When I think of Japanese luxury sedans, there are three brands that come to mind — and none of them are Mitsubishi. It might be pretty much a crossover brand now, but back when it made cars other than just the Mirage, it took a shot at a full-size pseudo-luxury sedan. It was called the Diamante, and I had no idea it existed until I saw one in traffic recently.
The Diamante was built from 1990 through 2005, and it first showed up in North America for the 1993 model year. This was Mitsubishi’s answer to the Nissan Maxima. The name "Diamante" is derived from the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian word for "diamond" (Diamond? Mitsubishi’s logo? Get it?). It was available as a sedan and a wagon, and it was even available in the U.S., but even though I’ve seen pictures of it, I’m not convinced that the Mitsubishi Diamante Wagon is a real car that exists. (I saw one on the street in Laguna Beach in 2014 and I was so shocked I took a photo of it! — Doug)
According to my research, all U.S. spec Diamantes were powered by some version of Mitsubishi’s 3.0-liter V6 which made anywhere from 175 to 210 horsepower depending on the year and the trim. In its second generation, you could get the Diamante VR-X, which was a sporty trim that added a body kit, a rear spoiler, leather seats, special VR-X gauges and a whopping five extra horsepower over the base engine. That’s right, Mitsubishi made a sport sedan that wasn’t a Lancer Evo.
Since Mitsubishi had a reputation in the 1990s of being a budget car brand that also made sports cars, it tried to class up its image with the fancy Diamante. This flagship was supposed to lift up the Mitsubishi brand, but it went about as well as it did for Mazda when it came out with the Millenia. It was a bit weirder, though, as the Diamante was built in Australia and shipped to the U.S., making it one of the few cars sold in the U.S. to be built Down Under — another weird Diamante quirk.
There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the Mitsubishi Diamante; rather, it’s just kind of weird that it exists. It appears to be legitimately luxurious, and I think it actually looks pretty good — except for the space-age final facelift of the 2004–2005 models. Chalk it up to lousy marketing or being too little, too late in the Japanese luxury car game, but the Diamante wasn’t the hit that Mitsubishi needed it to be to make anyone associate the brand with premium cars.
If you want to be the only one on your block who drives a Mitsubishi Diamante, you might have a hard time finding one. There are only 14 of them for sale on Autotrader as of this writing. Two of them have fewer than 100,000 miles on the clock, and all of them have an asking price of less than $6,000. If you want a more modern Diamante, who knows? Maybe we’ll see it reappear as the Diamante Cross premium crossover someday.