The cars we loved.

1996-2006 Mitsubish Galant GTZ/VR-4: The Tale of Two Cities

2002 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4

2002 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4

While the 1859 Charles Dickens story “The Tale of Two Cities ” might have chronicled the plight of the upper and lower classes in two places, American auto enthusiasts sometimes cant help but to feel like peasants when it comes to sharing the wealth of import offerings. Thankfully the event of closely matched world platforms has reduced the disparities somewhat, but big differences can still exist. Case in point Mitsubishi’s Galant. Imagine two cars nearly the same but different. One in Tokyo  and the other in Toledo (Ohio). Both looking similar, with the same mission but wildly different execution. This was the case for Mitsubishi’s Galant. America had a small but sweet taste of Galant performance with the VR-4 cars from 1987-1992, while similar models were the norm in Japan.  So when a new 2000 Galant finally arrived in late 1999, many Mitsubishi fans in America had hoped that there would be a version to go head to head with Ford’s SVT Contour. Japan already had a twin turbo V6 powered VR-4 in the new body style for a few years, prompting speculation in America of a super Galant for North America.
2001 Galant Interior

2001 Galant Interior

What actually arrived in Toledo and elsewhere in the states was a new range topping GTZ model. With lines vaguely resembling a 5 Series BMW, the new Galant appeared to be aiming high.  It’s three litre V6 produced 195 hp compared to the previous car’s 160 hp 4 cylinder. The naturally aspirated engine made the new Galant somewhat slower than the outgoing car due to its bump up in size. Now classified as  midsize by the EPA, the added heft slowed 0 to 60 times to the 9 second range. Only one transmission was available; a four-speed automatic. The Camry and Accord were faster, but the GTZ with its new strut based (front) independent sports suspension handled nearly as well as the class leading Accord. At best, the American GTZ was a sporty looking sedan that featured a pleasant more comfortable interior, but lacked the get up and go of the scruffy SVT Contour or even an older Galant.  The sportiest Galants seen in the narrow streets of Tokyo were another story.
Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4

Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4

The Japanese cars came in sedan or estate versions called the Legnum. The new VR-4 starts with some of the aero enhancements that make the GTZ sporty looking and adds slightly more aggressive skirts, vents and larger wheels. The true beauty of the VR-4 of course was under its hood and the number of powered wheels. A 2.5 l 24 valve from the standard Galant was used as the starting point. Twin turbos were added boosting power to 276 hp, all channeled into a all-wheel drive system. Nearly as powerful as the 2.0 in the Evo VI, but made civilized with a less brutal power band for everyday driving, the VR-4 was like a grown up EVO. Unlike the all out EVO, the VR-4 was a near luxury car that just happened ot perform as well as some Audi and BMW’s (for much less money). An all wheel grip contributed to the quick 5.9 second rush to 60 from a stop, all the way up to a top speed of 150 mph. Much of this performance could be achieved in less than ideal weather conditions. Needless to say such a car was sought after in places where it was not intended to be sold. In Japan it was something of a limited edition proposition, but a few made their way to the UK where they were an even rarer sight.
Back in America, the best we could do is order third-party conversion kits that made a GTZ (or any other Galant) look like a JDM VR-4. Such a car equipped with this kit would no doubt look pretty bad if it went up against an old 90’s Galant or Accord EX at a stoplight. A manual transmission was available for some of the lesser versions of the Galant, but never for the GTZ. To Mitsubishi’s credit, it focused on quality with the eight generation Galant in America, during a time when its reputation was hit or miss. Typical North American buyers probably would not have bought a manual anyway, as evidence by the small percentage sold in the outgoing model. Given Mitsubishi’s mission in America with the Galant, it’s a wonder they even allowed the big rear spoiler on an otherwise conservatively styled “sporty” car. Quality did improve, but it would be years before real performance would be associated with Mitsubishi again in America, while in Japan and some parts of Europe the brand was synonymous with it.
2001 Mitsubishi Galant GTZ

2001 Mitsubishi Galant GTZ


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This entry was posted on March 8, 2011 by in 00's, 90's cars, Mitsubishi and tagged , , .
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