the steering wheel.

Despite its bold, unconventional styling, the driving experience is decidedly conventional. Bolted together on the same assembly line as the Dodge Dakota in Warren, Michigan, it should come as no surprise that the Raider feels much more American than Japanese. Compared to the Tacoma and Frontier, it also feels much larger, even though it's within a few inches of both of them in key dimensions. In DuroCross form, it's almost downright cushy, with a smooth ride and subdued noise, vibration, and harshness levels.

It's also the only import-branded midsize pickup with an available V-8. In driving the DuroCross, it's immediately apparent there are some refinement advantages of having a V-8 over a V-6, as the 4.7L overhead-cam V-8 idles and runs with a buttery smoothness not even Toyota's V-6 can match. But, in terms of sheer power, Toyota and Nissan's V-6s out-power the Raider's 230hp V-8 and come close to it in torque production. There's no shortage of low-end grunt, since the V-8 Raider will easily chirp the rear tires without much provocation and scoot away from a stoplight briskly at about 40-50 mph.

But, on the freeway, it takes a deliberate stab of the right foot and a gear kick down for any urgent passing maneuvers. Uphill grades also frequently cause a kick down, as well. Maybe it's the DuroCross' porky 4,940-pound curb weight, right up there in fullsize territory. We've long thought the new Dakota would be a perfect candidate for the 5.7L Hemi, and the Raider could benefit from it as well. But, if either of them receives it, the Dakota will probably get first dibs at it, if at all. We hope DC will follow Ford's suit and put three-valve heads on the 4.7L. With an output of 300 horses and 330 lb-ft, that would fit the bill nicely. Saddled with higher-than-average weight, and a typically lead-footed Sport Truck editor behind the wheel, we averaged a less-than-stellar 12.4 mpg. A V-6 turbodiesel would be a great powerplant for this truck, helping mileage and providing the same, if not better, power and torque than the modestly powered 4.7L V-8.

On the hardware side, the DuroCross package includes a 3.92 rearend with limited-slip differential, front skidplates, tranny and power steering cooler, and 750-amp battery. Unfortunately, all these goodies come at a price. Our almost fully decked-out DuroCross rang up the register to the tune of $33,155. Priced thusly, the DuroCross occupies the uncomfortable gray area where a fullsize starts to make sense. A nicely equipped F-150 SuperCrew or Silverado Crew can be had for a similar or lower price, depending on rebates and incentives. Stacked up against those odds, the DuroCross loses a little of its appeal. But, if you don't need or want the mass of a fullsize truck but like the idea of having a V-8 in a uniquely styled midsize package, the Raider is worth a look.

Mitsubishi Raider LSMitsubishi was so eager for us to partake of its latest pickup offering, it also loaned us a Raider LS V-6. Its fleet-style stamped steel wheels and lack of pretty much power anything were testament to its role in life: basic midsize hauling transport. But, despite the no-frills interior and exterior, it wasn't at all punishing to drive. The 210hp V-6 is only 20 horses shy of the V-8's output, and even though its torque output is down 55 lb-ft on its big brother, the availability of a six-speed manual--only available with the V-6 made the most of the six's output. Not having to compete with the Nissan and Toyota 4.0L models head-to-head, the 3.7L Dodge-based V-6, instead, competes with the other trucks' four-cylinders. Other than slightly increased fuel consumption, it's a compelling choice. In real-world driving, the Raider V-6 performed slightly better than a four-cylinder Nissan Frontier we tested recently in observed mileage.

Unlike its decked-out DuroCross brother, there's nothing fancy about the LS. The engine, while not particularly noisy, is not silent or exactly buttery-smooth. Instead, it has a lope at idle that vibrates the shift lever and a gruff, chuggy sound. The combination of the slightly lumpy V-6 and the manual transmission lends a "git 'er done" work-truck demeanor to the base Raider. Although it's no drag-strip demon, it never feels woefully underpowered, considering its mission in life. In normal driving, we rarely had to rev the engine beyond 3,000 rpm, with the healthy low-end torque and well-spaced gearing hauling the truck along respectably. Being about 600 pounds lighter than the DuroCross probably helped as well. The truck's trusty, straightforward personality is pleasant and endearing in its own right--kind of like the old crusty guy in overalls and a John Deere hat that works at the small hardware store that instinctively knows what tool or part you need before you ask.

Yet, to characterize the Raider LS as a knuckle-dragging lower primate is not entirely accurate. There are a few refined touches to this otherwise plain package. The gauges light up in a pleasant soft green-blue hue at night, and, as mentioned previously, the transmission has six gears instead of the customary five (for domestics, at least). Tire and road noise are pleasantly hushed, complementing the smooth, compliant ride. For an as-tested price below $20,000, we wouldn't blame anyone for choosing the base Raider over a comparable Tacoma or Frontier, especially considering Mitsubishi has a very competitive 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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