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Mitsubishi Diamante LS

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:            3.5-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 210hp@5000 rpm/231lb-ft@4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, 17.7 mpg test
WHEELBASE:         107.1 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    194.1 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    56.5 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     70.3 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       3385 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     19.0 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  14.2 cu. ft.
TIRES:             215/60VR16
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                   water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, cruise control, 
                   air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio 
                   with cassette and CD, fuel management 
                   computer, power sunroof, anti-lock braking, 
                   dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $36,231

Every year, the International Motor Press Association has an event at Pocono Raceway where the members of the media have the opportunity to drive a wide variety of vehicles around the track. While this may sound like a fun event--and it is--very often the individual cars get lost in a jumble of trying to drive too many cars in a short period of time. This year there were as many as 140 different cars for a similar number of press to drive.

This year, I was hopping between cars and got into the Mitsubishi Diamante. I took the car around the track and was completely surprised. Here was a car that I knew was a nice car; a luxury vehicle that is produced in Australia by Mitsubishi, one of the world's better automobile manufacturers. And I thought that here was an awesome automobile.

I jumped to the Mitsubishi Diamante from a competing Japanese full-size luxury car. And I felt the Diamante was just as quiet, had just as much power and handled better than the competition. I scheduled it for a long-range test.

The one-week run didn't change my opinions about this car in any way. The Diamante is a good full-sized automobile in the "Japanese luxury car" classification and is a sensible alternative to Lexus and Infiniti, whose prices have gone out of sight. It has leather seats, good legroom front and rear, very good performance and a price tag of just over $36,000. You can't beat that when you look at the competition.

The instrument panel is Japanese luxo car chic with brightly lighted red pointers going across white numbers on a black background. As with the competition, the pointer lights go on first, followed by the dials. The vehicle mix is the same as in any other luxo car.

I liked the display panel for the heating/cooling system that gave a graphic display of what was happening with the air in the car. It's somewhat confusing at first, but once you learn to read it, the information is all there. Sound system controls were on the steering wheel which made it easy to adjust the volume or change stations without looking away from the road (again, after you learn the positions).

Performance-wise, in the longer test the Diamante didn't appear to be as quiet as it did in the head- to-head comparison. The V-6 engine does make noise when you ask it to work, but in normal highway mode, it's relatively silent. You can get all the performance out of the four-liter V-8s in the others, so you're not hurting on the performance side. The engine drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission that has adaptive controls. This means that the gearbox learns the driving characteristics of each driver and adapts performance to that style.

Diamante was redesigned for the 1997 model year and is now more wedge-shaped and less "wet bag of sand" shaped.

Among the other goodies you get in a Diamante are wood trim on the center console; a compartment in that console that holds change and has an extra power outlet for cell phones; a pair of cupholders, with a cover, that handle most normal sized cups; and a covered ash tray and that nonsense stuff that is also covered. The glove box is a decent size and you might be able to get gloves in it.

You wouldn't expect an ultra-luxury car from Mitsubishi. The company produces a wide variety of automobiles, but primarily for its economy cars. The Galant is the first car that comes to mind when I think of Mitsubishi. Diamante puts Mitsubishi into a whole new market arena and with that car, Mitsu should compete quite well.