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.
2000 Mitsubishi Galant
The fully independent suspension maintains both good ride and handling, while the suspension tuning and tire choices have been moderated to keep the mainstream GS model from appealing to too few buyers. While there is not a manual transmission for the V-6 versions, a performance-oriented GTZ model adds a sport-tuned suspension and add-on body pieces. I personally don't care for spoilers, but the white-faced instruments are an elegant touch on this model.
The car gets good marks for quality and tightness and complaints about noise are a thing of the past. Aesthetics are pleasing, with tasteful moldings and quality fabric. This rework seems to have been done from inside out, with emphasis on stretching the interior dimensions to match or exceed that of their competition, not only for people but trunk space. This Galant is larger in every dimension than before, which adds up to more useful interior room. Controls and switches have been made more functional than stylish, for a change. Dual airbags have been accommodated while leaving room for a large glovebox.
And now, the top models get standard features that are bound to appeal to American buyers such as traction control and an anti-theft system. A six-CD changer mounted in the dash is now offered, too.
Mitsubishi cars have as much or more technology and features as anything in the segment, usually at a far lesser price. Until now, sales haven’t followed fast behind. But this year, Mitsu’s setting a record sales pace, and the V-6 may propel them even further against the class leaders.
|2000 Mitsubishi Galant
Base Price: $17,357|
Engine: 2.4-liter in-line four, 145 hp; 3.0-liter V-6, 195 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual (four-cylinder only), four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.7 in
Length: 187.8 in
Width: 68.5 in
Height: 55.7 in (55.3 in, GTZ)
Weight: 2976 – 3263 lb
Fuel economy: 21 city/ 28 hwy (20 city / 27 hwy V-6 models)
Major standard equipment: