I'd like to thank Sidney BC's town council for building a section of track where I can put my About Cars vehicles through their paces. Okay, the council didn't create this for me... the "track" is actually a brand new roundabout where two roads that ring Victoria International Airport meet. It's a medium-radius circle with four intersections and like all roundabouts traffic within has the right of way. If none exists it's all mine. Which is what happened as I approached in the Mitsubishi Galant, offering a perfect opportunity to discover whether this handsome machine is a genuine sports sedan or just another pretender.
With no other vehicles in sight I got in hard and fast, taking advantage of the "soft" curbs that rise in a gentle curve, thus allowing me to put two wheels up and over as if I were driving in a Formula One race. Heck, it was so much fun I was tempted to go around twice and probably would have if a startled female pedestrian had not been watching. She was in no danger but looked as though she might die of shock. The Galant, however, held its line and never once got out of shape. Yet it's not a sports sedan, just a nice family car that happens to handle well. Which, I suppose, is all most families need.
In the Driver's Seat
Tall people and older folk worry about ease of access. So when I wasn't zipping through roundabouts you'd have found me clambering in and out like a video in fast forward/reverse. I did this several times without ruffling my conspicuously grey hair and discovered that legroom in the rear is exceptionally generous. The view to front and sides was pleasing, too, but don't look for frills; they're reserved for front seat occupants.
I welcomed large knobs and switches that soon became inutitive. One exception was a temperature knob where the stop position is a notch beyond "off," making it easy to be struck by a blast of cold air. And while the dashboard is functionally attractive those faux-titanium bands framing the console reflect in the windshield, causing unwanted distractions. I was tempted to cover them with black tape had a rare burst of common sense not overcome a sense of aesthetics.
However a friend was most perturbed when I insisted he power-assist his seat forward. To my surprise, after moving around to check the passenger's seat from his side, no such power device existed. Hard to understand in an otherwise leather-lined, heated-seat, moonroof interior. A penny saved is not always a dollar earned, Mitsubishi.
On the Road
Great engines speak with sounds that suggest flat-out acceleration or dependable long-distance cruising at Autobahn speeds. The Galant's V-6 is more like a long-lost aunt who can't stop talking. A pleasant V-6 gurgle but one that's always there, further muddling perceptions of the Galant's desired image. What does help avoid this confusion is the engine's immediate response when performance is demanded; not the quickest in class it is nevertheless capable, as I learned, of hurtling the sedan forward with three big guys (plus Jessie, big dog) on board. If only the Galant had one more gear it might fit into that elusive sports sedan category.
The Galant's 4-speed "adaptive shift control" includes a self-shifter. Unfortunately it's too easy to slide the lever into manual when merely searching for Drive. I tried the shifter several times, even hitting the rev-limiter in 1st (confessions of an automobile journalist, v.3). But to be honest, Mitsubishi's automatic thinks for itself so well, even holding a lower gear on a downhill slope, that shifting manually is pointless except on a twisting mountain road. Steering response is good but not crisp, perhaps a concession to the family driver who'll most often be at the wheel.
The Galant left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand I'd developed an affection for its comfort, driving dynamics and nicely-chiseled shape and was reluctant to say goodbye. On the other, I never quite knew how to compare it with the Camry, Sonata, Accord, Fusion and others in this class. The handling was similar to the Mazda6 but not quite as crisp. Interior spaciousness was a match for the roomy Sonata. Quality seemed equal to Camry and Accord... and Mitsubishi backs this with the "world's best warranty." Yet where, exactly, does the Galant fit in the mix?
For starters, how about "a bit of everything?" Maybe that's what Mitsubishi had in mind; a sedan that crosses all borders as it claims to offer all things to all people. Not bad except that I'm a believer in advertising's Unique Selling Proposition where the product claims to be unique in at least one area and the ads hammer the proposition until everyone believes it. So what's the Galant's USP? Try "Live with me long enough and you'll marry me." No, I'm not suggesting that as a headline. Perhaps "One Drive is Not Enough" might work if followed by copy that claimed "the more you drive a Galant, the more you'll love it." Which neatly sums up my own impressions.