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Review: 2009 Mitsubishi Galant Sport Edition

by Mark Elias

In politics, strategic planning is where a candidate trying to get the slot occupied by an incumbent candidate or party outlines a future plan that he will enact once he takes office - if he's elected. The opposite of that is tactical thinking, where a candidate of the incumbent party will only say or do enough to attract supporters of his party to insure that the party as a whole, and he in particular, will be voted into that position.

Mind you, we are not specifying any two candidates in particular, just discussing types of campaigning. Look around your communities and I am sure you'll find office seekers that fit both descriptions above.

In this election year, that seems an appropriate metaphor for the current status of Mitsubishi Motors and the 2009 Galant Sport Edition sedan we've just spent a week testing here at MG.

What is it?
A mid-sized four-door sedan, the Galant is currently the largest passenger sedan that Mitsubishi sells in North America. It feels larger than the category to which it is slotted in, and sports a refreshed grille area, which makes it appear as though it is a member of the Chrysler or Subaru families.

What's it up against?
The , and , , , , and are just a few of the players in this rather crowded field. The Galant underwent its last major redesign nearly five years ago, and many of its competitors are newly designed or refreshed. Those competitors have also stepped up their game by offering quiet interiors and additional features that, at present, the Galant can only dream of.

Any breakthroughs?
The only thing that could be considered a breakthrough on the Galant is the value pricing offered on option packages. Our car was equipped with the Sport Value Package ($1,400) with Sunroof, which in addition to the power roof opening, included a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, sport fabric for the seats, heated front seats and side mirrors, a power driver's seat, 17-inch tires mounted on alloys, a theft deterrent alarm system, a body-colored spoiler, Homelink, Automatic climate control, fog lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors and a windshield shade band. Total savings for the package is $1,100. That's quite a few features for the money - certainly living up to its "Value" moniker unlike many similarly named packages on other cars.

How does it look?
The Mitsubishi Galant's new grille looks much better than the 2008 model it replaced, which possessed that rather unfortunate bulbous nose. But that's gone and all is forgiven. Perhaps. Looking at the nose job the '09 has received has given it a respectable face. Ditto, the blacked out headlight assemblies. Even the front clip (as the fender, hood and grille assemblies, when combined, are known) looks good. It's when you go past that point, where things start to get very stale, very quickly.

From the side, a slab-like appearance takes over that needs some dressing up to get it away from the NVB rating of zero. (NVB means No Visible Bling.) The most distinctive part of the side view is the C-Pillar, which has some curves of interest in it. The appearance if the Galant, from a profile view takes on similarities to the Saturn Ion of a few years ago. (We never thought we would resort to citing a car's C-pillars as the best-looking part of the car).

And inside?
The power driver's seat and manual passenger seat in the Galant are surprisingly supportive, and upholstered nicely with fabric and an ultra-suede style material to keep you from sliding out of place during spirited driving on the way to the local shopping mall. The commodious rear seat can accommodate three passengers with good legroom for longer than average trips. Cargo capacity (13.3 cubic feet) is a little less than that found in its competitors; We are surprised the rear seat backs do not fold forward to increase the useful carrying area. The center stack houses the usual controls, which include a nice, if loud, automatic climate control system and AM/FM/CD/MP3 head unit whose readout is found in the LCD panel.

A chrome surround offsets the gear selector; it rests upon a faux grey wood trim panel on the console. The lever itself is topped by a knurled plastic knob to offer good grip, but not much in the way of style. The overall fit and finish of the interior's plastic trim is unfortunately lacking when compared to the leaders in this segment, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

But does it go?
Powered by Mitsubishi's workhorse 2.4-liter MIVEC engine, the Galant hits the road with 160-horsepower @ 5,500 rpm and 157 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. But when you step on the loud pedal, that's exactly what you get. Sure, you get motive power. But you get lots of racket to go with it! We think Mitsu could - scratch that - should pony up for a little more sound deadening material to isolate the audio sensations coming from the other side of the firewall.

The transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder is mated to Mitsubishi's Sportronic four-speed automatic with gated sport shift mode. It actually is more enjoyable to bang through the four speeds rather than let the slushbox figure it out for itself. It also assists the pulling power of the 3,432-pound sedan. Keeping the 17-inch rubber firmly in with the tarmac is the job of a pair of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in the rear. 11-inch disks at the front and 10.3 platters out back bring things to a halt when the fun is done. The Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires are not the most silent donuts available and as a result transmit a fair amount of road noise into the Galant's interior. EPA mileage estimates slot the Mitsubishi Galant into the neighborhood of 20 mpg city / 27 mpg hwy.

Mitsubishi covers the Galant and its other vehicles with a warranty program similar to that offered by its Korean competitor, Hyundai. Warranty coverage include 10 year-100,000-mile powertrain and five year, 60,000-mile bumper to bumper warranties.

It's at this point that writing a review about the Galant becomes difficult. Brought to you by the keiretsu (business group of companies) that also manufactures the Lancer Evolution GSR, it is clear that once Mitsubishi puts its mind to it, it can produce a car that is fun to drive, has a certain amount of cache, and in many ways is a car that people actually want to own. Perhaps the parent company is holding too tightly to the corporate purse strings. We feel that if you are not going to compete with the other products out there, what's the point of being in the segment at all? Some soul-searching needs to occur in the corporate towers in Japan. But before they commit any new designs to paper (or computer) it would pay for Mitsubishi to take heed of the words of famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who is known for urging to "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood"¦"

Why you would buy it:
You were a fan of the old Mitsubishi Turbo cars of the mid-1980s and you are hoping that lightning will strike twice.

Why you wouldn't:
It is a crowded segment with many worthy competitors.

2009 Mitsubishi Galant Sport Edition base price,$21,099. As tested, $23,124.
Sport Value Package, $1,400; Destination, $675.

Words and photos by Mark Elias

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