Category Archives: Mitsubishi

2004 Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X (495)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2004 Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X 4-door sedan. It is perky light on its feet and comfortable. It is also practical in large part because it is built by a Japanese company. Not only are Japanese cars generally better on fuel they are cheaper to operate overall.

They are also more likely to cost more to purchase new or used. That’s the bad news and the good news. Bad that you must pay a premium when you buy one but good news when it comes time to sell.

Wayne (a Chinese friend of mine) asked me to review his auto situation. Seems his wife and son are pushing him to buy a BMW sedan or X5. My first response was why? So we reviewed hi present combo of cars. Two 1990 vehicles – a Toyota Corolla and a Mitsubishi Montero. Annual cost of theCorolla figures to be about $500 per year, after selling it for $3,000 (seems Corolla is in high demand in the Chinese community especially so since it has low mileage (under 8,000 miles a year). Great car, great service. Wayne intends to keep the Montero because it’s in great shape with even less mileage than the Corolla. The big question is should he buy the BMW.

No! My response is based on the fact that I know economy is important to Wayne. Unlike his wife and son who are into impressing others, Wayne is not. How about the cost to purchase and operate the BMW? Surely it would cost three times the cost of the Corolla to buy and depreciation would consume about $3,000 per year by comparison.

I know my kids don’t read my column because they just bought an Acura TL for a lot of money. Ithasn’t got the kitchen sink, nor does it have keyless operation, but it has everything else. Now if they had taken my advice they would have considered this Diamante for about $10,000 less. But who’s kids listen to them anyway? There’s an old saying that … you can tell your Kids, but you can’t tell them much.

General Info:

Parts – Japan 54%, Australia 42%.

Assembly – Adelaide, Australia

Class:  – Mid-Size

Cars: – Diamante, Eclipse, Endeavor, Galant, Lancer, Montero and Outlander.

Handling & Performance:

I must say it is a little too light on its feet for my taste. I got a slightly uncomfortable feeling from its loosey-goosey steering.

Styling:

The picture at first blush could be any one of many more expensive cars, like a BMW.

Fit and Finish:

It is clearly Very good, and up to typical Japanese standards.

Conveniences:

This car is Properly equipped for the price level.

Cost:

Ok. Not fantastic, but ok. The Olds Alero is super competitive, but they are, were, promised to, throw in the towel, take the tent down and stop selling Oldsmobiles. Perhaps that’s why they are so well priced.

Consumer Recommendation:

Well, I like Japanese cars but they have some serious competition here. I would look hard at the Olds Alero that is very worth your consideration.

The Competition:

Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X $25-28,000, Pontiac Grand Prix $22-26,000, Nissan Maxima $27-29,000, Mercedes Benz C Class $26-51,000, Lincoln LS $32-43,000, Cadillac CTS $31-49,000, Oldsmobile Alero $18-23,000, Audi A4 $26-44,000, Toyota Camry $18-25,000, BMW 3 Series $28-44,000, Subaru Legacy $20-25,000, Infiniti G35 $28-32,000, Lexus ES 330 $31,725, Jaguar X-Type $29-34,000.

Good News:

Decent fuel performance, smooth ride, roomy, nice styling and surely similar to most of the high demand lines of more expensive competitors.

Bad News:

Some will surely not like the loose feeling of the steering.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 210 hp engine, 4-speed auto trans, dual front airbags, child rear door locks and tether anchors, anti theft engine immobilizer, traction control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, climate control, infinity audio system with CD player, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote trunk and fuel door releases, 8-way power driver seat, power passenger seat, cloth seating, leather wrap steering wheel, fog lights, auto headlights and power sunroof.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $26,819.

2003 Mitsubishi Montero 20th Anniversary (457)

Overview:

Ok, I’ve taken all I can and I can’t take no more. This week I drove the 2003 Mitsubishi Montero 20th Anniversary edition and that’s the last SUV for a couple of months. I do a lot of SUV reviews because they are so much in demand. But you know what? When I want to go camping or other outing I like having this class vehicle.

Ok, so it’s a crew cab truck with a camper shell on the back. But that’s what makes it so damn attractive to so many. Now if they could only put a fuel efficient, clean burning diesel engine in it so we could all afford to actually go on those outings and feed more than the gas tank.

I like to stay objective, so I don’t dwell on what I’d buy if it were the only car I could own. But at the end of the day we all do a better job selecting the car that suits us than what man or woman would be best. Funny thing is… they’re both emotional decisions. Or do you check your future mate for strong muscles, good teeth, broad shoulders to carry larger loads, or broad hips for ease of child bearing, etc.?

General Info:

Parts – 99% Japan, 1% US / Canadian.

Assembly – Minokamo, Japan

Class:  – Special Purpose SUV Midsize

Cars: – Diamante, Eclipse, Endeavor, Galant, Lancer, Montero, Montero Sport, and Outlander.

Handling & Performance:

Unquestionably a comfortable ride comparable to the best. It felt a little bulky to me, but others characterize that feeling as big or solid. Big, solid or bulky, when you leave the gas pumps you’ll complain as I do about the massive amounts of gas required to feed these monster SUV’s.

Styling:

A departure from the conventional or is it rather odd looking; what do you think?

Fit and Finish:

Lose. Wide gaps. Have we finally westernized at least one Japanese car manufacturer with looser tolerances? The Germans are next. Reminds me of the classic difference between weapons produced by the Germans and the Americans in WWII. The US Army 45 Cal. Pistol would fire just fine after retrieving it from the mud, while the German Lugar would fail to fire if a speck of dirt was present.

Conveniences:

Well equipped but there is no free lunch folks. See you at the cash register. The third row seats neatly tuck away in the floor but access is rather limited. The best approach is through the rear door for people with short legs.

Cost:

Obviously at the top of the price range for this class of vehicle. Mitsubishi is reaching for the Luxury class but they haven’t yet developed the image. But I guess you have to start somewhere to set yourself apart from other competitors.

Consumer Recommendation:

Start complaining about poor mileage. It’s about time we raised a unified voice that we’re madder than hell and won’t take this any more. We know they can do better with performance but we haven’t put enough pressure on them. The revolt of the 1960’s made a statement and we ushered in the Japanese with their “basic”, “fuel efficient” cars to smack American carmakers in the chops. We did get better domestic cars, but not to be outwitted, American business sense rose to the occasion and beat back the revolution by buying foreign carmakers. Damn, I hate when that happens.

The Competition:

Mitsubishi Montero $32-38,000, BMW X5 $40-67,000, Dodge Durango $27-39,000, Ford Explorer $26-37,000, GMC Envoy $29-38,000, Isuzu Trooper $28-37,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $27-39,000, Land Rover Discovery $34-40,000, Mercedes Benz M-Class $37-66,000, Nissan Pathfinder $27-34,000, Oldsmobile Bravada $34-36,000, Toyota Land Cruiser $54,000.

Good News:

Plush comfort, tuck away third row seats, lively acceleration.

Bad News:

Poor fuel economy, pricey for a Mitsubishi, Consumer Reports Bashing (poor safety test results a few years back) – that could affect resale.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter 215 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, leather, dual front and side air bags, child safety locks, anti theft immobilizer, traction control, 4-wheel drive, power abs disc brakes, power steering, air conditioning, infinity audio with 6 disc in-dash CD, power windows/locks and mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, stowable 3rd row seats, power driver seat, heated front seats, 16 inch alloy wheels with all season tires, power sunroof.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $38,397.

2002 Mitsubishi Diamante Sedan (386)

Overview:

This week’s Mitsubishi is the Diamante LS 4-door Sedan that is totally impressive. If anything is wrong with buying this sedan is that it lacks the prestigious nameplate of BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and the like. But it is every bit as good in my opinion.

And when you price compare, you’ll agree this is worth a test drive along with all those other snooty names.

Handling & Performance:

Wonderful. Front wheel drive and traction control helps driver to stay out of trouble in the turns.

Styling:

Beautifully designed that includes a sleek body that translates to a .28 coefficient of drag.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Conveniences:

Loaded for bear.

Cost:

Best of the bunch. It is very well priced. I can only speculate that Mitsubishi prices its SUV as high or higher than the competition because it is such a popular vehicle class. While they have aggressively priced this Diamante, I don’t think they thought it would be as appealing as I think it will be. Perhaps the cheaper assembly labor in Australia accounts for the lower price.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are in the market for a Sedan I suggest you run, don’t walk to the nearest Mitsubishi dealer and test drive this car. Very impressive and with the pricing you can’t go wrong.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

Don’t read my comments to the consumer.

The Competition:

Acura TL $29-33,000, Audi A4 $25-33,000, BMW 3-Series $27-42,000, Chrysler 300M $28-32,000, Infiniti I 30 $30-32,000, Lexus ES 300 $31,505, Lincoln LS $33-41,000, Mazda Millenia $28-32,000, Saab 9-3 $28-45,000.

Good News:

Extremely well priced, great styling, solid, comfortable family sedan.

Bad News:

Resale is bound to be lower than more prestigious nameplates, but that is good news for used car buyers, eh.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 205 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, dual front airbags, child safety locks, anti-theft engine immobilizer, power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, climate control air conditioning, stereo with CD player, steering wheel audio controls, power windows/locks and mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power driver’s seat, leather, leather steering wheel, wood grain trim, auto headlights, power glass sunroof.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,447.

2002 Mitsubishi Montero Limited 4X4 (385)

Overview:

This week’s Mitsubishi Montero Limited 4-wheel drive took me home from Los Angeles International Airport on my return from Portland where I tested the VW New Beetle. I felt I was “stylin” when I stepped into this familiar SUV. It made the ride through downtown Los Angeles almost bearable.

From the Pacific Northwest to the pits of LA, is a culture shock. But I’ve lived in the LA area since, oh my God, has it been that long? Thinking back, they still had dirt roads in the Pasadena area where I grew up.

Anyway, I guess the reason we justify spending so much money on cars is that we have to spend so much time in them. In this case, for the comfort and driving pleasure of this Montero you are going to pay dearly.

General Info:

Parts – 99% Japan, 1% US/Canada

Assembly – Minokamo, Japan

Class: Special Purpose / SUV

Mitsubishi Cars: Diamante, Eclipse, Galant, Lancer, Mirage, Montero

Handling & Performance:

Solid ride and confident handling. This is one hunk of metal that is worth its salt but at a price that may gag you. Lots of power and at the top of its class. And you can bet you’ll pay for that power at the pumps. The gas stats are abysmal and perhaps my biggest pet peeve, if you hadn’t noticed.

Styling:

Bulky look and very pretty. This surely has the look and feel of a top of the line SUV.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent. Mitsubishi has come a long way over the years in spite of the bad news of scary roll over test results.

Conveniences:

This is loaded with a lot of gadgets and goodies that we have come to appreciate to the point of being necessities in today’s world. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here that with the advent of a glut of high tech electronics priced so well it is foolish for manufacturers to leave anything to options. The cost of labor is just too high to have to have variations on the same theme.

Cost:

Too much. All the gadgets can’t justify the price. And yes, I agree, all the others in this class are pricey too. And it isn’t the fault of the manufacturer. How can they be blamed for our love of SUV’s? And if you add climate control, rear air and heater and power passenger seat you’ll add $1,200 to the MSRP below.

Consumer Recommendation:

Buy an SUV if you must, but unless you need 4-wheel drive don’t, I repeat, don’t buy it with 4-WD. In most conditions for normal driving you will never need it. Yes, if you’re in the out back, on a farm or very rural areas of the world you may need it often. Consider where you live and be realistic. You’ll save weight, maintenance problems and gas consumption.

Alternate to the SUV for most applications is a Mini Van. They do the same thing but no off road capability. Like you’re going to need to get off road! Not likely, unless you’re on e of the 5% who do.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

Getting to the moon was tough; getting better gas performance out of an SUV appears to be impossible. There must be a way I keep telling myself. Carmakers should be able to figure this out. And come on guys; include all those electronics at a fraction of the price you charge. They simply don’t cost all that much.

The Competition:

BMW X5 $39-66,000, Dodge Durango $25-37,000, Ford Explorer $21-35,000 GMC Envoy $29-34,000, Isuzu Trooper $28-37,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25-37,000, Land Rover Discovery $33-37,000, Mercedes Benz M-Class $36-66,000, Nissan Pathfinder $27-31,000, Oldsmobile Bravada $32-35,000, Toyota Land Cruiser $52,595.

Good News:

Great warranty, comfortable, nice styling.

Bad News:

Very pricey and terrible gas mileage.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 200 horsepower engine, 5-speed auto trans with over drive, dual front and side airbags, child safety locks, anti-theft engine immobilizer, active trac 4-wheel drive, Ltd slip differential, power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, power windows/locks and mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, 2nd row 60/40 split fold down seats, 3rd row stowable seat, power driver’s seat, leather, wood and leather steering wheel, heated front seats/mirrors, wood grain interior trim, 16” alloy wheels, power glass sunroof, roof rails, spare tire locking cover.

Gas Stats:

14 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $35,797.

2002 Mitsubishi Lancer 4-door Sedan LS (381)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer 4-door Sedan LS, and I have to tell you this is a sweet little car. It’s considered a compact but a bigger feel even though only 4 inches longer than the Mirage, which it will likely replace.

Since I drive so many cars I go mostly from overall first impression feel just as you would do when you test-drive a car. As you can imagine most cars today have all the same high technology knowledge and components are relatively inexpensive. Therefore, when you buy a car, demand it has all the bells and whistles because manufacturers are smarter to give them all and not have options. This is getting more common but still not the absolute norm.

General Info:

Parts – 97% Japan

Assembly – Kurashiki, Japan

Class: Compact

Mitsubishi Cars: Diamante, Eclipse, Galant, Lancer, Mirage, Montero and Montero Sport.

 

Handling & Performance:

I slipped right into this car and hit the road running. All controls are smooth albeit the steering is a little light. You’re not going to enter any road races, but you can drive to any of them comfortably and economically. If you like the car and want more power, Mitsubishi is considering a special version in 2003 with a 230 horsepower 4-cylinder engine built for World Rally Championship competition. Let me know and I’ll get a message to the company.

Styling:

Cookie cutter, not so exciting, won’t turn heads, but who cares? This is a nice small sedan for us real people. The interior is stand out in design in this price range car.

Fit and Finish:

Usual and expected. No rattles, feels tight. I hate when there are little squeaks.

Conveniences:

Very good for the dough. Mirrors fold for those tight parking spaces.

Cost:

Good for all the standard features. Donald Trump will want to know about this economical car to drive to his private jet.

Consumer Recommendation:

Test drive and demand all the bells and whistles for what you’d expect to pay for a stripped down model. Why, because we’re the consumer and we have the power to change what we’re offered by all consumer product makers.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

1. Put knobs back on the radios and make them large enough for anyone to see. 2. Thanks to Mitsubishi for including all the features for an affordable price. 3. Generally, keep high tech to a reasonable level. Example: if you have to press buttons in five sequential steps just to find out what time it is, put a $5.00 clock in the dash, dah!

The Competition:

Chevrolet Prizm $14-16,000, Dodge Neon $12-16,000, Ford Focus $12-18,000, Honda Civic $13-17,000, Hyundai Elantra $12-14,000, Kia Sephia $11-12,000, Mazda Protégé $13-16,000, Nissan Sentra $12-17,000, Saturn SL $11-13,000, Subaru Impreza $19-24,000, Suzuki Esteem $13-14,000, Toyota Corolla $13,000, VW Golf $15-18,000.

Good News:

Comfortable and quiet, good gas stats, Japanese quality.

Bad News:

Cookie cutter plain wrap styling. Standard equipment doesn’t include anti-lock braking or side air bags and they are not even optional on other models, I know Japan didn’t put a man on the moon, but you’d think they could figure out how to have the rear windows roll down all the way.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder 120 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, power front disc rear drum brakes, dual front airbags, child safety locks and latch system, power steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering, 8-way adjustable driver seat.

Gas Stats:

24 City and 30 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $15,897.

2002 Mitsubishi Galant GTZ (379)

Overview:

This week I drove the Mitsubishi Galant GTZ 4-door sedan and it goes on my top ten list of cars I’d want to see my kids buy. But then kids don’t listen to parents all that much. Actually that’s not totally true. I was pleasantly surprised that daughter Jen decided to look at practical and affordable cars after our little heart to heart.

Now I just can’t wait to see if she buys that glitzy waste of money anyway.

Surely this is a quality option to the better-known cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Overall it is in my top 10 pick for sedans this year.

Huge conglomerate: Today, Mitsubishi companies are Japan’s industry leaders in several sectors, including marine transport, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, nuclear power engineering, waste treatment plants, satellites, defense contracting, glass, petrochemicals, oil products, beer, property and casualty insurance, and warehousing, among others. They are international and although the engine and trans are made in Japan, this Galant is built in Normal, Illinois, right here in the good old US of A.

Handling & Performance:

Very good.

Styling:

Common place but consistent with its cookie-cutter rivals.

Fit and Finish:

Very nice.

Conveniences:

As good as the rest.

Cost:

Good in the field of plenty.

Recommendation:

Well, take a good look at the competition. As I do here’s what I see. Oldsmobile has been discontinued, Pontiac is about to throw in the towel. Then when you consider newcomers to our auto market like Hyundai, the field narrows quickly.

So, knock out competitors as follows. On Price: Concorde, Impala, Intrepid, Maxima, Intrigue and Passat. And when you eliminate new to the market cars like Hyundai Sonata you end up with Galant, Taurus, Accord, Mazda 626, Legacy and Camry.

You will want to look at them all, but I like the Camry, Galant, and Legacy. I have tested the 2002 Camry and Galant and the 2001 Legacy and feel comfortable including it here based on track record. This is my order of preference.

The Competition:

Mitsubishi Galant $18-24,000, Chevrolet Impala $24-35,000, Chrysler Concorde $23-28,000, Dodge Intrepid $21-26,400, Ford Taurus $19-23,000, Honda Accord $15-25,000, Hyundai Sonata $15-18,000, Mazda 626 $19-23,000, Nissan Maxima $25-27,000, Oldsmobile Intrigue $23-28,000, Pontiac Grand Prix $21-26,000, Subaru Legacy $19-25,000, Toyota Camry $19-25,000, Volkswagen Passat $22-29,000.

Good News:

Priced and equipped well, it stands out as a quality competitor, you may be able to deal more than you can with the sales leaders and get just as good a car.

Bad News:

It lacks the good name Toyota has earned over the years.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter 195 horsepower V6 engine with 4-speed auto trans, dual front and side air bags, child safety locks, anti-theft immobilizer, anti-lock disc brake system, power steering, traction control, air conditioning, Infinity stereo with CD player, power locks, mirrors and windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control, adjustable steering column, lighted vanity mirrors and map lights, 8-way drivers power seat, leather trim, heater mirrors, fog lights and power glass sunroof.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,712.

2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder Convertible (352)

Overview:

This week we’re visiting friends in the 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder Convertible. If you read my reviews often you know that I have a love for speed. Just ask anyone who drives with me.Fortunately each year I get to drive all new cars on a racetrack, so I don’t feel the need to do it on the highways. I try to drive according to the posted speed laws, just like you. Right?

Handling & Performance:

The high-line GT model has a 200-horsepower V6, and that’s the one I tested, with the manual trans. You’ll have to pay an extra $1,000 if you want an automatic. The GT has a stiffer suspension than other models and bigger tires for better handling.

If fuel economy is a consideration for you, the 4-cylinder model with the manual transmission provides a few more miles per gallon at 22 city and 30 highway.

Stopping distances are good in this GT because of 4-wheel disc brakes necessary for performance driving and more demanding braking conditions.

Styling:

They have provided adequate room for two 6-footers, but don’t try to put them in the rear seat. The doors are long and make it awkward to get in and out, especially in tight parking areas. Front seats are comfortable and supportive in the curves.

The trunk spoiler looks cool, but it blocks your rear view with the top up, because the back window is small. But the rear window is glass and I’d rather have it small and glass than large and plastic.

Fit and Finish:

Typical Japanese quality in this area of construction. I’m rarely disappointed in how well them put things together. They’ve learned well from their conquering hero’s, eh.

Conveniences:

You get what you pay for, and this Eclipse is competitive in what they give you.

Cost:

Not bad, unless you opt for the premium package that includes ABS brakes, upgraded Stereo with cassette and 4 disc in-dash CD changer, leather seats, power drivers seat and side air bags where you’ll add $2,370.

Recommendation:

If a sports car fits your need at this time in your life, this is the best of the bunch, in my humble opinion. Plus, it has unique styling that stands out from the crowd in this price range. I’d be interested in your opinion if you test-drive some of the competition.

The Competition:

Acura Integra $19,400-24,450, Audi TT $31,200-38,900, BMW Z3 $31,300-37,900, Chevrolet Camaro $17,305-28,980, Ford Mustang $17,095-32,605, Honda Prelude $23,600-26,100, Mazda MX-5 Miata $21,180-25,715, Mercury Cougar $16,700-22,050, Toyota Celica $16,985-21,455.

Good News:

Fast V6, state of art soft top, great ride and solid feel, handles like a sports car should, distinctive styling

Bad News:

Small trunk and opening, small rear seat.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter V6 engine, 5-speed manual trans, dual airbags, anti theft, power rack and pinion steering, 4-wheel sport tuned independent steering, power ventilated disc brakes, power soft top, air conditioning, power windows, locks and side mirrors, Infinity stereo with CD player, 10-way adjustable driver seat, adjusting steering column, keyless entry, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, power antenna.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $25,407

2001 Mitsubishi Montero Ltd 4-WD (346)

Overview:

This week’s car is the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited 4-door, 4-wheel drive luxury sport utility. Special and pretty it is, but amongst all the competition it won’t lose the stigma of being a gas-guzzler.

I’ve always been down on this breed of cat mostly because it represents the arrogance of carmakers to think we should believe better gas performance is not attainable from these versatile vehicles. High demand for this type car places no “demands” on the carmakers to do better in economy. After all, if you can afford the purchase price, who’s worried about gas consumption – right?

I have to tell Detroit and Japan, et al, that it ain’t so. I believe we’ll find consumers will make a mad dash in an Exodus to the promised land of real economy cars.   In all fairness, however, carmakers are held hostage, just like us car buyers, by the irrational pricing history of gas. The stinky substance was plentiful while commuting was taking shape in this country, but as soon as they got you “hooked” on non-public transportation and forced the removal of mass transit rail systems, they artificially raised the prices for greater profit. Sound a bit like drug dealers? It is clearly a scam. Give me your thoughts and I’ll get them on my website. We can talk about the mid 1970’s when heavily laden tankers lay offshore while fistfights waged at the pumps. A good expose should be fun, eh?

Meanwhile, back to the Montero. It’s new, comfy, spicy, fast, exciting, unique in styling and has a huge sunroof. At the end of the day I got a good feeling about this car.

Handling & Performance:

It gives you that solid feeling. The automatic trans includes a “Tiptronic” type shifting capability, but I see it as nearly useless. If you had to pay extra for it, you’d likely say forget it.

Consumer Reports asserts … “this vehicle is unsafe in that it is especially prone to tipping on two wheels, making it unacceptable for buyers”. Mitsubishi says BS or at least they had to be thinking it when Pierre Gagnon, president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc. said, “We have searched our records and found no reported incidents or complaints of rollover crashes in this vehicle — not one,” Well, I agree with Pierre since I have driven all the competition and none feel any better in the area of stability. Lets face it, SUV’s are all high profile by design and drivers know that instinctively and I suspect they drive according to the conditions given the kind of vehicle they are driving.

Styling:

Solid look and feel from bulky lines, shift levers, steering wheel, etc., and like the Land Rover, it gives the appearance of being a real serious off road vehicle. It is rather distinct and the rugged lines are to my liking.

Fit and Finish:

With all the wood trim and luxury appointments this is bound to be a winner for Mitsubishi. They also do a nice job presenting the controls and computer statistical display. I didn’t like the radio angle and for older folks the display is too small.

Conveniences:

It will seat 5 or 7 if you bring up the rearmost seat that tucks neatly in the floor. Pretty slick, because if you don’t need the extra seats it provides an easy way to increase cargo area without wondering what to do with the seats. The need for the 4-wheel drive is questionable since so few ever use it, but if you do get off road, or will need to fight bad weather or other unusual road conditions this feature is indispensable. At that time, gas consumption is the least of your concerns.

Armrests turn a so-so chair into a captain’s chair that I like a lot because they add a lot of comfort on those longer trips, and they fold up out of the way for around town driving.

Cost:

It is expensive to buy and to drive like most other SUV’s.

Recommendation:

I recently tested the Ford Escape 2-WD that gets 24 highway mpg. The keyword here is it’s a two-wheel drive vehicle so if you, like most people, will never get off road, don’t buy the 4X4. And just because you operate your 4X4 in 2-wheel drive mode, it doesn’t matter – the increased vehicle weight, etc., make it suck up much more gas.

The Competition:

BMW X5 $38,900-49,400, Dodge Durango $26,650,28,770, Ford Explorer $24,020-34,055, GMC Envoy $28,820-33820, Isuzu Trooper $27,170-34,813, Jeep Grand Cherokee $27,300-35,095, Land Rover Discovery $33,350-36,750, Mercedes M-Class $35,800-65,900, Nissan Pathfinder $27,349-31,799, Oldsmobile Bravada $31,635-34,167, Toyota Land Cruiser $53,195.

Good News:

New, comfy, spicy, fast, exciting, unique styling and a huge sunroof.

Bad News:

Typical poor gas performance.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 200 hp V6 engine, 5-speed automatic with “Sportronic” shifting, leather, dual airbags, anti-theft system, 4-wheel drive, limited slip differential, power steering, stabilizer bars, power disc brakes, climate control front and rear air conditioning, am/fm/cd stereo, power windows and door locks, power side mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, rear window washer, 2nd row fold down seats, 3rd row stowable seats, wood and leather steering wheel, wood grain interior trim, power moon roof with tilt, roof rack, fog lights and tow hooks.

Gas Stats:

13 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $36,717.

2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT 2-Door Convertible

Overview:

I warmed up to this Eclipse Spyder real slowly, but solidly. Yes, it’s a 2001 model year car and yes it seems a little early, but welcome to this Mitsubishi. For the dough, folks, this is a must drive car for the sports car enthusiasts looking for a change. It’s just the right size, although for my taste they could enlarge the trunk a tad.

I’m high on this one because it is a very capable sports car and covers all the bases well. Sure, you could pay two to three times as much and get into a Porsche but is there three times the difference? As for the comparative lineup below, there is no competition in my view. This is the best of the bunch. That’s a bold statement but I really feel good about this sports car. The rest are either two seaters or will seat 4 but not as well, all things considered.

Handling & Performance:

Very nice and a lot of fun to drive.

Styling:

I really like the lines of this car and the size is almost perfect. It can carry 4 folks but is still small enough to be sporty.

Fit and Finish:

Of course time is the test of all things and I can’t vouch for this car standing up to time, but relative to other new cars, attention to detail is good for the money. The materials, like most cars these days, are lots of plastic and if you swing the door closed a little hard it sounds a bit tinny.

Conveniences:

Real good array of goodies included as standard equipment. Options include ABS brakes, upgraded stereo for cassette and CD, leather front seats with power driver seat and side airbags for an additional $2,370. I can live without the ups and extras. However, the ABS should be standard.

Cost:

Great pricing for this level sport vehicle.

Recommendation:

If you drive the competition I think you’ll come to the same conclusion I did and opt for this Spyder.

The Competition:

BMW Z3 $31,300-36,900, Chevrolet Camaro $17,040-28,715, Ford Mustang $16,805-27,845, Honda S2000 $22,000, Mazda MX-5 Miata $20,545-25,055, Pontiac Firebird $18,690-31,050, VW Cabrio $19,990-23,300.

Good News:

Priced well, fun to drive, a lot of room for a sports car, great power top with one button control, good gas mileage.

Bad News:

Components are a little cheap, standard equipment excludes ABS brakes, not much power to pass without gearing way down.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter V6 engine, 5-speed manual trans, dual air bags, anti-theft system, power assist steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, power assist front disc and rear drum brakes, power soft top w/ glass rear window, air conditioning, power windows, and door locks and mirrors, stereo and CD player, keyless entry with alarm, cruise control and more.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $25,237

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS-T Convertible (213)

Overview:

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS-T is quickly identified this year by its newly added chrome plated 16″ wheels. But it’s the turbocharger that will propel those chrome wheels out in front of traffic where the highway patrol can keep an eye on you – especially if you opt for a red one like the one I tested.

I was impressed with the overall quality and performance as it reminded me a little of the Acura NSX. I mention the comparison loosely, especially since the NSX is one of my all time favorite sports cars. But when I pulled along side a pretty black NSX I had to reflect on the cost to value ratio and would find it difficult to justify three times the dough for the added snob appeal you’d get with the NSX.

Cars like this Spyder GS-T are for the “young and the restless” because it makes you want to go. But then you have to be young, without kids, and know how to travel light at the same time. There isn’t a lot of space for more than you and a friend and very little luggage. Of course it does have a small rear seat that you could use for storage.

Eclipse debuted in 1990 and unique to the Eclipse line is the convertible Spyder, which is also available in an all-wheel-drive version – the GSX. Both are turbocharged. You may recall the difference between “Turbo” and “Super”-charged is that the boost from the turbocharger comes from an exhaust driven turbine where the supercharger is driven by a belt drive much like your air conditioner, etc. The supercharger is quicker off the line but it takes horsepower for the belt drive. The turbocharger is more efficient and you sense the “neck snapping” thrust shortly after you build up Rpm’s.

This Spyder is well detailed with nice touches such as a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob that add to the sporty feeling. It is also surprisingly tight for a convertible. Mitsubishi attributes that to the fact that it was built “as” a convertible and not simply a modified coupe as is the case with most convertibles. If you’ve ever driven a convertible Camero you’ll really appreciate the difference. Camero creaks, squeaks, moans and groans every time you go over a dip or bump – like your driveway. In addition, the power drop-top is easy to operate and it can be lowered or raised without setting the parking brake or putting the shifter into park or neutral. It senses movement and only requires that you are not moving. Finally the spoiler gives it that added touch of sportiness.

The Competition:

Acura Integra $16,200 – $23,500, Dodge Avenger $15,370 – $17,645, Eagle Talon $14,505 – $20,715, Ford Mustang $16,150 – $28,510, Honda Prelude $23,300 – $25,800, Hyundai Tiburon $13,599 – $14,899, Nissan 200SX $13,149 – $16,749, Pontiac Firebird $18,015 – $29,715, Toyota Celica $20,111 – $24,550, Volkswagen Golf $13,495 – $20,235.

Good News:

California convertible, fast & fun to drive, 1/3 the price of an Acura NSX.

Bad News:

Limited storage space, my lower back tells me it’s hard to get in and out of, and if I wore a skirt it would even be more difficult.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter turbo 4-cylinder 210 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual trans, dual air bags, power rack & pinion steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, power soft top, air conditioning, security system with keyless entry, stereo with cassette and CD player 8 speaker sound system, cruise control, power widows and door locks, 6-way power driver seat, leather, tilt wheel and power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

23 City/ 31 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $26,660 and the model I drove added the ABS (anti-locking brake system) for a total of $27,852.