The Mitsubishi Galant - platform of the next Dodge Stratus

Review Notes: Mitsubishi Galant GTZ automatic
Above Average In: Ride, feel, responsiveness (GTZ)
Needs Work In: Gas mileage/cost (GTZ), price (GTZ), back seat room

Chrysler has been selling cars based on the Mitsubishi Galant platform for years, starting with the "Plymouth Laser" (Mitsubishi Eclipse). Indeed, the Laser and Eclipse were a joint venture - Chrysler helped with styling and a little engineering, and the cars were built in a joint venture plant in the United States, Diamond Star Motors. The goal of Diamond Star was to increase Mitsubishi's presence in the US, while giving Chrysler a close view of how to apply quality and involvement in manufacturing. (Walter Chrysler was by then spinning quite rapidly in his grave.) Later, the Galant spawned the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring Coupe; the Avenger was renamed "Stratus Coupe" in 2001.

Since Chrysler was already using Galants for mid-sized coupes, using them for sedans as well made sense to Mercedes executives. Hence, the decision to use the Galant platform for the next Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus sedans. The lighter side of this decision is that it will make the sedan and coupes share a single chassis and powertrain - less confusion for customers. Some might say that renaming the coupes might have had the same effect, but Daimler-Benz is bent on eliminating duplicate platforms among their acquisitions.

While many Chrysler fans object to the platform sharing, two things make it more palatable. First, Chrysler will lead engineering on the next generation Galant/Stratus/Sebring. Second, the Galant is, frankly, a very nice car. It shares the comfortable ride and competent handling of the Stratus and Sebring, but feels more responsive and less heavy.

Galant is less known to most Americans than its coupe cousin, the Eclipse (also sold for a time as the Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon). Though they share many underpinnings, the Galant is a surprisingly smooth and sophisticated sedan, with a sensible interior.

Our test model was the top of the line GTZ, with a high output version of the Mitsubishi 3-liter V6 familiar to many Chrysler owners - but here requiring premium gas. The engine is impressive, providing instant acceleration no matter what the speed, thanks partly to an unusually responsive transmission. The automatic quickly drops down a gear or two when needed, without fuss or hesitation, coming back up to enhance fuel economy. Zero to sixty times are not terrific, but they are also not the whole story. The quiet, capable engine and responsive transmission combine for a feel of power and speed. Despite similar output, the Stratus does not feel as strong.

Wind, road, and engine noise are minimal, as in the Dodge Stratus sedan.

Despite good handling, the suspension easily makes rough surfaces seem smooth. The damping is first rate and makes the Galant feel more like a luxury car than a family sedan. It is a little more comfortable than the Stratus.

The rear seat size is disappointing, when compared to the Stratus, as well as similarly priced (to the GTZ) sedans such as the Chevy Impala and Dodge Intrepid. The Impala is closest in feel to the Galant GTZ, while the Intrepid combines a good drivetrain with a massive interior. The base models are more reasonably priced and are an excellent alternative to the Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, and Ford Taurus. Compared to this high-selling trio, the Mitsubishi Galant is more comfortable, more responsive (with the GTZ), and more ergonomic.

The Galant has a well-designed interior, with many storage areas, very ergonomic controls and gauges, and an unusually attractive and innovative instrument panel. The interior is far better than in the Stratus coupe, while less elegant than the Stratus sedan. Both the Galant and Stratus have an optional Infinity stereo with very clear sound.

Though both cars feature a tether strap anchor, LATCH system loops, and European-style underseat anchors, it is hard to make an older style car seat stable on the Galant's leather seats, and the tether strap routing is poor. The Galant's only trunk pass-through is in the middle of the right rear seat, so if you have a child seat, there's no pass-through; it is also fairly small. A relatively minor annoyance is the absence of a way to open the trunk using a key - as far as we can tell, it can only be opened using the remote or cabin controls.

We were impressed by the Galant, and no longer find it terrible that it will be used as the basis for the next Stratus. Perhaps combining the two will yield vehicle with the responsiveness and spirit of the Galant, and the size and interior elegance of the Stratus/Sebring sedans.

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