Coos Bay, OR - It matters little that the majority of Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords - America’s best-selling cars - are delivered with four cylinder engines. A midsize car simply lacks credibility with U.S. buyers if it doesn’t offer a six-cylinder version. Mitsubishi re-worked the four-cylinder in the Galant two years ago and made a good car even better. But as capable as the Galant is, the market has moved beyond four-cylinder engines. For years Mitsubishi has offered the most powerful four in the segment, which also has the advantage of being smoother than many sixes and vibration free. But sales still lagged.
Now there are no more excuses.
The Galant has always been a solid product, but with a few flaws and quirks that probably affected its sales. With that in mind, this total overhaul given the fourth generation overhaul has concentrated on making the car not only better, but more mainstream - without losing its individuality.
The fact that it's built in the US can't hurt sales.
Mitsubishi gives Galant a V6
There have been hints of a V-6 for the Galant for most of the decade. That speculation was reinforced by the excellent sixes that Mitsubishi made available to Chrysler. However, until the Pentastar folks developed the capacity to design and build their own family of V-6 engines, most minivans - as well as many of Chrysler’s bigger sedans - came with Mitsubishi power.
Consequently, it seemed a bit odd that Mitsubishi avoided putting them in their own products. Not only does the company offer a full line of passenger cars, sporty coupes and convertibles and solid SUVs, but they were a leader in new ideas and technology - including the addition of balance shafts to tame harsh engines and all-wheel-steering to parking easier.
1999 Mitsubishi Galant
Their California-based design and engineering group is also on the cutting edge of the future, working on hybrid powerplants and multi-purpose prototypes. But now Mitsubishi has cast aside the flashier aspects of its technology, and put its "techno-nerds" to work on details such as variable-assist steering and electronically-controlled transmission that operate with "fuzzy-logic". As a result, the company’s engineering focus has shifted from "gee-whiz" to first class.
Galant: a Japanese 3-Series?
The lines of the new 1999 Galant lines are sleek, yet are more sculptured than you’ll find on more ovoid shapes. The corporate nostrils are less evident, but the rear lights have lost the Klingon battle cruiser shape, now that the Ford Taurus has adopted a similar layout. If anything, there is a hint of the BMW 3-Series in front, which is a very appropriate comparison, given the car’s handling ability and spirited driving mannerisms.
Galant’s aesthetics were addressed in a re-design two years ago, with tasteful moldings and quality fabric. This rework seems to have been done from the inside out, with an emphasis on stretching the interior dimensions to match or exceed those of the primary competitors (read: Camry, Accord), not only for "people-space" but for trunk space as well. Controls and switches were made with a bias toward functional instead of style. And while dual airbags have been accommodated, Mitsubishi still left room for a large glove box.
The 145-horsepower, twin-cam four cylinder is still a tail-kicker, turning in performance figures at the top of the class. If you don't listen to the exhaust note, it’s easy to mistake it for a six - thanks to the smooth balance-shaft engine. It turns lower revs than most multi-valve engines, and the torque also comes on much lower. This year’s new 195-hoursepower, 3.0-liter V-6 is adapted from that used in Mitsubishi’s popular SUV, the Montero Sport. But it’s been completely retuned for a car-like power band.
1999 Mitsubishi Galant
Bigger and better
The new Galant is sure to gets high marks for quality. Fit and finish are outstanding, and the car feels nice and tight. That means complaints about rattles and noises are sure to be a thing of the past.
This Galant is larger in every dimension and has a healthy increase in power. But the suspension tuning and tire choice have been moderated to keep the GS from appealing to too small a segment. The fully independent suspension maintains a both good ride quality, without sacrificing handling.
While there is not a manual transmission for the V-6, a performance-oriented GTZ model adds a sport-tuned suspension and body styling elements. I personally don’t care for spoilers, but the white-faced instruments are an elegant touch on this model.
An indication of the level of refinement in the chassis and suspension is that it’s used in a variety of different lengths and configurations for both Mitsubishi and Chrysler products. It serves a diverse line-up of cars that come on everything from the Chrysler Sebring, and Dodge Avenger, to the Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse. All are built at the Diamond Star plant in Normal, Illinois.
Mitsubishi cars have as much or more useable technology and quality features as any car in the midsized segment, usually at a far lower price. And Mitsubishi is intent on moving their customer treatment and dealer support to rank among the best of the imports, following the hiring of Pierre Gagnon as the company’s new president. He comes from the buyer-friendly Saturn group, and is driven to bring this company up to its potential.