If you believe the hype, most family four-doors have become sport sedans. Some automakers go to great lengths to prove it: There's a Saturn Aura with paddle shifters, a Toyota Camry with a body kit and, for 2007, Mitsubishi's mildly updated Galant boasts a Ralliart edition with a 258-horsepower V-6 and a sport-tuned suspension. Truth be told, I really wanted to give the Ralliart a thumbs-up — it offers snappy acceleration and has a well-balanced chassis, but there's simply too much that falls short. The steering and brakes are not up to sport sedan snuff, and its interior quality and overall value trail the leading family cars.
In ascending order, the Galant is available in DE, ES, SE, GTS and Ralliart trim levels. Last year's 230-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 is still available in the Galant GTS, while the first three use a 155-hp four-cylinder. The well-equipped Ralliart comes with 18-inch wheels and an optional navigation system, both Galant firsts.
Exterior & Styling
The most noticeable change for 2007 is a single-piece grille; it replaces the previous split unit. A dark lower bumper, subtle ground effects and new wheels distinguish the Ralliart.
Every time I approached the car, its styling grew on me. When the current design bowed in early 2003, its simple, angular profile deviated from the curvier lines on cars like the Nissan Altima and Mazda6. Angles are back, though, and today the Galant looks much cleaner than the overwrought Mazda.
At 191 inches long and 72.4 inches wide, the Galant is shorter but slightly wider than most of its competitors.
Ride & Handling
A four-wheel-independent suspension uses MacPherson struts up front and a multilink layout in back. In the Ralliart, springs and shocks have been tuned for a tighter ride, and front and rear stabilizer bars are included. Other Galants receive only a front stabilizer bar.
With the Ralliart's 18-inch wheels and P235/45R18 tires, the ride can become disruptive over potholes or other major bumps. Highway road noise ranges from tolerable to intrusive, so be prepared to skip the Yo-Yo Ma for something a little less nuanced.
Handling is a mixed bag. The steering feels as vague as any family car's, and I wish there were more feedback, but the chassis is quite composed. Body roll is minimal, and in sharp corners there's a near-neutral balance between understeer and oversteer. That's rare for a front-wheel-drive sedan with just 39 percent of its weight in back. Most front-heavy cars understeer promptly with little regard to balance, but the Galant's neutrality comes off like a sports car's.
Going & Stopping
The Ralliart uses a 3.8-liter V-6 with Mitsubishi's MIVEC variable valve timing system, coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission. With more torque than most competitors — whose engines typically range from 3.0 to 3.5 liters — the Ralliart accelerates energetically from a standstill. Cars like the V-6 Camry are plenty quick, but their engines need to be revved higher before they hit their stride.
Why does this matter? Take highway passing. In the Ralliart, I was able to make quick bursts from 60 mph to 70 mph in fourth gear, with the engine loafing around 3,000 rpm. To complete the same maneuver, many competitors would require a lower gear and higher engine speed — a transition that can take significantly longer.
A 3.8-liter V-6 without MIVEC is standard in the Galant GTS, which makes 230 hp and 250 pounds-feet of torque. It works with a five-speed automatic. Other Galants use a 155-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a four-speed automatic.
Mitsubishi pointed me to Motor Trend magazine for acceleration times. The publication clocked a Ralliart hitting 60 mph from a standstill in 6.4 seconds, which beats the Galant GTS (6.8 seconds) that Motor Trend tested in 2004. Here's how the Ralliart stacks up against segment leaders:
|Family Sedan Performance Compared|
|2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart||2007 Toyota Camry XLE V-6||2007 Honda Accord EX V-6||2007 Chevy Malibu SS||2007 Hyundai Sonata Limited|
|Drivetrain||258-hp, 3.8L V-6; 5-sp auto||268-hp, 3.5L V-6; 6-sp auto||244-hp, 3.0L V-6; 5-sp auto||240-hp, 3.9L V-6; 4-sp auto||234-hp, 3.3L V-6; 5-sp auto|
|0 - 60 mph (sec.)**||6.4||6.1||6.6||7.0||7.3|
|EPA gas mileage (city/hwy., mpg)||18/27||22/31||20/29||18/26||20/30|
|Required fuel||Premium (91 octane)||Regular (87 octane)||Regular (87 octane)||Regular (87 octane)||Regular (87 octane)|
|Manufacturer data (except acceleration times)|
*Excludes destination charge
**All acceleration times from Motor Trend for 2007 models or equivalent. Honda Accord acceleration times from 2005 Accord V-6; 2006 - 2007 Accords have minor engine updates.
More power often means taking a hit in gas mileage, and the Ralliart is no exception: Its fuel economy is among the worst in its segment. Adding insult to injury, Mitsubishi says premium fuel is required. Most competitors — including some that are quicker — run on regular.
The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, offering fast kickdown. There's a manual gate for shifting your own gears, and I found it remarkably responsive; it executes seamless two-gear downshifts without the customary one-Mississippi delay many manu-matics incur.
Four-wheel-disc brakes are standard in all Galants, and all but the base model have antilock brakes. Both V-6 models have larger front discs, and the Ralliart adds larger rear discs. I found the pedal to feel linear but not exceptionally strong.
The Galant's interior is unfortunate. Mitsubishi used good-quality materials, but the execution falls short. Radio buttons are arranged in an anomalous cluster of bizarre shapes. The automatic climate control alternates between low and high fan speeds without much warning. An optional navigation system towers above the center air vents — an excellent position for visibility, but so poorly integrated with everything else aesthetically that it drew repeated criticism from passengers throughout the week.
The front seats have plenty of support and not too much side bolstering, and I had lots of headroom even with a moonroof above. (Moonroofs usually lop off an inch or so of headroom.) A manual height-adjustable driver's seat is standard, and the eight-way power seat in my test car offered plenty of range. A telescoping steering wheel, which allows drivers to place themselves at a comfortable distance from the wheel, is not available.
Thanks to a broad rear window and low trunk, rear sightlines are excellent. There aren't any substantial rear head restraints — a topic I'll address later — but their exclusion keeps the blind spot to a minimum.
A deep center console box stored most of my stuff, but the front door pockets are slim. The size of the lockable glove compartment is about average.
The rear seats are broad and comfortable, but there's not much foot room under the front seats. Headroom for taller passengers is sure to be tight, as the roofline tapers precipitously into the rear window. A prominent floor hump impedes legroom for the center passenger. Mitsubishi says the exhaust pipe and heat shield occupy the space, but it's nonetheless large for a front-wheel-drive car, which has no driveshaft beneath the floor.
The Galant's rear seat offers a trunk pass-thru in the center armrest, but a folding seatback is not available. That's unfortunate, because the trunk measures just 13.3 cubic feet — a figure the Accord, Camry, Malibu and Sonata easily beat. All four competitors offer folding rear seats in at least some trim levels.
Those who want the DVD-based navigation system should note the location of the player for map discs. It's in the trunk, under the rear deck, and it's a modest obstruction if you plan to load up with large baggage. Worse yet, it seemed to me that a carelessly loaded suitcase could destroy the device.
For 2007, all Galants offer six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. All-disc antilock brakes come in all trim levels but the DE, while the GTS and Ralliart include traction control. An electronic stability system is not available. As of publication, here's how the Galant stacks up to its competitors:
|2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart||2007 Toyota Camry XLE V-6||2007 Honda Accord EX V-6||2007 Chevrolet Malibu SS||2007 Hyundai Sonata Limited|
|IIHS front crash test||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|IIHS rear protection*||Poor||Marginal||Poor||Acceptable||Good|
|Side curtain airbags||Standard||Standard||Standard||Standard||Standard|
|Electronic stability system||Unavailable||Optional||Standard||Unavailable||Standard|
|*Overall rear protection score measures front-seat head protection in rear-end collisions.|
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2007 Galant a frontal crash rating of Good, but neither IIHS nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted a side-impact crash test for the car. IIHS rated the Galant Poor for rear crash protection, and I can see why. The front head restraints are flimsy and don't extend forward enough to provide much protection. Though they aren't measured in the IIHS test, the rear head restraints are also inadequate. They're little more than neck-high extensions of each backrest, and there is no center head restraint at all.
Child seat provisions include top-tether anchors for all three rear seats. The center tether is slightly offset to the driver's side. Lower child seat anchors are installed for the outboard seats but not the center seat. As children are generally safest in the center, this setup is less than ideal.
Standard features on the sub-$20,000 Galant DE include an automatic transmission, 16-inch steel wheels, power accessories with remote keyless entry, air conditioning and a four-speaker CD audio system. The ES adds body-colored exterior moldings, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo. The SE includes fog lamps, leather seats, a moonroof and 17-inch alloy wheels, while the GTS gains a 230-hp V-6 and five-speed automatic. My Ralliart test car came in around $29,000, not including the destination charge. That included the upgraded V-6, 18-inch wheels, a 350-watt audio system with a six-CD changer and an $1,850 navigation system.
Galant Ralliart in the Market
At a lower price, the Galant could slide by, but the Ralliart asks buyers to part with close to $30,000. For that much they could buy a well-appointed Camry or Accord. Compared to these heavyweights, the Ralliart comes up short. Its interior is not as refined, and it misses key features like an electronic stability system, a folding backseat and rear head restraints.
More troubling is the long-term price picture. A year-old Galant GTS in excellent condition with 15,000 miles on it depreciates 31 percent at trade-in, according to Kelley Blue Book. All factors being equal, a fully loaded Camry loses 26 percent and an Accord loses 23 percent. Add in the Ralliart's poor gas mileage and premium fuel requirement, and in the short term it's likely to cost thousands more to own than the Honda or Toyota.
I don't think Mitsubishi can sidestep this by positioning the Ralliart against sportier cars. It lacks a manual transmission and all-wheel drive, so I don't think people will seriously consider it against a Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT or Mazdaspeed6. At heart, the Galant Ralliart is a midsize family car. I only wish Mitsubishi had concentrated on that from the start.
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