When it comes to mid-cycle facelifts, carmakers often tout something sexy like a more aggressive exterior. Sure, this is brochure-worthy, but what about something that substantially changes the driving dynamics? The thing that really matters to the guy behind the wheel? Mitsubishi has done that with the 2015 ASX: a crossover that runs better and smoother than ever before.

cover

It is still worth noting that Mitsubishi hasn’t passed the 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, short overhangs, and a long wheelbase. It still looks fresh despite being on the market since 2010.

In front, it gets a re-sculpted jet-fighter grille (with honeycomb inserts) sandwiched by new super wide-range HID headlamps with retractable washers. The new lamps look similar to 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.

1

The premium and sporty approach is echoed in the 2015 ASX’s interior. 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. The ASX also features a deeply-recessed twin binnacle cluster with a full-color LCD in the middle. It has a 6.5-inch touchscreen LCD monitor that plays a full range of multimedia sources. It also provides turn-by-turn navigation from AVT. New this year is the addition of cruise control and a push-button start/stop across the line.

You can’t talk about the 2015 ASX without touching on the panoramic glass roof with LED illumination. The expansive roof doesn’t open like a sunroof would, but it does let a huge chunk of sky in as it 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.

2

Now, it’s time to dive into what really matters: the driving. How much difference can a transmission make? In this case, one heck of a difference.

The ASX is the same when it comes to its engine. It’s still using the 2.0-liter 4B11 engine shared with the Lancer EX. It still makes 150 hp at 6,000 rpm and 197 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. Pretty good numbers that put the ASX squarely in the middle of the compact crossover pack.

The new INVECS-III CVT transmission gives it the boost in performance. It isn’t just a simple reprogram either. It has an entirely new transmission unit that’s 15 kg lighter, making the 2015 ASX lighter by 10 kg compared to the Lancer EX 2.0 GTA. 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 has been made to mesh with the engine much better, taking advantage of the MIVEC’s “twin peak” torque curve.

3

Mitsubishi organized a lengthy drive from Manila to Thunderbird Resort, La Union to put the new ASX to the test. Taking the full driving duties going to the resort, the first thing you appreciate with the ASX is the high hip point. The large glass area and generously-sized mirrors give a great vantage point when maneuvering the ASX in traffic. The 2015 ASX’s improved grunt is very noticeable, too. The rubber band sensation of the previous CVT is gone and replaced with 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.

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, the CVT’s revised ratios are very welcome. 100 km/h achieved with less than 2,000 rpm registering on the tachometer. The ASX is 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). Standard cruise control helps avoid speeding tickets, but the system doesn’t indicate whether it’s active or not. It only tells you when cruise control’s on or off.

4

On narrow provincial roads, the ASX provides ample power for overtaking. You do have to squeeze the engine a bit when attempting to overtake multiple vehicles. But it gives you the confidence that you have power when you need it. Plus, the magnesium paddle shifters provide a quick downshift when needed. Steering is responsive and quick through curves. But as expected from a crossover, the softer sprung suspension and higher center of gravity do make it understeer midway through tighter corners.

It may have been four years since its debut, but the ASX is one forever-young crossover. Its 2015 form 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.