Mitsubishi Diamante offers a roomy, first-class cabin, a powerful V6 engine at a very attractive price. Driving the Diamante is a relaxing, gracious experience. Its gentle touring-style suspension blots out expansion strips and broken pavement.
Diamante's styling has an appealing modern freshness. Its aerodynamic shape produces an extremely low coefficient of drag of 0.28. The understated twin-nostril grille continues the theme of the original Diamante grille, with none of the previous generation's overstyling. A businesslike undergrille intake adds a serious demeanor. The Diamante's stance exhibits the dynamic-looking forward lunge that has been so stylish since Chrysler's cab-forward approach debuted. From stem to stern, the Diamante body contours are muscular and handsomely modeled, with the greenhouse set off by a spare, tasteful perimeter of chrome.
The interior of the Mitsubishi Diamante is an extremely handsome and functional driving environment. It includes every provision expected of a modern luxury sedan. The LS model includes lavish use of wood on the dash, console and all four doors. The styling of this trim seems a bit perfunctory and bezel-like, in our opinion, but no one could complain that Mitsubishi has held back on wood.
Diamante's instrumentation is composed of excellent analog dials, including a mechanical odometer, becoming a rarity in this digital day. Steering wheel tilt is adjustable, though the wheel does not telescope. The turn signal stalk includes a textured switch for turning on the fog lights, a control you will become accustomed to after use but one that is not at all intuitive on its first use. In addition, there is no dash light to indicate that the fog lights are on or off. The three-speed wipers' intermittent setting allows infinite adjustment, another rarity, as some luxury cars have adhered to a one-speed intermittent.
The Diamante's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system features a nice video readout in the center of the dash, indicating the settings. Temperature settings are conveniently selected with a radial knob. This unit also indicates outside temperature. A very nice system, in general, but the graphics indicating exterior air versus recirculation are visually confusing.
Elsewhere on the dash and console are controls for the Infinity premium audio with CD, as well as cupholders galore, two in front and two in the rear. Access to the center console storage compartment is achieved with a clever hinging system. The top tips opens from either side, allowing direct access for both the driver and the passenger. Front seat heaters make drive pleasant in the winter. The seats are ten-way adjustable, with intuitive analog adjusters. The Diamante is also one of the few cars in the world that has both up/down and fore/aft adjustment of the headrests.
Outward visibility in the Diamante is excellent both from the front seats and in the rear, enhancing the driving experience. Windows, mirrors and door locks are all electric, while the doors and trunk can be accessed both by remotes in the driver-side door and the key fob.
Rear seat spaciousness is at or near the largest in the Diamante's class. However, we found the seat cushions uncomfortably hard and flat, offering minimal lateral support. Perhaps in compensation for this shortcoming, however, an extra-wide, fold-down center armrest in back serves to hold rear passengers in place. Coupled with the rear's good outboard elbow rests, the center armrest acts as a lateral bolster.
The Diamante trunk is near the head of the class in volume. Furnished with a cargo net, it has 14 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Mitsubishi Diamante is not a tepid little people-hauler. Press the pedal down and this sedan rushes to life. Mitsubishi's strong V6 makes a pleasing growl during acceleration. And it provides more than enough thrust to make the drive home interesting.
The Diamante's four-valve V6 is bigger than most engines in the $30,000-sedan class, with a 3.5-liter displacement. Thanks to its large displacement, no variable valve-timing technology is needed to produce plenty of bottom-end torque. It delivers 210 horsepower and a hefty 231 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. This generous torque delivers vigorous throttle response, enough to propel the Diamante from 0 to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds. That makes the Diamante a quick sedan in this category.
Its acceleration performance is so vigorous that on wet pavement it will easily spin the front wheels. Leaving full stop in a hurry on a rainy day, you will see the little dashboard traction-control monitor light up regularly. The traction control is not overly quick to engage, which is a good thing. You have to truly slip this Mitsubishi's tires before the little light on the dashboard comes on, telling you you've activated traction control. A minutely delayed engagement of the traction control is preferable to having it constantly applying brakes on slippery surfaces when it is not needed. Overly rapid engagement of traction control can be intrusive, unnecessarily impeding your forward momentum, while simultaneously wasting fuel and brake-pad material. Some of the most prestigious luxury cars err in this manner. A switch on the dash allows the driver to turn off the traction control system when using snow chains.
Steering response is crisp and precise, thanks to the Diamante's well-calibrated power-assist rack and pinion. Isolation from road irregularities is extremely good. At highway speeds the noise level is pleasantly low, except for some wind noise at the driver's door. The LS model's high-performance 16-inch wheels and tires produce good roadholding and lateral stability. When pushed hard on back roads, however, the Diamante floats over undulating pavement and leans in hard corners. It does not offer the dynamic control of a firm European-style suspension, feeling more like an American sedan. Drivers who spend long hours on the freeway, however, will be pleased with the Diamante's suspension tuning.
Odd as it may seem, this Japanese-designed, Australian-assembled entry-luxury sedan, despite all of those offshore modifiers, is one of the most definitively American imports in the market. The Diamante's design emphasis is on occupant comfort and convenience, coupled with freeway-friendly competence.
This design emphasis dictates sumptuous luxury-car furnishings, conspicuously roomy proportions both in the passenger compartment and trunk, a vigorous powertrain, and luxury-car ride quality. This is a good car for bumpy Interstates and long commutes.
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