New Car/Review

1999 MITSUBISHI DIAMANTE

By Tom Hagin

Mitsubishi Full Line factory footage (11:59) 28.8, 56k, or 200k
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,199
Price As Tested                                    $ 32,330
Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 213 cid/3497 cc
Horsepower                                   210 @ 5000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               231 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.1"/70.3"/194.1"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3457 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                              215/60R16 V-rated
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.28

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/24/20
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                       17.0 seconds 84.5 mph
Top speed                                           130 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The new Mitsubishi Diamante competes in the crowded near-luxury segment of the auto market. The original model, sold from 1991-96, was Japanese-built and rode on a version of the 3000GT sports car chassis.

The new model, introduced in 1997, was offered in two trim levels, but now there is only one version that replaces both, and it's ultra-luxurious.

OUTSIDE - Diamante underwent a redesign two years ago which brought a new styling treatment, a more substantial look and a change of continents (Australia) where it is built. And although it rides on the same 107.1-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, the similarities between the two cars end there. The body shell is almost four inches longer and the new exterior design uses crisp angles and sharp creases, unlike the current trend of "round is better." It does, however, follow the latest trend of "stiffer is better," and now boasts of more structural rigidity. It's also 300 pounds lighter, thanks to an increased use of aluminum. Aerodynamics have played a big role in the new shape, with its sculpted, V-shaped nose, sharply raked windshield and arched deck lid all playing a role in an ultra-slippery 0.28 coefficient of drag.

INSIDE - Inside Diamante there is 7.4 cubic feet of additional interior space. The standard upholstery is a durable cloth, while leather seating comes as part of a package. The bucket front seats are firm and supportive, with plenty of overstuffed bolstering, and the driver's seat is manually adjustable 10 ways. Power front seats are also part of an options package. The extra interior space also means more room in the back seat, and a true five-passenger seating capacity. The dashboard is filled with useful instrumentation, and the audio/climate controls are easy to use with rocker buttons and rotary knobs for controls. And since the standard features list is lengthy, we'll list the major items first: automatic climate control, AM/FM/cassette stereo, variable speed intermittent wipers, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, rear window defroster and rear rear seat heater ducts.

ON THE ROAD - The new Diamante is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine with single overhead camshafts and 24 valves. This engine is shared in form with the company's Montero SUV, but is tuned to produce different power and torque curves. Its 210 horsepower is more than enough to compete in its class, and its 231 lb-ft of torque gives it very good passing power and off-line launch. It is fitted with the latest in technology that includes electronically-controlled multi-point fuel injection, distributor-less, three-coil ignition, and a rugged four-bolt main bearing engine block. Mated to this is a four-speed automatic transmission with the ability to "learn" the driving patterns of the driver. Unlike other gearboxes that use a specific set of "maps" representing a wide range of patterns, Diamante's automatic operates on a continuum, making decisions based on driver habits. And new this year is an optional traction control, which limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - A luxury cruiser such as Diamante should have a luxury ride, and it does. Isolation from road imperfections seems to be its mission, so the ride is soft and quiet. The Diamante is so quiet that the only noise we heard came from wind rushing around its big, angular outside mirrors. It uses MacPherson strut-type front suspension and a multi-link rear layout, with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Coil springs and an anti-roll bar are fitted front and rear, and our tester's optional 16-inch V-rated tires are much grippier than the standard 15-inch rubber. It uses four-wheel disc brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system, (ABS) and its handling is about on a par with others in its class, though we detected a bit of body roll and front end dive under hard cornering and severe stopping, respectively.

SAFETY - ABS, dual dashboard airbags and side-impact door beams are standard, while traction control is optional.

OPTIONS - Platinum Package: $3,751; chrome wheels: $840.

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