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Good Japanese cars come so rare these days. In fact, nowadays, great Japanese cars are either rally-derived super cars such as the Subaru Impreza or high-performance track stars such as the Honda NSX or Nissan Skyline. Whatever happened to the ordinary man’s sports sedan? Well, sure the Lexus IS200 is there, but who in the world can cough up 1,500,000 easily? I guess only a former president can do that in a jiffy. What the Japanese are currently lacking (well, at least in the Philippine market) is a truly affordable 4-door sports sedan that’s quite able to deliver the performance without sacrificing practicality. Years ago, one company was in the right track with a car that was designed to become a legend…the Mitsubishi Galant GTi.
Everyone remembers the GTi as the kick ass family sedan of Mitsubishi that was never again matched or even closely matched. During this time, Mitsubishi was employing the use of the Galant for its WRC challenge and it its heyday, won races. Although it never won a championship, it was respected for sweeping the tremendously difficult Thousand Lakes Rally in Finland.
The VR4 soon found itself on the road. Based on the rally car, this top-of the line Galant during that time had all the accessories one could ever think off: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that’s good for 205 bhp, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, four-wheel drive with four-wheel steering and electronically adjustable ride height and shocks. Of course, we Filipinos could only drool with the VR4 as it never made it here.
Mitsubishi opted a different route here. Introducing the shape (complete with all the aerodynamic kit) that’s similar to the VR4, the GTi was born. Using the same 2.0-liter engine as the VR4 sans the turbocharger, the GTi’s powerplant is considered as a technological wonder of sorts. For instance, it was the first one to use the EFI or electronic fuel injection system through an 8-bit processor in the Philippine market. Moreover, the engine solved the inherent instability of the inline-4 engine layout by introducing the counter-rotating balance shafts that have become standard eventually on all inline-4 engines from any manufacturer. Lash adjusters, a device also used by Ferrari were employed to eliminate the need for the valves to be re-aligned. In plain English, the DOHC power plant was good for 145 bhp and a maximum engine speed of 7000 rpm. The engine is so good that it saw transition to the succeeding Galant model (in the US), two Eclipse iterations and several other American cars.
The suspension, for both the Super Saloon and the GTi were technical wonders. Although the Philippines did not have the four-wheel drive / four-wheel steering system of the VR4, the layout and configuration of the suspension enabled passive rear-wheel steering for this particular Galant model. This meant that turning radius was smaller than cars comparable to its size. Moreover, it was more manoeuvrable and responsive during duress. The GTi’s suspension was further stiffened to a lot better performance under top speed. The 14-inch tires were also ditched in favor of 195 / 60 HR15 Goodyear Invicta GA all weather tires as standard. Although quite pathetic now, these 15-inches were considered ‘sporty’ enough during that time.
The GTi was also the first car in the Philippines to employ the use of four-wheel disc brakes. This provided immense stopping power, although still no match when the ABS clad cars came trotting in the country.
Driving the Galant GTi might seem like a normal car, however to extract the most out of the engine, one will have to rev it to around 5,000 rpm. Here, the engine clearly changes note and turns sportier. The note is even more enhanced by the standard RalliArt twin-pipe exhaust of the GTi. Although it’s not blistering fast (it takes 9.2 second to reach 100 kilometers an hour), it feels and sounds fast. What’s more the GTi’s DOHC engine makes the torque peakier than the SOHC version, thus constant up and down shifts are necessary to keep the engine in a sporty mood. Of course, Mitsubishi revised the gear ratios to handle the load necessary for this. Even at ten years old, our very own Galant GTi is still able to each speeds up to 200 km/h on the eight kilometer stretch of the Skyway without the least bit being unstable, this is probably because of the useful down force created by the aerodynamic kit.
Inside, the Galant GTi is a combination of soft feel plastic and pure ergonomic bliss. The interior is a clear copy of some Mercedes-Benz styling cues such as the separately placed electronically adjustable side view mirror control and the thin-rimmed steering wheel. These echo the styling cues borrowed from Merc that are evident from the outside as well. The Galant’s switches were all within easy reach…and there was no exception. Everything was where it was supposed to be. In fact, event the most obscure of switches such as fog lights were all placed within reach without the need of stretching out. What’s more, the buttons become recognizable by touch!
The instrumentation cluster is probably the most controversial aspect of the GTi. It’s huge tachometer and speedometer set is huge to the point that they could be clearly seen by another passing car. The reason for is that Mitsubishi wanted to improve the readability of the instrumentations, and since they considered the temperature and the fuel gauge to be indeed secondary, they reduced their size and increased the size of the two main instrumentations to make them readable even at a glance.
Even the seats of the GTi tell their own story. Unlike the common flat seats of cars today, the GTi’s seats use the ‘butterfly’ system that have special creases for the spine and other areas of the back plus heavy slide bolstering to reduce driving stress and fatigue. The shape of the seats, whether front or rear passengers are perfect and are every bit comfortable, and a fact that’s true even if the driver’s seat lacks lumber support adjustment.
Of course, like all used cars, the Galant GTi isn’t perfect. In fact, it has had its share of problems in the past few years. The basic problems of the GTi can be separated into three categories: body, brakes and miscellaneous.
The first concerns with the fact that the Galant GTi has a tendency to attract rust, especially near the engine compartment and the passenger rear doors. Although we’ve been trying to find the source of it, it proved to be very difficult. The weekly use of rust converts don’t seem to work either…our latest hypothesis is that the rubber sealing on the doors isn’t as tight as it should be and thus some water seeps into the door’s metal portion causing it to inevitably rust. Owners and potential powers of GTi must be careful when it comes to looking after rust in their cars. This may prove to be a huge problem in the future. Since the Galant came with a 3 year anti-rust warranty, it’s a good step to check if it has undergone a full rust proofing after this warranty has expired. If not, then it’s a good idea to have it serviced at Ziebart or Suburbia (Tuff Kote).
Brakes are also a problem for the GTi in particular. Since this is the first time four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in the Philippines, it seemed that each time the car reverses it creates some screeching noises. Mitsubishi says that this is quite normal for this particular car and owners also back this fact up, the best way to reduce the noise temporarily is through overhauling the brakes every so often. General brake cleaning does work also, but changing brake pads don’t seem to work at all.
Beyond the major areas of brakes and body rust, other Galant problems are mostly in the miscellaneous department. For instance, the headlamps have a tendency of fogging up causing the headlight beams to be a bit too weak especially when the car gets older. This can be solved by sending the car over sand letting Mitsubishi open up and clean the interior of the headlamp cluster. Radio reception for the Mark I GTi is also poor, that’s why we recommend getting a new power antenna for Mark I GTi potential owners. For those wondering the difference between the Mark I and the Mark II? The Mark I has a three-spoke urethane steering wheel, trunk mounted antenna and is available in Sun Beam Silver Iridium. On the other hand, the Mark II has a power antenna as standard, a four-spoke leather steering wheel and available in gray, while the SBSI color was dropped from the list.
Our Galant GTi, at 75,000 kilometers is still perfectly fit and fine for long distance travel. What this car needs is attention and regular service. Beyond that, this car should provide a good combination of practicality and performance that’s not anymore available in any car in the Philippines. Even the latest Mitsubishis seem to be disappointing to a very huge degree. One could only wonder…Mitsubishi got it right years ago, how come they can’t do it right now?
Text By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang
Originally Published in the February 2001 Issue