If the car world were an action film, Mitsubishi would be in the tenuous last five minutes of the last reel. The snake-headed alien space monkeys have beaten the hero to a bloody pulp. He's oozing from every pore and it looks like the space monkeys are about to turn the earth's population into food pellets. Will the hero suddenly find a last burst of strength, grab a Louisville Slugger and with a wry, "Batter up, space monkey," turn the aliens into primate piñatas? We don't know. The movie's not over yet.
But like John McClane running barefoot through broken glass, Mitsubishi isn't giving up without emptying all barrels and spraying some hot lead downrange. Case in point is the 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart.
For the record, Ralliart was the name of Mitsubishi's now defunct worldwide rallying effort. While the rooster-tail racing is gone, the name lives on as a performance umbrella under which future performance models will be launched. Think of it as the Mitsubishi version of AMG Mercedes-Benz. Any product with the Ralliart logo will be an indication to shoppers that this is a steroid-enhanced version with more power, better handling and unique visual cues. The hope, of course, is that if the standard model doesn't motivate you to consider the brand, maybe the buffed and flexed version will make you swoon.
Will disappear in a puff of tire smoke
On paper the Galant Ralliart has the sauce. Its 3.8-liter V6 engine is a great powerhouse, cranking out 258 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, enough grunt to propel it to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, the quarter-mile in 15 seconds and a terminal velocity at the trap of 94.5 mph. These numbers are good enough to draw attention at an on-ramp and maybe even create a few converts. For the record, that 0-60-mph time is quicker than the last Nissan Altima SE-R we tested, which also had an automatic transmission.
In the Eclipse GT, the same engine produces 263 hp but due to exhaust changes it left a few horses on the shop floor when it was adopted by the Galant. The engine has a broad, flexible power curve due to the MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing Electronic Control) system. The system alters valve timing and lift depending on engine speed and load and, like the industry-leading Honda VTEC system, operates seamlessly. At 2,000 rpm, it's already producing 220 lb-ft of torque and the curve stays fairly flat up to redline.
Tromping the right foot on the metal accelerator pedal produces noticeable, but not excessive, torque steer. If conditions are right and the traction control is switched off, the same tromping will produce a front-wheel-drive burnout worthy of an NHRA national event.
The MIVEC V6 is mated to a standard five-speed automatic with the Sportronic shift system. In testing we discovered that the transmission tended to short-shift in 2nd gear. We got the best times by manually holding 2nd gear to redline. Sadly, no manual transmission is offered despite the Eclipse's six-speed sitting in the parts bin.
Twists, turns and a nice surprise As one would expect, the MacPherson front and multilink rear suspension shares almost everything with the standard Galant. The front bits are mounted on a subframe. Usually when upgrades are made to a suspension, the subframe mounting points get harder bushings to reduce flex and wobble. In this case, the bushings were apparently rigid enough not to need upgrading. The springs, however, are swapped out for higher-rated units and the dampers are also upgraded to provide better control. A 21mm stabilizer bar is added to the rear.
Also unique to the Ralliart are 235/45R18 all-season Goodyears mounted on seven-spoke alloy wheels. The development team apparently went out on a limb here and actually dialed up a noticeable but very controllable amount of oversteer. On the track, it ran the 600-foot slalom at an impressive 63.3 mph and was noted for its ability to counteract the tendency of nose-heavy front-drive cars to understeer their way into boredom and off our "must drive" list. This ability to rotate under trail braking into tight corners was easy to induce on the road as well.
The Normal, Illinois, development team also gave the Ralliart bigger front and rear brakes. All Galants get ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution as standard equipment. Although the track testers were a little disappointed with the longish 132-foot braking distance from 60 mph (the Altima SE-R stopped from 60 mph in 118 feet), on the plus side, we didn't experience any brake fade on hard, repeated braking on some of our favorite canyon roads. There was always plenty of pedal available and high-quality feedback.
Feedback from the steering wheel, on the other hand, was somewhat less than high-quality. At the limit and in quick transitions, the steering was sullen and numb. It wasn't anything that could get you in trouble, but you just didn't get that "connected to the road" sensation.
Loaded for bear On the outside, the Ralliart gets a specific mesh grille, color-keyed side airdams, Ralliart badges and projector-style, four-bulb ellipsoid headlamps. The look is just aggressive enough to be interesting, but the overly large fender for tire clearance and single exhaust pipe are pure sabotage.
Inside, there are perforated leather seats with front-seat heaters, automatic climate control, power glass sunroof with a sunshade, a HomeLink transmitter, perforated aluminum pedals and something Mitsubishi calls Micro-delta accent interior panels.
Right now it looks as if the Galant Ralliart will only come one way: loaded. That means standard equipment will include a DVD navigation system and a Rockford Acoustic Design premium audio system. Neither of these items was fully sorted out on our test car so we'll hold our fire on those until we drive a Ralliart with fully functional units. For the record, the Rockford system will include AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, an eight-channel amplifier with 360 watts of available power, silk-dome tweeters and Digital Signal Processing. According to Mitsubishi, the Ralliart is the first vehicle to feature the Rockford system. You also get the Sirius Satellite Radio hardware as well as a free six-month subscription to the Sirius service.
So the Galant Ralliart isn't a bad deal for less than $29,000. Plus, for '07, all Galant models get side curtain airbags to the already extant front and front-seat-mounted side airbags with occupant sensors.
A noble effort The 2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart is a noble effort and it's a hot round that hits closer to the bull's-eye than previous Galant incarnations. We're not sure it's got the ballistics to slay the opposition but it can at least keep their heads down while Mitsubishi chambers something a little newer and more refined. It's got the power, the looks and most of the handling needed to do battle. All that's really lacking is the killer instinct, the fine edge that separates the warrior from the rear echelon.
Edmunds.com Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says: Tuner cars have a tough row to hoe. They have to justify their existence through differentiation from the mainstream parent model. But with budgets and business cases always playing a role in their final outcome, these "tuner upgrades" sometimes appear more gimmicky than genuine. This new Ralliart springs from the base Galant, and in terms of exterior design and driving dynamics that's not a bad place to start. The latest Galant has a clean, aggressive look that's only improved by the 18-inch alloy wheels and color-keyed body cladding. The contrasting stitches on the steering wheel and shifter, along with the leather seats and aluminum pedals, help dress up the Galant's interior, but overall interior quality is subpar when shopped against the Honda and Toyota competition.
Thankfully, the Ralliart's driving dynamics give this tuner version something to crow about when it's time to motor. Steering feel and suspension tuning provide confidence on twisty roads, and the torque-rich 3.8-liter V6 moves the car with ease. You have to watch for tire spin when punching it from a standstill, but even without a limited-slip differential, torque steer wasn't a major issue. Our test car easily beat the manufacturer claims of zero to 60 in 7 seconds, so it's hard to imagine a customer in this segment not being satisfied with the car's overall performance.
Yes, it begins life as just another Galant, but thankfully this version isn't just another tire/wheel/graphics package with "tuner special" marketing hype.
Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton says: I have mixed emotions about the Ralliart Galant: I love the concept of a high-performance version of a workaday sedan (BMW built an empire with that notion), but I think Mitsu could've gone further with the equipment on this package. After having driven the SEMA concept car, this "production" version falls short of that well-sorted "concept." As it stands, the Ralliart package doesn't make it much quicker, more nimble, nor does it stop any better. What it does is take what's already an above-average performer and make it less friendly on city streets with its stiff-legged suspension.
The SEMA car was a rocket with a manual transmission, and it tore through the slalom at nearly 70 mph. If Mitsu had fulfilled the promise a Ralliart badge implies with an exceptional version of the Galant, I'd be more able to justify the added cost. Keep the bumper fascias, side skirts, stereo upgrade and sat-nav binnacle, but give me the real hardware from the show car and you'd have something. As it is now it's just a harsh-riding, more expensive version of the car they already make.
System Score: 9.0
Components: The Galant Ralliart comes with an impressive list of audio hardware and is the first factory-installed version of Rockford's new Rockford Acoustic Design audio system. The system was developed specifically for factory installation into new cars.
The Rockford Acoustic Design system starts with a six-disc CD changer that's MP3 capable then adds an eight-channel amp that delivers 360 watts of power. Eight channels means that the eight-speaker audio system has a dedicated channel for each speaker. There's also an adjustable subwoofer.
The eight speakers consist of two 25mm tweeters mounted at the edge of the dash, 160mm midrange speaker mounted in the front doors, 50mm surrounds in the rear package tray and a pair of 6x9s also mounted in the rear package tray.
There are also several user-adjustable settings, including EQ profiles and various sound profiles and those are in addition to the usual bass, treble and midrange adjustments.
Performance: The Rockford Acoustic Design audio system sounds like it belongs in a much more expensive car than a hot-rodded Galant. Mitsubishi clearly gets that music is a big part of driving a car like the Eclipse or Galant Ralliart and its dedication pays off.
For example, bass is tight and precise, not just loud. This system delivers the kind of bass that you can feel. That sharp bass is complemented by well-rounded midrange and brilliant highs and the whole package works well as a whole. Most rock tracks hit with an impressive authority although occasionally songs with lots of overdubbing lack appropriate separation.
The various sound profiles do make noticeable changes to the music and we found that the "Club" and "Normal" settings worked best for most kinds of music. Acoustic tracks like folk or some country sounded best in the "Studio" setting as it added an intimacy the other settings lack. There's also a "hold" feature that allows the user to stay inside a certain menu as long as they want, so experimenting with certain sound profiles on different tracks is easy. The fun of that feature alone makes the user experience all the more enjoyable and really makes you feel like you've got something special.
Still, even if an owner never bothers with these settings, the sound quality and depth are a step above everything else in the Galant Ralliart's class.
One drawback for this stereo is lack of an auxiliary input for connecting handheld MP3 players. It's a feature that seemed like a luxury only two years ago but is fast becoming expected — especially in youth-oriented brands like Mitsubishi. The problem should be fixed soon as Mitsubishi's iCar (not available in the U.S.) has not only an iPod-specific connection but a slot in the dash that holds and connects to an iPod. We'd expect to see that feature in American Mitsus within the next two years.
Best Feature: Overall sound quality, especially bass.
Worst Feature: No way to connect an iPod or other MP3 player.
Conclusion: An excellent sound system from a company that "gets it" when it comes to in-car audio. Kids may want the challenge of building an aftermarket system but grown-ups simply want aftermarket performance without the shopping, warranty and installation headaches. For them, this is the perfect audio system. — Brian Moody