Sabtu, 31 Mei 2008

Mitsubishi Galant Review

By Sajeev Mehta

This website has consistently and persistently lambasted The Big 2.5 for depending on fleet sales to keep the factories churning. As reported here and elsewhere, Detroit has finally responded to industry criticism that cranking-out sub-par transportation for fleet consumption drags down vehicle quality, resale value and image. They’ve sworn off rental car crack. Gradually, eventually, they’ll leave Alamo, Hertz, Avis, etc. behind and take their chances on the dealer’s lot. All of which makes room for… the Mitsubishi Galant!

The ninth gen Galant gets some new threads. The proportions aren’t bad, and its strong, chiseled shoulders meld into perfectly proportioned, smoked Altezza taillights. (Who knew that Malibu and sake mixed?) From the side, the Galant’s soaring beltline conforms to The Law of Unintended Aesthetic Consequences; the rear doors look like Lulu the Fat Lady’s thighs. Up front, the aesthetically challenged hood blister meets up with a finned grille, complete with shiny-happy chrome smile underneath. All in all, the Galant is handsome enough– to wear the rental car cloak of invisibility.

As befitting this erstwhile honor, the Galant's interior is as about as cool as drinking milk from a sports bottle. From its brittle switchgear to its rotary knobs soaked in molasses to its rubbery steering wheel, Mitsubishi's sedan-starlet does the near-impossible: falls to match GM's mediocre advancements in interior excellence. While the Mitsu's panel gaps are fingernail thin and the aluminum-effect trim livens-up the dour dollops of flat black, the cabin’s mix of jutting planes, bloated curves and cheap plastics make the Galant ready for the rental car return row, like, now.

Grab your luggage and another problem creeps up; the Galant's strut assists make closing the decklid a challenge for one hand, and unnecessary effort for two. The resonating "thonk" following said action is about as reassuring as a stand up comic moonlighting as a bereavement counselor. The Galant's lack of fold down rear seating is another solid miss.

That said, the rear accommodations are more than slightly salubrious. The fabrics are a pleasing blend of luxury, style and durability, wrapping the finest set of foam cushioning this side of an Olds 88 Royale Brougham. Who needs a folding park bench when the alternative is so much better for the back and the booty? The couch isn't just the Galant's best attribute; it’s class-leading mother-in-law kvetch protection.

The Galant’s standard 140-watt, six speaker, MP3-ready sound system also deserves special mention. Actually that's a lie. By itself, the beatbox is nothing special. Factor in its ability to overpower the Galant's 2.4-liter buzz box under the hood and it becomes an absolute lifesaver. The MIVEC-tuned four-pot motor makes a respectable 160hp @ 5500 revs, but clock the tachometer above 3500rpm and this mill is ready to rattle itself to pieces. Runs to redline are accompanied by an intake-wheez so strong you can feel the Galant begging for your right foot for mercy.

The Galant’s “Sportronic” automatic serves-up a quartet of cogs with wide-ass gear ratios; a holdover from a time when it was OK to keep a rock as a pet (don’t ask). The Galant's powertrain– and I use that term in its full ironic sense– is no match for the smooth operators available in baseline Camrys and Accords. Even worse, with 3439 pounds of sedan to tote from the airport to the meeting/Disneyworld and back, the Galant's wounded snail pace (zero to 60 in 8.9 very loud seconds) should come as no surprise– at least until you try to merge on the highway.

Curiously, the entry level Galant doesn’t offer ABS braking as standard; you have to upgrade to the ES or “Extra Stuff” model (I swear I’m not making that up) to get Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. At least the Galant has enough airbags to seduce the Stay Puft Man and a front and side five-star government safety rating.

Which is just as well. Although the Galant is about as close to being a rocket ship as a block of cement, it can, eventually, reach normal automotive speeds. Once there, drivers will discover that the Galant's steering, shifting and throttle response were originally extras in The Dead Hate the Living.

The harder you push the Galant, the dumber you feel for bothering. Before unloading SUV-levels of understeer, the Galant pitches under cornering load and dives prodigiously in panic stops. Thrifty drivers on a Budget will get no kicks remembering the Alamo on a twisty on ramp or, more likely, circling for a parking space in a hotel parking lot. At least the four corner disc brakes keep the "fun" in check without hesitation or complaint.

Years ago, the market decided Mitsubishi's bread-and-butter sedan couldn’t hold a spent glow stick to the Camcordima. The market is still right; the Galant deserves its place in rental car infamy. As you will someday learn.