A diamond in the rough.
by Ted West
Base Price (MSRP) $25,387
As Tested (MSRP) $28,647
Diamante means diamond in some language; whose language we're not sure. But it doesn't matter, because this graciously relaxing luxury car would be a gem in anybody's dictionary. With its sleek styling, roomy, first-class cabin and powerful V6 engine, the Diamante rivals luxury sedans costing thousands of dollars more.
Two models are available. The base-level ES ($25,387) comes with a high level of standard equipment, while the LS ($27,407) adds leather seating surfaces and upscale trim, a premium Mitsubishi/Infinity stereo, fog lights, and 16-inch tires wrapped around alloy wheels.
Both come with Mitsubishi's 3.5-liter V6, which puts out 210 horsepower, mated to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The only available option is an all-weather package for the LS; at $720 it includes traction control plus heated seats and mirrors.
Diamante's styling has an appealing modern freshness. Its aerodynamic shape produces an extremely low coefficient of drag of 0.28. The twin-nostril grille has become part of Diamante's identity, but the current rendition is more understated, less overstyled than it has been in the past. A businesslike under-grille intake adds a serious demeanor.
The Diamante's stance is a dynamic forward lunge, made popular by Chrysler's cab-forward sedans. But Diamante's body contours are muscular and handsomely modeled, with the greenhouse set off by a spare, tasteful perimeter of chrome.
The interior of the Mitsubishi Diamante is an extremely handsome and functional driving environment. It includes every provision expected of a modern luxury sedan. The LS model even spreads wood lavishly on the dash, console and all four doors. The styling of this trim seems a bit perfunctory and bezel-like, in our opinion, but no one could complain that Mitsubishi has held back.
Diamante's instrumentation is composed of excellent analog dials, including a mechanical odometer, becoming a rarity in this digital age. Steering wheel tilt is adjustable, though the wheel does not telescope. The turn signal stalk includes a textured switch for turning on the fog lights, a control you will become accustomed to after use but one that is not at all intuitive. And there is no dash light to indicate that the fog lights are on or off. The three-speed wipers' intermittent setting allows infinite adjustment, another rarity, as some luxury cars have adhered to a one-speed intermittent.
The Diamante's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system features a nice video readout in the center of the dash, indicating the settings. Temperature settings are conveniently selected with a radial knob. This unit also indicates outside temperature. A very nice system, in general, but the graphics showing exterior air versus recirculation are confusing.
Elsewhere on the dash and console are controls for the Infinity premium audio with CD, as well as cupholders galore, two in front and two in the rear. Access to the center console storage compartment is achieved with a clever hinging system. The top tips opens from either side, allowing direct access for both the driver and the passenger. Front seat heaters make driving pleasant in the winter. The LS driver's seat is eight-way adjustable, with intuitive analog controls. The Diamante is also one of the few cars in the world that has both up/down and fore/aft adjustment of the headrests.
Outward visibility in the Diamante is excellent both from the front seats and in the rear, enhancing the driving experience. Windows, mirrors and door locks are all electric, while the doors and trunk can be accessed both by remotes in the driver-side door and the key fob.
Rear seat spaciousness is at or near the largest in the Diamante's class. However, we found the seat cushions uncomfortably hard and flat, offering minimal lateral support. Perhaps in compensation for this shortcoming, an extra-wide, fold-down center armrest serves to hold rear passengers in place. Coupled with the rear's good outboard elbow rests, the center armrest acts as a lateral bolster.
The Diamante's trunk is near the head of the class in volume. Furnished with a cargo net, it has 14 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Mitsubishi Diamante is not a tepid little people-hauler. Press the pedal down and this sedan rushes to life. Mitsubishi's strong V6 makes a pleasing growl during acceleration. And it provides more than enough thrust to make the drive home interesting.
The Diamante's 24-valve V6 is bigger than most engines in the $30,000-sedan class, with a 3.5-liter displacement. Thanks to its large displacement, no variable valve-timing technology is needed to produce plenty of bottom-end torque. It delivers 205 horsepower at 5000 rpm, and a hefty 231 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. This generous torque delivers vigorous throttle response, enough to propel the Diamante from 0 to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds. That makes the Diamante a quick sedan in this category.
Its acceleration performance is so vigorous that on wet pavement it will easily spin the front wheels. Leaving a standing start
in a hurry on a rainy day, you will see the little dashboard traction-control monitor light up regularly. The traction control is not overly quick to engage, which is a good thing. You have to truly slip the Diamante's tires before the light comes on, telling you you've activated traction control. A minutely delayed engagement of the traction control is preferable to having it constantly applying brakes on slippery surfaces when it is not needed. Overly rapid engagement of traction control can be intrusive, unnecessarily impeding your forward momentum, while simultaneously wasting fuel and brake-pad material. Some of the most prestigious luxury cars err in this manner. A switch on the dash allows the driver to turn off the traction control system when, for example, using snow chains.
Mitsubishi's traction control also includes what the company calls "trace control," which is a simplified yaw-stability system. Sensors compare steering-wheel angle to vehicle speed and a computer dials down engine power if the driver is in danger of exceeding the car's cornering grip.
Steering response is crisp and precise, thanks to the Diamante's well-calibrated power-assisted rack and pinion. Isolation from road irregularities is extremely good. At highway speed the noise level is pleasantly low, except for some wind noise at the driver's door. The LS model's high-performance 16-inch wheels and tires produce good roadholding and lateral stability. When pushed hard on back roads, however, the Diamante floats over undulating pavement and leans in hard corners. It does not offer the dynamic control of a firm European-style suspension, feeling more like an American sedan. Drivers who spend long hours on the freeway, however, will be pleased with the Diamante's suspension tuning and ride quality.
Although designed in Japan and assembled in Australia, Diamante is one of the most definitively American luxury cars you can buy. Its engineering emphasis is on occupant comfort and convenience, coupled with freeway-friendly competence. This also means sumptuous luxury-car furnishings, conspicuously roomy proportions both in the passenger compartment and trunk, a vigorous powertrain, and luxury-car ride quality. This is a good car for bumpy Interstates and long commutes.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.