Although Mitsubishi has suffered from a certain amount of invisibility in the U.S. market the past few years, this competent carmaker hasn't given up on America, and the new Diamante is proof. The Diamante is the flagship of this conglomerate company's automotive division, an elegant, stylish offering that delivers a sophisticated luxury look and feel at bargain prices.
Diamante was first introduced to the American car buyer in 1991. The product theme for this second generation Diamante is "Built for Living," a slogan that guided the redesign and re-engineering of the car. This means that the changes integrated into the new design were strongly influenced by feedback from owners of the preceeding generation.
Judging by the end result, which is manufactured at Mitsubishi's facilities in Adelaide, Australia, this research and development approach works very well indeed.
The engineers and product planners decided not to confuse the issue with powertrain or driveline options. They simply offer their best effort, a 3.5-liter V6 which produces 210 hp at 5000 rpm and enough low end torque to make for easy departure from a standing start. This is essentially the same V6 that propels the much heavier Montero sport-utility, and it yields smooth, respectable punch harnessed to the much lighter Diamante.
The V6 is paired with an exceptionally smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission that includes Mitsubishi's Adaptive Transmission Control Management (ATCM). What this means is that the transmission's computer controls are capable of electronically learning the driver's style and modifying the shifting strategy to gain optimal performance and fuel efficiency as well as smooth power transitions.
Lifting the hood reveals a tidy, well laid-out engine compartment--as long as it's daylight. Night inspections could be a problem, however, since there's no light under there, another small but puzzling omission. It seems even more inconsistent in contrast with the thoughtful battery housing, which is completely encased. It isn't often that a battery actually blows up, but they do sometimes ooze acid at the posts and with this approach, the engine compartment is completely protected from that caustic substance.
While the ride is soft and compliant enough to please luxury car passengers, the suspension is stout enough and responsive enough to be able to handle twisty-turny roads competently. Although the Diamante's overall dynamics are skewed in favor of comfort, the feel is firm, controlled and contemporary. And braking performance is consistent with other cars in this class.
Vision is good from the driver's seat, too--no big blind spots to hinder or annoy. And with controls and gauges well placed, the car feels comfortable and pleasureable to drive as well as responsive.
Mitsubishi wants the Diamante to make a statement on behalf of the corporation, and we'd say that the message comes through loud, clear and positive.
Diamante is handsome, nicely finished, well equipped and attractively priced. It competes with some outstanding players in the entry luxury segment--the Lexus ES 300, INFINITI I30, Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series, Mazda Millenia and new Cadillac Catera, to name just a few.
With competition like that, backed by lots of TV advertising dollars, it's easy to see why the Diamante has been something of an open secret. Visibility is expensive, and Mitsubishi's relatively small U.S. sales organization doesn't have the marketing clout of, say, General Motors or Toyota.
Nevertheless, if you're shopping in this realm, we think the Diamante merits a look-see. We also think you'll be pleasantly surprised.