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.
We dug out our Ferrari rally route book to test the Galant Ralliart.
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.
The trip computer recorded our times and average speed for segments of the rally course.
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.
We like the display, but the font used for CD text is horrible.
We like the attempt at graphic design on the screens for most of the car functions, but were disappointed that it's only carried through halfway. All screens except navigation have a nice swirly blue background, but when you get down to information such as song names or Sirius satellite channels, the text looks as if they left it to the engineers.
The stereo itself comes from Rockford Fosgate, just as we've seen in the Mitsubishi Outlander and Eclipse. In the Galant Ralliart, as in the other cars, we found this system to be not particularly refined, but loud and rowdy. It has a great set of controls for adjusting the sound field, kicking up the subwoofer, and moving the sweet spot around the cabin. But its eight speakers put out a muddy midrange, dull highs, and a heavy bass that rattles the speakers at high volume.
There is no auxiliary audio input, but an iPod adaptor is available for $200. The system comes prewired for Sirius satellite radio. The in-dash six-disc changer plays MP3 CDs and is very easy to navigate using the controls on the stack. The left knob controls volume, while the right lets you scroll through folders. This set-up works equally well when navigating Sirius satellite radio channels. These controls are supplemented with controls set into the backs of the nine and three o'clock spokes on the steering wheel. We found the steering wheel controls easy to use for volume and channel selection and like the way they were hidden away to preserve the clean look of the steering wheel.
The navigation system on the Galant Ralliart has good route guidance, but is pretty mediocre in other respects. We really like the yellow arrows it uses to mark a route on screen, and we like its graphics and alerts to notify of upcoming turns. However, destination entry is hampered by a slow processor, forcing short wait times before buttons become functional, and its points-of-interest database only includes the basics. It does include a detour function, which is something we don't see too often. And we like that the screens for all the other car functions include a button to take you write back to navigation.
The screen displays some other novel functions that we seldom see on other cars. The Environment screen shows the temperature over the last three hours, car altitude, and even the barometric pressure, making the Galant Ralliart a nice little weather station. The Maintenance screen is a nice in-dash reference for oil changes and the like, while the AC screen gives good visuals for climate control adjustment.
Mitsubishi doesn't offer cell phone integration or a smart key for the Galant, features that are available on the Outlander. We like the blue lighting for the instruments and stack, which give the car a nice atmosphere at night.
Under the hood
Similar to its Rockford stereo, the Galant Ralliart offers a rowdy driving experience. The dangerous look of the car makes you want to put on sunglasses and go tearing down the road. The engine helps considerably in this regard, as it's a MIVEC (Mitsubishi's variable valve timing technology) 3.8-liter V-6, producing 258 horsepower. Its throttle response is very good, rocketing the car forward off the line. Unfortunately, its front-wheel drive also means lots of torque steer, forcing us to hold the wheel in place as we accelerated. Throttle response on the high end is a bit laggy--when we jammed the accelerator on the freeway, we had to wait a moment before the car really took off. When it does bolt forward, the engine makes a satisfying growl.
This MIVEC engine is great, but too bad it only powers the front wheels.
The car sticks too close to its Galant roots with its transmission, an unexciting five-speed automatic. Mitsubishi's press materials brag about the Sportronic mode, which lets you manually shift through its five gears, but however the company wants to market it, it's still an automatic. We would have been much happier with a six-speed manual in this car. As part of the Ralliart tuning, the car gets its suspension worked over, making for a stiffer ride. We liked how the suspension performed in the curves, allowing no body roll. During regular driving over rough roads, it's not the most comfortable ride, but as expected for a sports car.
We were pleasantly surprised at this car's fuel economy. The EPA gives it ratings of 18mpg city and 27mpg highway. In our mixed city and freeway driving, we averaged 22.1mpg, a good number for a relatively big V-6. It gets an emissions rating of LEV II, or low emission vehicle category II, from the California Air Resources Board, another indication of the efficiency of this engine.
Our 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart test car starts with a base price of $26,999. The base model is pretty well loaded with the Rockford stereo system, but we added the navigation package for $1,850. Along with a $625 destination charge, our test car came in at $29,474.
While we enjoyed getting behind the wheel of the Galant Ralliart with its performance edge, there's a lot we weren't crazy about. For the car to go beyond being a tricked-out family sedan, it would need all-wheel drive and a manual transmission. The more expensive Subaru Legacy spec.B is a better car for those who want true performance. We like the Galant Ralliart's styling and the route guidance on its navigation system, but we felt bad for the rattling speakers when we cranked up the volume of the stereo system.