New Car/Review

1998 MITSUBISHI 3000GT VR-4

by Matt/Bob Hagin

mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 46,230
Price As Tested                                    $ 47,375
Engine Type    Twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 181 cid/2972 cc
Horsepower                                   320 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               315 @ 2500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   97.2"/72.4"/180.3"
Transmission                               Six-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3752 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.8 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     245/40R18Z
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                Six percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/24/20
0-60 MPH                                          6 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     14.5 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top speed                                           150 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin notes that when Mitsubishis first showed up on our shores they were disposable econoboxes featuring low price and high fuel economy. His son Matt tells him that things have changed at Mitsubishi.)

BOB - When the first Mitsubishis showed up here in 1971, Matt, they came in the form of low-priced coupes and sedans that were best known as entry-level basic transportation. High-tech performance wasn't in the equation. In fact, they didn't even carry the Mitsubishi logo back then. They were brought in and labeled as Dodges Colts to give that company fuel-stingy cars to sell during the fuel crunches of the '70s.

MATT - The new 3000 GT is technically about as far from its ancient Mitsubishi ancestors as it can get, Dad, especially the VR-4 version we're reviewing this week. It's as meek and mild as a Samurai warrior in full regalia and as anemic as a Sumo wrestler. Last year it lost its pop-up headlights to a set of projector-beam exposed head lamps that give the car an even more aggressive posture. It has a spoiler on its tail that's high enough to use as a clothes line, and its 18-inch chrome-plated wheels make it look like its poised to make a drag strip launch even when its standing still. Over the past couple of years, sports cars have become a dying breed, but Mitsubishi has hung in there with its performance coupes. And with the upcomimg departure of the other Japanese muscle cars, the field is narrowing even more.

BOB - As it was in '97, the 3000 GT comes in three different degrees of mechanical sophistication and trim, although they all look pretty much alike. We tried the "entry-level" model last year which has a basic 161-horse 3.0 liter V6, iron-block engine with a single overhead camshaft system. Then the SL version sports twin-cam heads, four valves per cylinder, a single turbocharger and a power output of 218. Like the basic model, it's front-wheel drive only, but the steroid member of the 3000 GT triplets is the all-wheel drive VR-4. The engine in this mini-monster is also a 3.0 liter V6 but it has a pair of small dimension turbochargers that have their own intercoolers. Being small, they "spool" or spin to speed quickly to produce virtually no turbo lag and then the engine puts a phenomenal 320 horsepower through the Getrag 6-speed manual transmission. That many ponies would make the front-drive system of the other versions tricky to drive, but the VR-4 uses full-time all-wheel-drive by way of a sophisticated torque splitter at the transmission. When the road surface is normal or perfectly dry, the drive split shifts a bit to the rear. This gives a conventional rear-drive sensation in this mode. But when any of its 18-inch wheels starts to lose traction, the system proportionally applies torque to the wheels that have the best grip. The rear differential also has limited-slip spool in case it's needed.

MATT - There's no conventional traction-control system on the VR-4 and I guess Mitsubishi engineers feel that enthusiasts who buy the car are the types who don't need mechanical assistance to stay out of trouble. The VR-4 has one unique feature in that the rear wheels are automatically "steered" over 30 MPH. The amount of change is minuscule, though it gives a very positive effect on the road "feel" - but it's virtually unnoticeable when you're driving the car. In typical grand touring fashion, all the 3000 GT cars are a snug fit inside and the back passenger's seat is better off reserved for golf bags or weekend luggage. The sun roof doesn't get in the way of headroom either, since it's the pop-up type. The VR-4 has almost all the comfort amenables known to the automotive world, and the only optional accessory available on the VR-4 version is a rear-mounted 10-disc CD changer.

BOB - It really is a tight fit inside, Matt, but the adjustable steering wheel is a plus for us over-the-hill drivers who have trouble going through the gyrations necessary to climb aboard. I'd like to have spent more time behind the wheel, but it seemed that you and your brother Tom always had something planned when I was ready for a ride.

MATT - To tell you the truth, Dad, Mom knows about your "need for speed," so she asked us to use it as much as possible.

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