Sometimes it takes more than a pretty face and shapely body to attract attention—at least in the auto industry.
Mitsubishi performed surgery on its midsize Galant sedan to give it a fresh new look for 2009. Trouble is, tht does nothing to overcome the edge held by the cast in its midsize sedan segment: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion.
And with good reason: Consider that Camry offers a hybrid to deliver a few extra m.p.g. when prices for gas are running higher than those for designer water. Ditto Malibu and Altima, though only in limited markets for now. Fusion gets its gas/electric version in the 2009 calendar year. Accord dropped its hybrid, but still offers a V-6 that shuts off 3 cylinders when not needed to conserve fuel.
It would help if Galant had such a "hey, look at me" feature to win some notice among its rivals. The 2009 Galant, however, is arriving in showrooms to beat the 2009 rush this fall. It's offered in ES, Sport, Sport V-6 and Ralliart versions, produced at Mitsubishi's factory in Normal with the Eclipse coupe and convertible and Endeavor crossover. All share a platform.
We tested the Ralliart, an attractive machine, yet one that, except for the diamond logo in the grille, looks somewhat like a Camry or Accord. Except for Altima, the Japanese entries have become increasingly similar in appearance, especially in profile.
The top-of-the-line Ralliart test car came with a 3.8-liter, 258-horsepower V-6 with a 5-speed Sportronic automatic that allows manual mode shifting. A 2.4-liter, 160-h.p. 4 with 4-speed automatic and Sportronic is offered in the ES and Sport, a 230-h.p. version of the 3.8 in the Sport V-6.
The 3.8 ensures a swift launch and quick passing; no lingering. Galant performs as if a sporty Eclipse, only with two more doors. It can accelerate from zero to 60 m.p.h. in about 6 seconds and is fairly quiet in doing so.
The V-6, however, is rated at 16 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway, lowest in its class. Camry boasts 19/28 with its 3.5-liter, 268-h.p. V-6; Accord 22/32 with its 3.5-liter, 268-h.p. V-6; Altima 19/26 with its 3.5-liter, 270-h.p. V-6; Malibu 17/26 with its 3.6-liter, 252 h.p. V-6; and Fusion 18/26 with its 3-liter, 221-h.p. V-6.
No "hey look at me" mileage, either.
But Ralliart has a sports-tuned suspension and 18-inch radials for the best road manners in the Galant lineup, and, save the sporty Honda Accord coupe, the best handling among its rivals. It atones for weak mileage with solid, sure-footed cornering. The 18-inch all-season radials grab and hold. Braking also is very good thanks four-wheel anti-lock brakes as standard, along with side-curtain air bags front and rear just in case.
Traction control is standard to help get moving without slipping on wet or snowy surfaces. But Galant lacks stability control, handinganother advantage tor its rivals, which offer it with traction control, ABS and side curtains.
Without stability control, it's "hey, look at me" as you slip, slide away.
Though Galant gets new sheet metal, dimensions didn't change. That means you still enjoy good room and comfort front and rear and ample space to wiggle legs and knees in the back seat. The backs of the front seats are indented to provide that added knee.
Perforated leather keeps seats cooler in summer and keeps you planted in aggressive maneuvers. A 12-volt plug in the center console provides power upfront, but there's none under the center armrest or behind the console for rear-seat passengers.
But the sunroof is set far enough back to prevent glare through the glass. Still, that does nothing to address the size of the navi screen in the top of the dash; it's much too big.
And Mitsubishi ensures you can get a $1,500 navi system, but stability control isn't available? Of course, you can make up for that by programming the locations of nearby body shops.
Trunk space is good, but would be far better if the holder for the navi DVDs didn't hang from the top of the trunk and eat up space. On the plus side, however, the rear seat center armrest folds to expose the pass-through between trunk and cabin.
The 2009 Ralliart tested starts at $27,299,which includes air conditioning, Rockford Acoustic premium audio system with eight speakers and six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio and power windows/locks/(heated) mirrors/(heated) seats.
The $1,500 navi system is the only option offered.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tribune Media Services
Test Drive: 2009 Mitsubishi Galant