COOS BAY, Ore. — It matters little that the majority of the best-selling Camrys and Accords are delivered with four-cylinder engines. A midsize car lacks credibility with American buyers if it doesn't offer a six-cylinder version.
A rework three years ago made a good car better, but as capable as the Mitsubishi Galant was, the market had moved beyond four-cylinder engines. For years, the brand offered the most powerful four in the segment, but still sales lagged without the magical two extra cylinders.
The Galant has always been a solid product, but without the six and with a few flaws and quirks, its sales have never approached those of Toyota and Honda. With that in mind, this total fourth-generation overhaul has concentrated on making the car better and more mainstream, without losing its individuality. The fact that it's built in the U.S. can't hurt sales.
And now, there are no more excuses. Mitsubishi’s serviceable 3.0-liter V-6 is now offered in the Galant, and with it, the sedan is transformed from an also-ran in its market to a hot runner.
Mitsubishi has cast aside its usual fetish for technology, and put the techno-nerds to work on details such as variable assist steering and a "fuzzy-logic" electronically controlled transmission. The direction has been shifted from gee-whiz to class. The conversion into a mainstream sedan — albeit one with more flair than usual — is complete, and a success.
The Galant’s lines are sleek, yet there are sculptured lines that are not present on some more ovoid shapes. The corporate nostrils are less evident, and the rear lights have lost the Klingon battle cruiser shape they formerly held. If anything, there is a hint of the BMW look in the front, a not-inappropriate comparison when the handling and spirited power are considered.
Even the 145 hp twin-cam four cylinder turns in performance figures at the top of the class. If you don't listen to the exhaust note, it is easy to mistake it for a six; the balance-shafted engine is that smooth. It turns lower revs than most multi-valve engines, and the torque also comes on much lower. The V-6, smooth but still audible unlike other Japanese sixes, is adapted from that used in the Montero Sport, but it completely retuned for a carlike powerband. It’s torquey and strong, and mated with a four-speed automatic transmission, a perfect fit in the midsize portfolio alongside Camry and Accord.