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The all-new 2004 Mitsubishi Galant is a mainstream mid-size sedan that's a viable alternative to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and other cars in this highly competitive class. That's news because Mitsubishi has previously played around the edges of the mainstream market in the U.S.
There's much to like about the new Galant. It's bigger, better and only slightly more expensive than last year's model. It's enjoyable to drive and offers all the benefits of the other cars in this class.
Mitsubishi Galant comes in four models. DE ($17,997) and ES ($18,997) are powered by a 160-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and come with a four-speed automatic transmission.
LS ($20,997) and GTS ($25,697) get a 230-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. They also come with four-speed automatics, but allow the driver to select a Sportronic model for semi-manual shifting.
Standard on all models: air conditioning; power windows, door locks and exterior mirrors; AM/FM/CD stereo; four-wheel disc brakes; carpeted floor mats; and electronic lock-out protection. DE, ES and LS come with steel wheels and 215/60R16 all-season tires.
ES and LS get upgraded, premium cloth-trimmed seating surfaces plus cruise control, titanium interior trim, upgraded audio, a driver's seat-back pocket and color-keyed exterior mirror housings. The LS also gets ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, larger front disc brakes and an audio information display.
The GTS adds front side-impact airbags; automatic climate control; choice of birdseye or metallic mesh interior trim accents; a titanium-finished center panel; leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls; eight-way power-adjustable driver seat; 270-watt stereo with six-disc CD changer and eight speakers; color dot-matrix audio display with outside temperature, calendar and compass; white-on-black gauges; color-keyed rear spoiler; special tail lamps; sporty muffler; a panic alarm button on the keyless remote; 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels with lower profile tires; and a front suspension strut tower brace.
ABS with EBD is available on the ES as a stand-alone option. ES and LS offer optional front side-impact airbags; 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; the premium stereo; leather-trimmed seats; a power driver's seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel; heated exterior mirrors; and a power sunroof. The only option on the GTS is the Cold Zone package, containing heated front seats and exterior mirrors.
The 2004 Galant is entirely new. It's substantially larger than the previous-generation model. Nearly 5 inches has been added to the wheelbase, 3 inches to the overall length, 4 inches to the width and 2 inches to the height.
The new Galant also makes a stronger styling statement. Not everyone agrees on the success of the design, but there's no disputing it's fresh and different. Head on, the Galant brings to mind the Mitsubishi Endeavor and Outlook SUVs. A dominating, vertical bar splits the grille, the outboard ends of which bend upward as if it's grinning. Sculpted headlight housings cover the forward edges of the front fenders. A strong, fully integrated, one-piece bumper and lower fascia with inset foglights complete the presentation.
The profile of the Galant avoids the traditional box-on-box look commonly associated with conservative mid-size sedans. The roofline picks up from the graceful sweep of the hood and arcs cleanly over perfectly proportioned side windows. Door handles are perfect matches of each other with easy-to-grasp, full-round pulls. Wheel arches are mildly blistered and circular, wrapping concentrically around the tires. The deck lid seems truncated, as if it were abruptly chopped off when somebody realized it was getting too long to stay in balance with the front overhang. The aerodynamicists argue this works well in a wind tunnel, by way of relaxing the air flow over the rear of the car, but on the street, it's a bit of a visual hiccup.
The view from the rear is something else, almost as if different people designed the two ends of the car. Where the front is soft and sculpted, the back is angular and carved, trending much more toward the vertical than the opposite end of the car. Adding to the awkward, not-quite-finished look, the license plate hangs off the lower edge of the rear bumper, almost as if it were an afterthought. The GTS presents a much more finished rear departure, with a nicely tailored, understated spoiler lip along the trailing edge of the trunk lid and modular-looking taillight assemblies.
The 2004 Galant offers a roomy, comfortable interior. The seats are supportive without being overly firm. The GTS seems to offer a bit more support because the leather is more supportive than the cloth upholstery. Also, the GTS offers more adjustment. A dead pedal is positioned on the same plane as the accelerator, giving the driver a place to brace the left leg when cornering or for reduced strain on long drivers.
The Galant offers more headroom than the 2004 Honda Accord does, but the Accord has more leg room. Otherwise, interior roominess is comparable to that of the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima. Taller people should think twice about ordering the sunroof, as it lowers front headroom by 2 inches. Visibility is good all around, notably to the rear quarters, thanks to decently slim C-pillars. The high beltline gives passengers a secure feeling.
Controls are right-sized and easy to use, with knobs and buttons and rocker switches galore. The HVAC (heater) knobs are big and easy to operate even with gloves on. The A/C indicator is hard to see in bright sunlight, however. At night the instruments are cobalt blue on black.
Quality of materials is hit and miss, with the climate control and audio panel a major hit, making the rest more of a miss than it'd otherwise be. The dash has a clinical look, friendly to the eyes but cold and austere in presence. Geometric shapes and angles in the steering wheel spokes don't mesh well with the slopes, arcs and arches of the gauge cluster. The interior of the DE model is quite plain. The GTS gets woodgrain trim designed to look like bird's-eye maple, but it comes off looking like plastic. The standard steering wheel doesn't feel like a high-quality piece; the Diamond Package replaces it with a nicer leather-wrapped wheel. Each door has a storage pocket. Two medium-size cup holders are molded into the front center console rearward of the shift gate; dust, dirt and spilled liquids are likely to require regular wipe-ups.
The rear seat is reasonably roomy and adequate, though the seating position is a bit low and the bottom cushions could offer a bit more thigh support. The rear seats offer decent headroom in spite of the Galant's dramatically sloping roofline.
The Galant's trunk is larger than the Accord's and the trunk lid opens wide. The trunk opening is a bit restricted, however, and the rear seats cannot be folded down to extend the cargo space.
The Mitsubishi Galant's stiffer platform, wider stance and longer wheelbase deliver on their promise of a smoother, quieter ride. Minimal noise leaks into the cabin, just a slight rumble from the tires and a discernible whistle from the exterior mirrors at highway speeds.
The more powerful V6, up 35 horsepower over last year's engine, makes freeway merging even easier yet, and passes on two-lane roads are completed without drama. The V6 is rated at 230 horsepower and, more important, 250 pounds-feet of torque; torque is that force that propels you from intersections and up hills.
The transmission shifts smoothly, although it does hunt a bit in hilly territory. The Sportronic transmission shifts automatically in normal mode, but can be shifted into a semi-manual mode for more control; it will not shift up or down automatically when in the manual mode.
Brake feel is solid and reassuring, but the couple hundred pounds of weight gain don't do anything to shorten the stopping distance.
For its size and heft, the new Galant feels decently planted on all but the most twisting roads. The GTS model's suspension feels firm. The LS suspension is softer, allowing the car to move around a little more when driven hard.
The 2004 Mitsubishi Galant is all-new and represents a viable alternative among mid-size sedans. It does everything reasonably well and is an enjoyable car to drive. Compare prices to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and other cars in its class.