Big and Little Mitsubishis: The Galant and the Lancer

By

The Car Family

 

 

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With fresh new faces, serious improvements, and a determination to not be left behind Mitsubishi brought to the public two sedans to woo potential buyers in the form of its bread and butter Gallant and Lancer. Unfortunately, they also priced these two in the sweet spot of the market dominated by fellow Japanese companies Toyota and Honda as well as the established American contingent from Detroit. The result is that although the Mitsubishi’s are much improved so it the competition. Adding to the problem is that the Mitsubishi’s attract a great deal of interest with their terrific new look from younger buyers who usually have the most difficult time qualifying credit. We like the new Mitsubishis, but we strongly question the pricing especially given weak sale figures.

In the past the ready to romp Lancer with its eager to please powertrain, ample interior space, and low price tag promised good basic transportation and the Gallant with the new Ralliart option promised good handling capabilities. With either vehicle you can get a lot more in terms of features by selecting some of the more popular options such as keyless ignition, automatic climate control, touch screen navigation, Bluetooth capability, and a solid Rockford Fosgate stereo.

The Galant was fancier, but still offered a new car for a used car price. That was then this is now. The Base Lancer runs about $15,000 with the CVT and 2.0 engine. The Galant
Ralliart 3.8L 6 cylinder is $27,000 with the plain Gallant MSRP about 20,000. Both cars as tested ran $4000 more with options making them very dear indeed although the 160 horsepower, four cylinder Lancer returned around 23 to 25 miles per gallon on unleaded and the 230 horsepower V6 19 mpg on premium.

The turning radius in the Gallant was enormous at over 40 feet with the smaller Lancer requiring significantly less at 33 feet. You must plan your parking maneuvers with the Gallant well in advance.

Looks are pretty much everything with these Mitsubishis and it works. We were constantly surrounded by young people asking about the Lancer and some even thought the larger Gallant was the “new” Lancer. It appears that the interior was designed not to offend anyone. There are no surprises and everything feels just a little cheap, but at least you could read the main controls easily.

The build quality is much improved over earlier models and the ride and handling are clearly better. The four-cylinder engine was more than adequate, but the V6 was obviously more enjoyable everywhere but at the petrol station.

Overall, these are two much improved vehicles from Mitsubishi that are attractive, fun to drive, and quite roomy. Hopefully that will be enough to keep this marque in the market.

Mom’s view: The list of competitors is like a what’s is what of the automobile industry. The Accord, Camry, Fusion, Aura, Impala, 300, Legacy, and Sonata all offer sedans priced nearly the same abeit not all as fun to drive. That being said the Gallant with its Ralliart option has a stiff legged ride that makes it a bit uncomfortable over roughed up roads. The chassis feels stout and the handling fairly accurate with a bit more body lean than I would have suspected. It does have some torque steer, but not a dramatic amount, and it always offers a sprightly

The interior is quite spacious with ample room for five adults, but there is a need for more interior storage spaces. The trunk lid just does not open enough when you use the remote and on the early model we were testing I could barely close the trunk. Hopefully this will be fixed. As well, the rear seat did not fold down and I couldn’t find any stability control that would be nice on a car with front wheel drive and 258 horsepower.

If you want a sporty sedan that looks good and does it job with a bit of an attitude the Gallant should be on your list. Whether or not you need the Ralliart option and the V6 are a wants versus needs decision.

As for the Lancer, it has come of age. The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine produces an energetic on-ramp buzz, but don’t expect to get to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. We had the excellent CVT, which delivers the best fuel mileage and easy to drive combination. The manual transmission is pretty good, but the clutch take-up point was too high for me and you get better gas mileage with the CVT. In an attempt to resolve the sporty look of the Lancer with the shiftless CVT unit Mitsubishi provides a Sportronic feature that has two paddles behind the steering wheel that enables you to control the shift points yourself. I really just ignored this feature until I got into the mountains where it came in quite handy in slowing the vehicle. I was able to get nearly 25 mpg on the highway, which isn’t as good as the competition.

My favorite was the Lancer for two reasons, the Gallant’s large turning radius and difficult to close trunk offset the slightly larger cargo and seating area. Although I enjoyed the extra poke of the V6 engine, the premium fuel requirement didn’t justify the extra kick.

Dad’s view: Is bigger better? In the Gallant and Lancer’s case the answer is yes. Much more fun to drive than previous models, these Mitsubishi products are clearly more Mazda than Camry in terms of substance and performance. The aggressive styling incites comments and attention, but the interior with its center stack takes a while to enjoy. The GPS screen is a good size, but the numbers on the gauge cluster are too small. This is easily the best Mitsubishi ever, and we have one in our family, but it still lacks the polish of the competition in many ways. On the other hand, dealers are making some great deals and if you go with the more basic DE or ES models you can get a fun ride for $20,000. If you opt for the GTS or Ralliart the V6 engine is yours to command. Personally, the 2.4-liter, 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic with Sportronic shifting is more than adequate for most needs. The GTS comes with a 3.8-liter, 230-hp V6 and a five-speed automatic with Sportronic and the Ralliart has a 3.8-liter V6, with 258 horsepower.

The Lancer was a bit niftier to drive and more responsive at slow speeds. Above 35 mph the power of the Gallant’s V6 was difficult to ignore. The Lancer could stand a few more horsepower, with both the California and the 49 state versions lacking high thrust at highway legal speeds. Waiting patiently for an audience is t he Evolution version which should produce startling acceleration and with this body, be more user friendly.

In terms of safety the Lancer is equipped with front and seat airbags, a full-length head curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. Mitsubishi also has a tire-pressure monitor and ABS on most models as well as four-wheel disc brakes. The base DE doesn’t have the ABS or rear discs. The brake pedal feel in both vehicles is a bit touchy and needed a gentle touch. I suspect that was because the models were pre-production and not yet ready for prime time.

Neither Mitsubishi product overwhelmed me even though they are sharp looking and have a good road feel. I would probably go with the more nimble Lancer and wait for the Ralliart option that would give it some more power and a superior handling suspension.

Working woman’s view: At least this sedan gives you a distinct look. Safetywise almost all models have antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags with the GTS and Ralliart getting a tire-pressure monitor and traction control. Initial crash test scores appear to be very good.

My understated nature couldn’t be persuaded to accept the center console, the blue backlighting on the gauges, or the quality of the leather seating. It is distinctive. The climate and stereo controls are easy to use and the navigation system that is only available on the Ralliart is acceptably easy to master. The seats are comfortable, but a bit soft, and there is plenty of legroom front and rear. The trunk has a high lift over and isn’t all that large at about 13 cubic feet. There is a ski pass through, but the rear seats don’t fold down.

On the highway the V6 is eager to obey, but the steering is a bit over boasted making getting the full value of the Ralliart’s suspension one that requires more skill than I have.

Tire noise and wind noise are subdued, but present, and the ride quality adequate for most family sedan oriented buyers.

College going male’s view: The Ralliart Gallant did not appeal to me in the least. It was big, bold, and brash. The sound system was good, but my major complaint was why bother? Clearly the fit and finish aren’t as good as the completion and neither is the resale. However, that 10 year, 100,000 warranty could alleviate a lot of fears.

Now the Lancer is something else indeed. Sharp looking, better fuel mileage, and just a tad less space than the Gallant, it can be under your carport for well under $20,000. The Lancer’s trunk is only one cubic foot less than the more expensive Gallant, too. Mitsubishi officials stated that the front end had shark nose and it certainly looks menacing. Add that Evo turbocharged, all wheel drive option, a Bluetooth and GPS availability and you have a WRX and Civic crusher.

I was a bit surprised at the roomy backseat and disappointed at the fact that the steering column did not telescope. For many people it won’t matter, but for those with short arms it is difficult to find a comfortable driving position.

It is a bit tubbier than the previous model, but the extra 200 pounds has been put to good use as the new Lancer clings to the road with a more substantial feel. The extra girth requires more power and the Lancer simply does not inspire the courage necessary for high speed passing. This is a fun car, good looking, and capable of far more than the engine can deliver. I like its look and with the right engine this Lancer could save Mitsubishi and thus continue to put the “i” on my keyboard in danger of wearing out.

Family conference: Mitsubishi deserves credit for trying. The new Gallant and Lancer are fresh and playful. Unfortunately, the pricing places them in against some well-proven players. We don’t know who the strategic planners are for Mitsubishi, but we believe that they should strive to make the youth market their playground and stuff that turbocharged Evo engine into everything they have, including the Outlander. People are willing to pay for performance. In the meantime, the new Lancer is fun and was glitch free.

Reliability ratings

http://www.carfax.com/car_safety/ratings/SRR.cfm

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