The 1999 Mitsubishi Galant is larger than its predecessor and more substantial in its looks. It has a first-ever V6, and pricing is aggressive. But Mitsubishi still needs to address quality issues.
Grown up Galant
Well, well, well. The Mitsubishi Galant is all grown up for 1999, with a bigger body, more sophisticated look and a new power plant.
It's still affordable, though. Many models, even the first-ever V6 models, carry manufacturer's suggested retail prices that are lower than competing Toyota and Honda midsize sedans.
And with an expensive advertising campaign positioning the 1999 Galant as a stylish, youthful alternative to those arguably more conservative Toyotas and Hondas, Mitsubishi Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is hoping for substantial sales increases over the previous Galant.
In fact, if Mitsubishi hits its target of some 60,000 Galant sales in the 1999 model year, "it would be one of our best years ever," said General Manager Pierre Gagnon.
So, how good is this car? No complaints on the power. The 1999 Galant feels spunky, with either the 4-cylinder or V6. A Mitsubishi Motor Sales official acknowledged, "responsive acceleration" was a key goal.
So, while the 4-cylinder is the same 2.4-liter that was in the 1998 Galant, it has a new cold air induction system that draws air in from above the radiator now, rather than from inside the hot engine compartment. Cool air mixes more easily with fuel, the automaker points out.
Thus, the four banger, already known for good torque, goes from 148 pound-feet at 3000 revolutions per minute to 155—enough to make the wheels squeal easily. Horsepower is up a bit, too. It goes from 141 at 5500 rpm to 145.
Then there's the new V6. A 3.0-liter single overhead cam 24-valve V6, it produces 195 horsepower at 5500 rpm compared with the Camry V6's 194 at 5200 rpm. Torque in the Galant V6 is 205 at 4500 rpm vs. 195 at 4700 in the Accord V6.
And yes, you can really move in this car. No more fretting about trying to get around someone double-parked downtown or having enough passing power on that country-road straightaway.
Quite smooth, yet lightweight feel
The Galant is quieter than before, according to Mitsubishi, though I found there's a good amount of road noise that finds its way inside. Still, the smooth, quiet shifting of the 4-speed automatic is quite impressive. Mitsubishi estimates a majority of American buyers will get the automatic.
In handling maneuvers, the Galant feels lightweight and quick on its feet—not a laggard. But it also doesn't feel quite as quick to regain its composure and root back down to the pavement in the slalom. Front suspension is a MacPherson strut design. A Mitsubishi multi-link rear suspension handles duties in the rear on American cars.
And there are some mild jiggles for riders now and then. For example, on a stretch of concrete highway that was relatively smooth, not pot-marked, my body was sort of vibrating just a bit in the Galant—no comments here, please.
Anti-lock brakes are standard on upper level models and work strongly. But watch the front end. It dips precipitously during panic braking.
My, how nice you look
The 1999 Galant looks good, although the jazzy television ads that move so quickly don't really let you see that it still has the styling of a family sedan. The back of the new Galant reminds me some of a BMW. The front retains the trademark Mitsubishi theme with narrowed headlights and grille.
The car is larger inside now, with interior volume of 111.6 cubic feet rivaling the 111 of the Camry, 108 of the Nissan Altima and 111.3 of the Mazda 626. A 14-cubic-foot trunk is nearly as large as the 14.1-cubic-foot trunks in the Camry and Accord sedans.
Inside the Galant, there are enough well-placed features to satisfy just about any midsize sedan buyer.
Air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with cassette player, power windows and door locks, two trip meters and an auxiliary power outlet are standard on all models. In fact, this new Galant has some features you'd expect on luxury sedans; automatic headlight shutoff that lights your driveway or parking lot for 30 seconds is standard, for example.
Side airbags that deploy from the front seatbacks are an option, while some competitors don't offer them at all. And thank you, Mitsubishi, for moving the radio controls higher on the Galant dashboard, above the ventilation controls. We Americans are always tuning our radios.
Quality needs attention
But someone should tell Mitsubishi the reason so many people shopping for midsize sedans wind up with a Toyota or Honda is not because of styling flair but because of quality and attention to detail.
Over the years, those Camry models and Accords have earned a reputation for reliability and durability. And that quality and reliability is still a priority with many consumers.
Mitsubishi needs to continue to work on this issue. In independent surveys over the last few years, previous Galants haven't fared as well in reliability as those noteworthy competitors, and my test Galants had some problems, too, with just a few miles on them.
For one thing, it was distracting and startling to have the sunroof cover above my head slide and bang loudly whenever I accelerated strongly. It also slid forward and banged when I braked aggressively. This occurred in both Galant models that I drove.
During my test drive of the V6 model, a rear door handle inside broke, and an air conditioning switch didn't work as described in the owner's manual. I also wondered how long the recirculation button on the dashboard would work when I had to push really hard to get it to activate and then the button remained jammed into the dash. And I wasn't impressed to see black trim around one of the headlights loose and flapping in the wind as the car went down the road.
To its credit, Mitsubishi Motor Sales says its working to improve quality and Gagnon said they've discovered 40 percent of the problems have come from too much handling of the cars during the shipping and delivery process.
Now, let's see if Mitsubishi can deliver on fixing those problems.