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We could name a number of midsize, import-badge sedans that ride comfortably and quietly, handle responsively, and offer an optional V6 that provides ample power for passing. All feature roomy, nicely appointed cabin space, and all represent good value in the family-car market.
Mitsubishi Galant does all that, but offers sharp styling, the kind that turns heads in traffic. Not everyone will like what they see, but none of them will accuse the Galant of being a wallflower.
The current-generation Galant was launched as an all-new model for 2004, and Mitsubishi has improved and refined it every year since then.
New for 2007: The 2007 Mitsubishi Galant brings a freshened look outside, improved materials inside, and revised suspension settings designed to provide greater comfort and a more engaging driving experience. The 2007 Galant GTS gets a new five-speed automatic transmission.
Also new for 2007 is a high-performance model called the Ralliart, with more horsepower, tighter handling, and sporty styling. Ralliart is Mitsubishi's motorsports arm and has been a dominant force in the World Rally Championship, which includes the Monte Carlo and other famous events, and cross country endurance raids, such as the Paris-Dakar Rally. Mitsubishi hopes the Galant Ralliart will challenge the Acura TSX and TL, as well as the MazdaSpeed6.
The Galant Ralliart seems a long way from the Galant VR4 rally cars so successful in the early 1990s, but so what? The more we drove the 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart, the more we liked it. It struck us as a comfortable, big midsize sedan with some sports appeal. It isn't as agile as a MazdaSpeed6, but it's roomier and more comfortable. It certainly isn't as upscale or refined as an Acura, but it costs less. It's an easy car to live with that does not give up comfort or convenience for its added performance. At times, it reminded us of a Chevy Monte Carlo (yes, we know it's a two-door) and it seems nicer than a Pontiac G6. In any case, the Galant Ralliart was an enjoyable car that never annoyed us. And we're easily annoyed.
Galant has achieved across-the-board five-star ratings in the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offset-frontal and side-impact crash tests. The insurance industry's Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded Galant its highest ranking ("Good overall") in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
The Mitsubishi Galant makes a strong styling statement. Not everyone agrees on the success of the design, but there's no disputing it's different.
For 2007, the styling has softened a bit, at least when viewed from the front, thanks to a more conventional chrome-outlined grille and a softer, simpler contour for the one-piece bumper and lower fascia. We're ambivalent about the grille but like the new bumper. Sculpted headlight housings still cover the forward edges of the front fenders. The Galant looks like it's grinning.
In profile, the Galant's long, wedgy stance avoids the boring box-on-box look commonly associated with conservative midsize sedans. The roofline picks up from the graceful sweep of the hood and arcs cleanly over perfectly proportioned side windows. Door handles integrate nicely into the design while providing an easy grasp, easier than that offered by an expensive Audi A8 we just drove. Wheel arches are mildly blistered and boldly 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, but on the street, it's a bit of a visual hiccup.
For 2007, the rear bumper has been smoothed and rounded, which better integrates the front and rear of the car.
The Ralliart is distinguished by unique bumpers, which sport a flash of silver at the bottom, and by a mesh grille and projector-style, four-bulb ellipsoid headlamps. A color-keyed aerodynamics add heft to the side view, which is further enhanced by 18-inch wheels. Ralliart tail lamps have clear lenses, which are integrated into the rear spoiler.
The Galant has a roomy, comfortable interior. The seats are supportive without being overly firm. The seats in the GTS seem to offer a bit more support because of their leather upholstery and additional adjustability. A dead pedal is provided and positioned well, giving the driver a place to brace the left leg when cornering or for reduced strain on long trips.
Roominess is comparable to that of the Chevrolet Malibu and the Nissan Altima, placing Galant among the roomiest sedans in the class. Galant matches the generous front legroom in the Honda Accord. While the Accord offers nearly an inch more headroom when comparing cars without a sunroof, when sunroofs are ordered the Galant scores more than a half-inch better than the Accord.
Visibility is good all around, notably to the rear quarters, thanks to slim C-pillars. The high beltline gives passengers a secure feeling.
The Galant is easy to operate. Controls are right-sized and easy to use, with knobs and buttons and rocker switches galore. The heating and air conditioning knobs are big and easy to operate even with gloves on. The AC indicator is hard to see in bright sunlight, however. At night the instruments are cobalt blue on black, and the audio panel features ice blue LED illumination (on all but DE). Keyless entry controls are integrated into the key, eliminating the need for a separate fob.
For 2007, the Galant gets new inner door trim, a new knit-fabric headliner, and a redesigned steering wheel.
Quality of materials is decent, quite good for a Mitsubishi. The interior of the base DE model is quite plain. The ES adds bright titanium trim to the door handles, radio buttons, and the dashboard's accent panels; with a black metallic finish highlighting the center audio panel. Even so, the dash still has a clinical look, friendly to the eyes but cold and austere in presence.
Each door has a storage pocket. Two medium-size cup holders are molded into the front center console rearward of the shift gate; where dust, dirt and spilled liquids are likely to require regular wipe-ups.
Leather upholstery and color-coordinated wood accents give the GTS model a richer look. GTS offers a choice of black or Creme leather; with Creme you get Brownwood, while black-leather Galants come with Blackwood. Door armrests, door grips, the center console lid, and the seatbelts are all color-keyed as well. Perforated leather-trimmed seating surfaces come on the Ralliart, along with heated front seats and automatic climate control. We haven't tried the new navigation system, but even without it, Ralliart features a standard trip computer with a 4.9-inch color LCD screen that displays outside temperature, compass heading, maintenance scheduling and other information; as well as functioning as an interface for customizing various interior conveniences.
The Rockford Acoustic Design premium audio system (standard in Ralliart, optional in ES and GTS) features a linear eight-channel amplifier that produces 360 watts continuous at less than 0.02 percent total harmonic distortion (THD). A dedicated channel drives each loudspeaker, including a pair of silk-dome tweeters mounted on the leading edge of the dash. Digital Signal Processing provides user-selectable listening environments, including Normal, Studio, Club and Concert.
The rear seat in all Galants is roomy, though the seating position is low and the bottom cushions could offer more thigh support. Rear-seat passengers enjoy decent headroom in spite of the dramatically sloping roofline.
The trunk is slightly smaller than what's found in the Accord, and the trunk opening is a bit restricted. Galant's rear seats cannot be folded down to extend cargo space.
The Mitsubishi Galant delivers a smooth, quiet ride, thanks largely to its stiff platform, wide stance and long wheelbase. Minimal noise leaks into the cabin, just a slight rumble from the tires and a discernible whistle from the mirrors at highway speeds.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine in the popular DE and ES models develops 160 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 157 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, competitive figures for the class. It features Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control (MIVEC), which switches between two cam profiles for optimum power, response, and efficiency at high and low engine speeds. It's a sophisticated setup.
The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, although it does hunt a bit in hilly territory. In the normal mode, it shifts automatically. With the Sportronic feature, it can be switched into a semi-manual mode. It will not shift up or down automatically when in the manual mode, so the driver has full control over shifting.
The V6 in the GTS makes freeway merging easy. Passes on two-lane roads are completed without drama. The V6 is rated 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, the latter one a substantial figure; torque is that force that propels the car from intersections and up hills. Premium fuel is recommended but not required.
V6 models come with electronic traction control, which can selectively apply the brakes at one or more wheels and/or reduce engine power to control wheel spin on uncertain surfaces. It's especially useful in the rain, but even in dry weather can eliminate annoying screeches when taking off from intersections. The new five-speed automatic transmission with Sportronic also features a manual override.
For its size and heft, the Galant feels decently planted on all but the most twisting roads. But with the arrival of the Ralliart, the GTS is being repositioned as a luxury model, and has surrendered its rear anti-roll bar. That means it will handle more like the base-level DE and ES.
The Ralliart handles well and rides nice, though it shouldn't be confused with an Audi S6. The Ralliart features higher-rate springs and dampers along with a larger, 21mm rear anti-roll bar (that has disappeared from the '07 GTS). The Ralliart model's P235/45R18 all-season tires promise prodigious cornering grip and braking performance.
The Ralliart V6 uses the MIVEC variable-cam system and slightly higher compression (10.5 vs. 10.0:1) to boost its output to 258 horsepower at 5750 rpm, and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4500. It's a smooth, powerful engine. Mitsubishi says it develops 220 pound-feet of torque at just 2000 rpm, which makes for a smooth, responsive engine when riding around town, yet it's not annoyingly jumpy with an overly sensitive throttle like some performance cars. Mitsubishi claims the Galant Ralliart can sprint from 0-60 mph in about seven seconds, which is a fine performance.
Brake feel is solid and reassuring, but the Galant is not a light car. Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) come standard on all but the base model. EBD proportions braking pressure between the front and rear wheels depending on how the car is loaded, and adjusts stopping pressure dynamically as weight shifts forward under hard braking. The idea is to send the brake pressure to the wheels with the most weight on them, which is where it can do the most good. This gives the Galant stable braking performance.
The 2007 Mitsubishi Galant represents a viable alternative among mid-size sedans. It does everything reasonably well and is enjoyable to drive. Compare prices to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and other cars in its class. The new Ralliart variation offers more aggressive styling and performance yet it's a comfortable, pleasant daily driver.
NewCarTestDrive correspondent Tom Lankard reported from San Francisco, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
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