The sporty sedan is a motor vehicle segment drenched in Americana, and you have to chuckle at the way it is routinely marketed to the populace.

The sport-sedan premise supports the theory that Dad and Mom might have other plans for the family car after dropping the kids off at school ... say, seeing how quickly they can rip it from zero to 60 miles per hour on a deserted stretch of road outside of town.

Do normally sedate citizens do this type of thing?

One can only imagine.

But supposing they do. What kind of car might they want to fulfill their road-warrior fantasies?

A 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart sedan would do the trick.

The Ralliart was added to the Galant lineup for the current model year. Keep in mind that a base Galant DE is a comparatively modest family sedan with a 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter, in-line 4 engine.

The new Ralliart, on the other hand, packs a 3.8-liter, 24-valve V-6 power plant with 258 horsepower. It's matched to a nicely engineered five-speed automatic gearbox that can also function as a clutchless manual shifter. The Ralliart's suspension is sport-tuned, with stiffer springs, dampers and a rear stabilizer bar.

Simply put, the Ralliart is a Galant capable of delivering a rush.

Spending a week in the Ralliart was a pleasure. It looked like a suburban transporter from the outside but felt like Corvette Junior on the open road.

The V-6 was instantly responsive, and the sport-tuned suspension was precisely tweaked to make the car nimble and road-hugging even during aggressive maneuvers. The Ralliart more than held its own in dicey Northern California traffic that included a wide range of performance sports cars.

The kick of it was that the Ralliart's attractive, yet somewhat understated exterior styling, belied the car's ability to lay down some serious scoot ... sort of like Superman flying around in Clark Kent's suit.

While the exterior does not scream "road-burner," there are touches that are exclusive to the Ralliart version of the Galant. That includes a mesh grille, two-tone color bumpers and 18-inch alloy wheels with Ralliart badges.

Inside, the Ralliart's sporty tendencies are reflected in the oversized, round gauges behind the steering wheel. The tachometer, speedometer and fuel/temperature gauges are arranged to resemble readouts you might find in a purpose-built race car.

Otherwise, interior controls are laid out in traditional sedan fashion. They're easy to reach and use.

I was disappointed with bumping my knees against the front seatbacks while sitting in the back seats. Three adults will feel pinched back there; two or three kids should find it comfortable, however.

Fuel economy on the Ralliart comes in at a not-so-hot 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway -- compared with 23/30 mpg ratings on the four-cylinder Galant -- and the gas pump pain is further enhanced by Mitsubishi's requirement for premium unleaded in the Ralliart's tightly wound V-6.

Silver accents and leather seating surfaces are part of the standard Ralliart package, and the car is nicely equipped for its $27,000 starting price.

Standard goodies include Sirius Satellite Radio (with a pre-paid six-month subscription) and a tooth-rattling, 360-watt Rockford Acoustic Design sound system. The audio system includes AM/FM radio, a six-disc CD changer and MP3 playback capability.

Standard safety equipment includes side-curtain air bags, front air bags with occupant sensors and front seat-mounted, side-impact air bags.

Options include a 7-inch, touch-panel, DVD-based navigation system.

The Ralliart features larger rear disc brakes than the standard Galant, and electronic brake-force distribution is standard. The package is a good one; even after hitting high speeds, the Ralliart comes to stops quickly and with reassuring stability.

And for the record, the Ralliart's advertised zero-to-60-mph time of about 7 seconds flat is accurate.

Added bonus: The Ralliart comes with Mitsubishi's mega-generous warranties, including 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain.

Overall, the Ralliart is a tempting piece of hardware.

Your practical side might lean toward that Galant DE with the four-cylinder engine and a starting price of only $19,899. But if you want your Galant with a big helping of sauciness, the Ralliart is the ride of choice.

Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart at a glance

Make/model: 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door, front-drive, sport sedan Base price: $26,999 Engine: 3.8-liter V-6 with 258 horsepower at 5,750 revolutions per minute and 258 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city; 27 mpg highway (premium unleaded required) Transmission: Five-speed automatic with overdrive and clutchless manual-shifting feature Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Brakes: Power four-wheel discs (ventilated on front) with anti-lock Suspension: Independent, MacPherson strut-type on front; independent, multi-link on rear (stabilizer bars front and rear) Fuel tank: 17.7 gallons Passenger volume: 100.2 cubic feet Cargo volume: 13.3 cubic feet Curb weight: 3,748 pounds Height: 58.2 inches Length: 191 inches Wheelbase: 108.3 inches Width: 72.4 inches Track: 61.8 inches on front and rear Ground clearance: 6.3 inches Tires: P235/45R18 all-season radials Final assembly point: Normal, Ill.