SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a host of high-tech Japanese sports cars invaded these shores. But technology has a down side: cost. Cars that began life and established their reputations as moderately-priced performance machines became state-of-the-art electromechanical marvels with race car performance levels and race car prices. Sales nosedived, and most such vehicles disappeared from the American automotive scene.
One of the few survivors of that era is the Mitsubishi 3000 GT. Unlike its now-extinct competition, the top-of-the-line turbocharged, all-wheel drive 3000 GT VR-4 model is balanced by a much more affordable front wheel drive base model. The basic 3000 GT may not have the incredible performance of the VR-4, but itís no slouch. It combines aggressive style, plenty of useful performance, and a price tag that, if not exactly inexpensive, is far less than that of any other large imported sports car. Maybe this is why the 3000 GT has been the most successful of the Japanese supercoupes.
The basic 3000 GT is a well-equipped grand touring car with some new features for 1997 to enhance its value. Outside, a restyled front fascia, standard 16-inch alloy wheels and low-profile performance tires, and a large rear spoiler differentiate it from earlier models. Its 3.0-liter single overhead cam V6 has plenty of power. A comprehensive list of standard interior appointments ensures driver and passenger comfort and convenience. During my week with a 3000 GT, I found the car to be quick and comfortable, with great handling abilities.
APPEARANCE: Is this what Speed Racer drives? The 3000 GT sure looks the part. Minor styling changes over the years have allowed it to not only age gracefully, but to improve its looks over the years. It has plenty of individuality and character. Legendary Japanese martial arts hero Benkei was the inspiration, and the face of the 3000 GT is purposely reminiscent of old Japanese Samurai watercolors in style. Double projector-beam headlights with a slightly-inset transparent fairing, wraparound side marker/turn signal lights, and a low, wide air intake give the front of the car a very definite, serious race face. Bulges in the hood and front fenders for the engine and front struts, respectively, add to the serious performance image, as do the large spoked alloy wheels. Anyone with doubts about the purpose of the 3000 GT need look no further than the high, blatant rear spoiler wing. This is not a commuter module.
COMFORT: Inside, it is also apparent that the 3000 GT is no commutobox. Its age shows a bit in the lack of door pockets and afterthought cupholders. So what? Mitsubishi has made an excellent driverís car, and the cockpit layout is designed with that in mind. The cloth- upholstered front sports seats are supportive and comfortable for a long dayís drive. The driverís seat is adjustable in 6 directions. All controls "fall readily to hand", as the old clich goes, and leather covering on the tilt-adjustable steering wheel and gearshift knob improves grip on those two most important controls. Instrument placement is good. Even though the seating position is low, visibility is good for a sports coupe, and hampered only by the rear wing. Standard power windows, mirrors, and doorlocks, good ventilation and air conditioning, and a very decent AM/FM/cassette sound system add civilization. The optional 10-disc CD changer mounts in the rear luggage area. There is a rear seat, and, as in most sports coupes, it is best used for extra cargo or short people and brief excursions.
SAFETY: The 1997 Mitsubishi 3000 GT has dual front air bags, and 3-point seat belts for all occupants.
ROADABILITY: The Mitsubishi 3000 GT earns its "GT" (grand touring) designation, even in base form. A rigid monocoque chassis and well- designed fully-independent suspension see to that. The ride is appropriately firm, but not uncomfortable. The wide, sticky Yokohama A022 tires stick very well indeed, and help give the car its great cornering abilities. Steering is power-assisted and has just the right amount of effort. Road feel is very good for a front-wheel drive car, and torque steer is reasonably well-managed. Four-wheel vented disc brakes ensure deceleration that matches acceleration. Low levels of wind and road noise help make the 3000 GT a distance-eating machine.
PERFORMANCE: In standard form, the 3000 GT balances value and performance. It is quick enough for sporting driving while being priced attainably. The 2-valve-per-cylinder, single overhead cam 3-liter V6 is torquey, lightly-stressed, reasonably economical, and very pleasant. The 5-speed manual transmission in my test car was appropriate for a sports car and shifted smoothly; the optional 4-speed automatic should work just fine. For those people with a need for more speed, Mitsubishi has more powerful versions, including the 218-horsepower SL and 320-horsepower VR-4
CONCLUSIONS: The Japanese muscle car lives on with the Mitsubishi 3000 GT.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 27,050 Price As Tested $ 28,195 Engine Type single overhead cam 12-valve V6 Engine Size 3.0 liters / 181 cu. in. Horsepower 161 @ 4400 Torque (lb-ft) 185 @ 4000 Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 97.2 in. / 180.3 in. Curb Weight 3131 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.5 Fuel Capacity 19.8 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium Tires P225/55 VR16 Yokohama A022A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multi-link Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19/25/21 0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec ľ mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.33 OPTIONS ON TEST CAR 10-disc CD changer $ 675 Destination Charge $ 470