But over time, Mitsubishi has caught up on the refinement game, to the point of becoming a real player. Two years ago, Mitsubishi began offering its V-6 on the Galant, kicking it into the infield and the American sedan mainstream. Now, Mitsubishi is refocusing its products toward mass-market sportiness and those who enjoy driving.
The Galant GTZ is proof of that: While it isn’t quite as minutely refined and flawless as the Camry and Accord, it’s a comfortable, sporty sedan with an excellent powertrain.
Specifically, the GTZ has the same engine, transmission, and basic equipment as the LS and ES V-6 models, but it adds a sport suspension upgrade consisting of stiffer springs and firmer dampers, plus sixteen-inch alloy wheels and an exterior treatment that includes a color-keyed grille, color-keyed front and rear spoilers (including the rear wing), and special trim. Importantly, the GTZ offers no manual transmission or manu-matic option—only a four-speed automatic—disqualifying it as a real sport-sedan contender in the eyes of many.Sporty outside, dull inside
Outside, Mitsubishi has done a great styling job with this car. Though the current Galant is nearly three years old now, it’s aging gracefully. The proportions are right, and the body cladding has been kept to a minimum, while still showing that it’s a sport model.
What about the unusually large rear wing, though? Opinions are mixed on whether the rear wing fits the part or if it looks a little over the top. I tend to think the latter and do without it, but judging by the number of tacky add-on spoilers I see nowadays on everything from Civics to Aleros, I might be alone. The sixteen-inch, five-spoke, partially blacked-out alloy wheels look great, and stand out in a world of near-look-alikes.
2001 Mitsubishi Galant
While the GTZ’s exterior could be described as sleek, flamboyant, and even a little sexy, the interior is functional and well designed—but dull. It could use some spicing up. The dull gray padded plastic and fake woodgrain accents in our car felt plebeian for a vehicle that aims higher up the food chain. The white-faced gauges on the GTZ add a sporty cue, but that’s just not enough. Interior fit and finish wasn’t great, and we thought the gray interior with plasticky wood trim made for an odd combination. Mitsubishi, how about some eye candy, some pleasing textures, and switchgear that makes the GTZ feel upscale and special?
On the plus side, the interior layout is simple and all the controls are easy to access and operate. There are plenty of storage bins, and four secure cupholders. The leather-trimmed seats, eight-way power adjustable for the driver and standard in the GTZ, are comfortable, although the stitching was already unraveling in our 7000-mile-old test car. The driving position is excellent, with good outward visibility, but leg room seems unduly limited by seat travel. The back seat is very spacious—comfortable enough to carry two adults and still be on speaking terms with them after a trip. The steering wheel felt way too close for this lanky driver: it’s height-adjustable, but I wished for a telescopic adjustment.Superb powertrain, unremarkable handling
The Galant’s V-6 is an evolution of the same engine that Mitsubishi has used for years in Chrysler minivans and its Montero, among other products. While the GTZ’s 195 hp puts it now in the middle of the pack among mid-size V-6 sedans, it has a surprising amount of power on reserve. The engine isn’t as muffled as those of the Camry and Accord, but that’s fine—it has a nice throaty sound. While it might be noisier when revved, it’s always silky smooth and vibration-free. At idle, it’s so smooth, quiet, and well isolated you might forget it’s running.
2001 Mitsubishi Galant
A responsive four-speed automatic is the other element of this top-notch powertrain. It’s quiet, always downshifts promptly when needed, and doesn’t hunt between gears, plus it recognizes steep grades. After recently driving a Chrysler Sebring sedan, comparably equipped with a good 200-hp Chrysler engine made less enjoyable by an inferior, sluggish transmission, we thought that this transmission might do a lot to help the Chrysler’s drivability.
Suspension is just not as tight as we’d expect from a performance-oriented model. It’s firmer than many sedans, but it remains on the soft side. The steering feels overboosted in low-speed corners, but it firms up at higher speeds, with good tracking and on-center feel. But very little feedback from the road reaches the steering wheel, and there’s a sort of rubbery, nose-heavy delay that hampers sharp turn-in at low speeds—again, not the ideal characteristics for a performance model.Truth in advertorials
Allow me to include a brief excerpt from Mitsubishi’s annual press kit on the GTZ: “Its sport-tuned suspension provides crisp and precise handling without compromising the comfort of everyday driving needs.”
In this rare case, nothing could be closer to the truth. The GTZ is comfortable and soft enough for all but the most fickle, arthritic passengers, and the handling stands out as good but not altogether good enough for a real sports sedan. It’s a model that walks the line, sacrificing mass appeal just a bit for true sports-sedan grit. To most buyers, the GTZ’s firm yet comfortably damped ride will be about perfect, but those wanting a full-blown performance sedan might find it to be a softie. Everything else about the GTZ says ‘exceedingly competent.’ The four-wheel disc brakes scrub off speed with confidence, and the engine sips fuel at the better end of its 20 city, 27 highway EPA fuel-economy rating.
2001 Mitsubishi Galant
The GTZ comes with all the goodies that you might expect from a top-range model, including power accessories, cruise control, a power sliding glass sunroof, keyless entry and alarm system, air conditioning, and an excellent 210-watt Infinity sound system. There are no factory-installed options on the GTZ. Automatic climate control, a feature that’s now available as an option on some mainstream sedan models, is not available. Looking at safety features, in-seat side airbags are standard on the GTZ, and a basic traction-control system is included, too.
With all of the other competent, comparably priced, similarly equipped mid-size sedans on the market, much of the decision comes down to gut feelings—which one you like the feel of, the sound of, the looks of. The Nissan Maxima has more character and a more attractive interior, and it’s available with a manual transmission. The Mazda 626 is an aging, cramped design with a less powerful (170 hp) available V-6, but it’s refined and sporty and also is available with a five-speed stick. The VW Passat is the popular and stylish alternative, but there’s also no manual transmission available with the V-6. Other alternatives would be the Saturn LS V-6, Dodge Stratus ES, or Ford Taurus SEL, but neither car has as sweet of a powertrain.
Mitsubishi is planning a light restyle for 2002, including minor revisions to the exterior, and possibly also including a little spicing-up on the inside. Some cues from Mitsubishi’s motorsports and rally activities would be smart. We’re still waiting for the day when Mitsubishi will take advantage of its world-famous rally heritage with some inspired performance models for the U.S. market. The RPM concept from this year's Detroit show, a rally-inspired crossover, might indicate that it’s finally on the way.
The bottom line is that the Galant GTZ looks like an autobahn-streaking performance sedan, but it’s mostly a poseur. It has the power to match the image, but it lacks the edgy, sports-sedan handling that its bodywork suggests. But if you’re looking for exactly that, a comfortable sedan that you can drive every day and appear a little more adventurous than those Camry and Taurus drivers, the GTZ might be exactly what you need.
2001 Mitsubishi Galant GTZ
Price: $24,007 base, $24,527 as tested
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 195 hp
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.7 in
Length: 187.8 in
Width: 68.5 in
Height: 55.7 in
Curb Weight: 3296 lb
EPA (city/hwy): 20/27 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, front-seat side airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: Air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, locks, and mirrors, heated mirrors, traction control, keyless entry with alarm, power sunroof, rear-seat trunk pass-through, rear defroster
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles; five years/60,000 miles powertrain