Set on making affordable performance cars, Mitsubishi takes its Camry-competitor Galant sedan and tunes it up to create the 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart. The company saw great success tuning its Lancer into the Evo rally car and attempts, but fails, to give its Galant the same kind of cachet.
The Galant Ralliart gets Mitsubishi's Ralliart emblems placed on and in the car, and it earns those emblems with a stiffened and sport-tuned suspension and a 3.8-liter V-6 making 258 horsepower. This engine gives the car a quick push off the line, but its front-wheel drive creates massive torque steer. This car would have been much more impressive if it had also gotten the all-wheel-drive system Mitsubishi puts in the Evo. As a comparison, Mitsubishi's rally car competitor Subaru makes the all-wheel drive Legacy 2.5 GT spec.B.
Beyond its sport trappings, the Galant Ralliart also comes with a rowdy Rockford stereo, complete with a six-disc MP3 CD capable changer and Sirius satellite radio. Our test car also came with the navigation package, which makes its presence known with an LCD screen.
The Galant Ralliart's body probably inspires a love-it or hate-it reaction. We love it. The curved cabin is nothing special, but its front and rear give it an aggressive appeal, with a few concept car notes thrown in. A massive air intake sits below the grille, while the whole front end is raked forward. Headlights and taillights have European-style covers, with the translucent taillight covers reaching over the rear lip and molded to continue the rear spoiler across the entire back of the car.
Test the tech: Ferrari rally
Because this Galant has the Ralliart trim level, we immediately thought back to that magical summer of 2005, when we got to drive the Ferrari rally in Northern California. Fortunately, we still had the route book from that memorable event sitting around the office, so we decided to follow its course in the Galant Ralliart. Now, this was in no way a real rally event, as we didn't have people checking our times or any competition. But we did take the Galant Ralliart over the same roads we had driven in an F430.
Our course started at the Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley. Unfortunately, we set out on a Saturday, when the roads around Napa are full of limos and private cars carrying people from winery to winery. This kind of traffic can be fairly hazardous, but it only affected our driving times and not our car. The first segment of the rally course took us by a big event at some winery, where we sat in slow traffic as people parked all alongside the road. We were happy to see that two California Highway Patrol officers were stuck directing traffic, taking it to mean they wouldn't be waiting for us along some more fun stretch of road.
Once clear of that segment of our faux rally, we got to the fun stuff. The designers of this rally course mapped out some great roads, and we were soon wheeling into the mountains, Lake Hennessey on our right and the twisty stuff dead ahead. Out on the Lower Chiles Valley Road, we really got to see how the Galant Ralliart handled. This part of the course has lots of sharp turns over dips and rises, making for a real challenging drive.
The steering is mostly neutral, with just a bit of understeer, while the suspension feels appropriately stiff for these conditions. At the top of a rise, we had to quickly assess what line to follow on the newly revealed curves, and the car generally helped us out. The throttle was responsive enough to shoot us through the twists, and the transmission did okay without us having to resort to its shiftable Sportronic mode.
But portions of this course had some rough pavement, and one gravelly section taught us the limits of the Galant Ralliart's traction. No, we didn't lose it off the side of the road, but we were inclined to take it a bit easy after one loose traction moment. As mentioned above, this car would really benefit from the Evo's all-wheel-drive system, not to mention a nice six-speed manual gearbox. Other roads on the course that we particularly liked, and that you might want to check out if you're in the Napa/Sonoma area, are Franz Valley Road, Chalk Hill Road, and Mountain House Road, off of Highway 128.
Although we enjoyed our rally drive in the Galant Ralliart, we had to conclude that it doesn't drive like a Ferrari. But one cool function on the LCD not found in your average Ferrari is the Trip screen. One of its pages is set to record lap times. You can start it running, then hit lap whenever you pass a time checkpoint. It saves the lap data, which includes time, miles, average speed, and fuel economy, in a spreadsheet format. Too bad you can't download it into a computer.
In the cabin
Mitsubishi tries to make the interior of the Galant Ralliart as sporty as the outside, through the clever use of black materials, fake carbon fiber trim, and red stitching and perforations in the seats. But the seats are one of the first areas where the sporting theme falls short--the front buckets have barely any side bolstering and will let you slide all over the place during hard cornering. Although the material covering the dashboard has a bit of give, there's an inescapable feeling of plastic cheapness overall.
Because our car came with the navigation package, a touch screen LCD was mounted in a binnacle at the top of the stack. This placement generally works out very well. The screen is very visible and doesn't require you to look too far from the road. And a good-sized hood over the screen prevents the glare that this type of high position would usually cause. Our only problem was having to constantly stretch to reach the onscreen controls, which are just a bit too far away.