A LaserDisc in the Blu-ray world
In a clear sunny day at old man’s house, turning on the brand new 29” flat screen CRT TV that took up half of the living room, with a preleased PlayStation 1 connected to its RCA input. An advertisement came on during a WCW wrestling match made an imprint in my still developing brains, “…powerful dual overhead cam, 16-valve, 2.4-litre high output engine, offering generous 150 hp and 150 Ib-ft of torque…with a 4-speed electronically controlled overdrive automatic transmission that adapts to the driver’s driving style. A single compact disc 4-speaker stereo sound system…” It was 1993.
Close to two decades later, browsing through the net on a 52” LED 3D TV slimly mounted on the wall of the living room via a Blu-ray disc capable Playstation 3. An advertisement popup came across my college educated, seasoned professional’s mind. While waiting for the video with XXX symbols all over it to stream, I clicked on the popup window via a wireless mouse in the comfort of an electric massage Lazyboy. A 2010 Mitsubishi Galant appeared in front of my very eyes, why does the Galant somehow bring back my childhood memories? The streamed video all of a sudden seemed more exhilarating. I felt young, naïve and immature once again. Thanks to the Galant, I am reliving the ‘90s. Is it a good thing?
Little-known to the North America consumers, the existence of the Galant in the U.S. soil can be traced back to 1971 when Chrysler Corporation imported the Mitsubishi Colt Galant (1st generation) in limited numbers and sold as the Dodge Colt. As the demand for fuel efficient cars increased during the oil crisis, the 2nd generation Colt Galant gained ground which was then also sold as Plymouth Colt. The alphabet soup of the model name (ie. Sigma, Lancer, Eterna) continued until the introduction of the fifth generation in 1985. It was when the Galant emblem finally adhered to a Mitsubishi – at least in the U.S.
The 2010 Galant is the ninth generation [chassis code: PS] of the series, competing in the mid-size sedan segment. It was debuted in 2003 New York International Auto Show and went on sale for the 2004 model year. The North America assembled Galant mainly focuses on the North and South Americas, Middle Eastern and Russia markets. In 2009, the Galant received a mild aesthetic refreshment. It got new bumpers, tail lights, wheels and larger rear window.
The 2010MY comes in two trim levels: ES [base] and SE. The both trims are equipped with the 2.4L engine and 4-speed Sportronic automatic transmission, no other engine or transmission option is offered. Active Stability Control and Traction Control are standard. The 3.8L V6 engine that produces 250 hp and 230 Ib-ft of torque and 5-speed auto had been eliminated in the lineup. The distinctions in the SE are 18-inch alloy wheels, front strut tower bar, standard navigation system with built-in back-up camera in the 7-inch LCD touch screen, 650-watt Rockford premium audio and various minor upgraded packaging such as heated front seat and side mirrors, automatic climate control and power driver seat, plus illuminated glove box.
The tester in Quick Silver paint is the ES model. It has MSRP at $21,599 ($19,900) and is assembled in Normal, Illinois along side with its crossover SUV and sports coupe siblings, the Endeavor and Eclipse, respectively. To put things in perspective, we will compare some of the Galant’s data with its current year competitor, the 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5. The references to the Altima are in italic parentheses.
Past Experience – @ Feel What Happens Drive Tour
At a Mitsubishi testdrive event back in 2004 when the 9th generation Galant was first released to the market. We tested the 3.8L V6 version along with its competitors, the Honda Accord EX and Toyota Camry XLE all equipped with V6 engine. At the time, the Galant was the most rewarding car to drive in the road course setup. We were much impressed.
6 years has gone and past. All of Galant’s competitors have evolved from Pentium to Core. To put in perspective, 6 car years is equivalent to 120 human years. The math is that the model replacement interval is about 4 years as the trend for Japanese automakers. That’s one generation of human life so to speak. Let’s assume average human life expectance is 80 years, this 9th generation Galant has gone through a generation and half. The centenarian Galant we encounter this time doesn’t really impress.
The Powertrain – Dual is better than single, 5 is greater than 4
Under the hood is a cast iron block and aluminum cylinder head, 2.4L 16-valve SOHC engine [engine code: 4G69] with 87 x 100 mm bore and stroke undersquare design and equips with Mitsubishi’s MIVEC [Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system]. It generates 160 hp @ 5,500rpm and 157 Ib-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. In PZEV states such as, the beautiful California, the outputs are lowered to 155 and 155 respectively (2.5L 170hp, 175 Ib-ft).
Introduced in 2003, the 4G69 is the latest iteration of the Mitsubishi Sirius engine. The 4G6 series has been powering various Mitsubishi products since the 1970s. The 4G6 engines were also used in Hyundai products back in its infancy. The enhancement of the 4G69 came from the use of Daiwa Seiko Co., Ltd developed MIVEC valvetrain. This Shiga, Japan built 4G69 engine can also be found in the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
The MIVEC system is not any new invention. It is similar to Honda’s early VTEC system that contains two set of cam profiles on the camshaft. In the MIVEC, cam profiles switch from low-lift to high-lift at about 3,500 rpm. This phenomenon can be visualized as changing out the stock economically tuned cam to some performance high duration aftermarket cam without sacrificing low engine speed efficiency and idle quality. Notice how hot rod produces tear dropping, lungs burning and choppy idle?
In low engine speed, the low-lift cam has shorter duration to reduce valve overlap, increase exhaust backflow to promote stable idle, lower emissions and increased low end torque. Subsequently, in high engine speed, the high-lift cam has longer duration to increase valve overlap to reduce pumping loss and purge out exhaust gas to increase power. The high lift and longer duration in the undersquare bore/stroke ratio is beneficial due to the reduced bore diameter which limits the overall diameter of the valves, particularly important on the intake side. Considering undersquare design is a factor in the overall packaging of the powertrain in relationship to the front engine front wheel drive layout.
Put the theory aside, the device situated in the engine bay looks obsolete. The contradictions to current trend are the cast aluminum single path intake manifold, cast iron log type exhaust manifold, intake and exhaust manifold position, SOHC, cast iron block…
Mated to this transversely mounted antique is an equally old-fashioned 4-speed electronic automatic transmission [Transmission code: F4A4B] with Sportronic manual mode transmitting the almighty 155 hp to the ground through the front wheels.
The transmission tries to maximize engine output from the use of shorter gear ratios at the same time attempting to achieve good fuel economy. For these purposes alone, it is sufficient to justify for a 5 or greater speeds transmission. The Galant’s 4AT has very short 1st gear and a very long 4th. The duty to bridge across this wide range is only by two gears. That means there are big gaps in the gear ratios. The gear ratio differences are 1.269 [1st to 2nd], 0.573 [2nd to 3rd] & 0.312 [3rd to 4th]. For the sake of comparison, the mid-size sedan leader Accord LX 5AT has the following gear ratio differences: 1.135 [1st to 2nd], 0.48 [2nd to 3rd], 0.299 [3rd to 4th] & 0.201 [4th to 5th]. These are the ratios that can keep the engine in the sweet spot. The Altima comes with a more compact and efficient Continuously Variable Transmission [CVT] that can infinitely vary gear ratios.
The drastic differences in gear ratios are experienced. Nail the throttle from a dead stop in 1st gear as the engine revs to the 6,500 rpm redline, upshift into 2nd gear, the engine speed would fall to 3,500 rpm. Knowing that 3,500 rpm is the sweet spot for switching cam profiles, this could easily drop the engine speed out of the powerband and weaken the already not too thrilling acceleration. This condition carries on with the rest of the gear changes. Cruising at 65mph in top gear, the engine revs at 2,100 rpm to mimic a high torque V6 with 6-speed gearbox setup to please EPA fuel consumption rating. Therefore, don’t expect much engine response when cruising in top gear. Fortunately, the transmission is reactive to kickdown and downshifts willingly in manual mode.
Engine power has below average performance. Throttle input for the first 50% of pedal travel is very aggressive. It acts like as if you have reached 100% throttle body opening at 50% pedal input. The rest of the pedal travel has no effect on power delivery which is a gimmick in an underpowered engine to resemble a bigger engine.
With the MIVEC, we were expecting an experience similar to Honda’s VTEC. When the VTEC swaps the cams, you would hear a different engine sound, followed by a surge of acceleration as the RPM climbs. None of these were felt in the Galant. Blame the 4AT. Blame the 3,345 Ibs (3,180) curb weight. In translation, the Galant ES takes more than 9 seconds (mid 7) to go from 0 to 60mph and quarter mile comes 17+ seconds (low 16) later; a subcompact segment numbers.
Dual overhead cam is nice to have, but a tranny with minimum of 5-speed is a must. The Galant’s powertrain combo limits the overall powertrain efficiency and reflects on the EPA fuel consumption rating of 21 City, 30 Hwy (23/32) and 24 mpg combined rating in which was the average of the ‘90s. During our ~950 miles test route from San Francisco Bay Area to Lava Bed National Monument, our observed average was 28.4 mpg. Its 0.31 coefficient of drag didn’t help either.
Braking – Feels Good but you’ll be Surprised
Shaving off the hard to gain mph is by 10.9” x 0.9” (11.7” x 1.02”) front vented discs and 10.3” x 0.4” (11.5” x 0.35”) solid rear discs.
Brake pedal is lack of freeplay and operating effort is light. Once used to the a-bit-sensitive initial input, the pedal is easy to modulate with linear feel. It’s one of a few good ones nowadays considering the new FMVSS regulation. The rotor size is sufficient for a car meant to be a daily driver. Just watch out for brake fade on a severe slow speed decline as the rotors don’t have much mass to manage the heat. The braking distance data is very disappointing however. It takes approximately 190 ft (168 ft) to stop from 70 mph.
Second disappointment is on the slack between pedal and handbrake. The car would roll back and forth by few inches after putting on the handbrake. We have never experienced this issue in any Japanese cars before.
Steering – Traditional & Dull
Allowing the Galant to turn is the traditional hydraulic assisted rack-and-pinion steering with 17:1 (16.2:1) steering ratio and 2.74 turns lock-to-lock. This combo with a rather large diameter steering wheel only provides vague on-center feel and makes the car wander in the lane. Added to the injury, the unexpected memory steer has made the rumble strip seem like they are made out of magnets. A visit to the rumble strip doesn’t feel as punishing since the road feel through the steering wheel is dull. In short, the steering feel is akin to the Endeavor, even the wheel itself is taken straight from it. The Continental offers good grip and response despite its all season rating.