IT WASN'T "night." It was the sticky remains of a broiled summerday. The central air conditioning unit had failed at home. Tempers wereflaring. It was time to hit the road -- the winding strips of NorthernVirginia, via a 1989 Mitsubishi Galant GS.

This was therapy. I didn't even turn on the car stereo. I wanted toenjoy the cool silence of the machine's well-crafted interior. I wantedto feel the gentle twists and turns of the motoring landscape. TheGalant was obliging in every way. I thanked Providence for miracleslarge and small and headed back after 50 miles.

Whoa! Behold the glory! The house air conditioner was still busted,but the civil war had ended. The combatants had retreated to the coolerreaches of the basement and fallen asleep. The place was almost assilent as the Galant's cabin, with the exception of some off-key snoringand the whirrrr and hummm of two oscillating fans.

I smiled and closed my eyes, calmed by the ride and comforted by theknowledge that the AC repairman would come in the morning.

Complaint: The next day, with the windows down and the car airconditioner and stereo off, I heard a disturbing noise -- asqueeaakk-click, squeaakk-click everytime I pressed the clutch andshifted gears. I tried shifting slowly, gracefully, as instructed bydriving ace Jackie Stewart. The squeeaakk-click, which seemed to comefrom underneath the car near the transaxle, did not go away. I rolled upthe windows, turned on the air, and pumped up the stereo's volume, andthe Galant was pleasant again.

Praise: Overall, the 1989 Galant GS, already for sale, is a superbsports sedan, one of the finest cars you can buy under $20,000. Hmph,it's better than a lot of cars you can buy for over $25,000. What wehave here is a perfect blend of class, imagination and common sense.

Check out the suspension in this front-wheel-drive, five-passengercar. Other auto makers boast about electronic suspensions with variabledamping rates, but they could all learn something from Mitsubishi. The"soft," "automatic" and "hard" settings for the Galant GS suspensionsystem really mean something. You get exactly what you ask for -- softride, hard ride or a wonderful combination of both -- by pushing theappropriate button atop the car's center console. Bravo!

Oh, and the Galant GS's easily adjusted, electronically controlledpower steering system -- "normal" for regular steering effort and"sport" for more precise, higher-effort steering -- works well, too.

Acceleration, braking and handling: The car's 2-liter, 16-valve,double-overhead cam, 4-cylinder engine is smooth and gutsy, rated 135 hpat 6,000 rpm. Brakes, a four-wheel disc set backed by an optionalanti-lock system in the test model, get top marks. Handling in this oneapproaches fine art.

Head-turning quotient: Sophisticated, attractive, designed foradults.

Sound system: Boss boogie! A six-speaker, AM/FM stereo radio andcassette with high-power amplifier and graphic equalizer, by Mitsubishi.

Mileage: About 22 to the gallon (15.9-gallon tank, estimated 340-milerange on usable volume), combined city-highway, running mostlydriver-only and with air conditioner on.

Price: Base price is $14,829. The price of the model tested is$18,304, including $3,210 in options and a $265 destination charge.Dealer's invoice price without options is $14,603.

Purse-strings note: This car represents excellent value for themoney, particularly if you can find a dealer who doesn't play thosesilly additional-markup games.