The current generation (PS41) Mitsubishi Galant has been on the market in the USA since Fall 2003. Designed to be fully competitive with the big dogs in its class – Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima – Galant is about the size of the Accord, bigger than Camry and Altima (and the Hyundai Sonata). The car feels big for a Mid-Size Car, but size alone does not make for a competitive Mid-Size entry.
Our impression of the Galant is that it is a good basic car beset by too many cost-reductions that could be obvious to the buyer. Where most product planners would lament that they were $50-$100 short of a great car, the Galant planners were probably lamenting of a $500 shortfall. Somehow, the financial community won the product content battle and it’s tough to sell an obviously cost reduced car agaist the likes of Camry and Accord. The last generation Nissan Altima learned that lesson.
Premium Mid-Size Cars – Most Competitive Car Segment
In this most competitive of car segments, a car has to be superb to achieve class-leading status and Galant falls a bit short but it does deserve a look. It is now the oldest of the major competitors in the class. OK, all its major competitors are on a five-year product cycle. Camry was all new for 2007 as was the Altima. The Honda Accord received a major rear end freshening for the 2006 model year. Sonata was all new for 2006. With a normal cycle life, the Galant would be due for a major change in late 2008 as a 2009 model. So a major change for the Galant is not late – yet. Most Asian brands have a moderate mid-cycle freshening to keep interest up, but Galant got a very minor change for the 2007 model year and added the range topping RalliArt version.
We had not driven a Galant at VehicleVoice
since its launch and the intro of the new RalliArt edition gave us the perfect opportunity to see how the Galant has evolved.
We brought you coverage of the Dodge Avenger concept reveal at Paris (click here), then the production reveal in Detroit (click here). We recently had the chance to drive the Avenger around Phoenix, and now we bring you the first VehicleVoice and AutoPacific driving impressions. Avenger relies on its looks to draw buyers in and close the deal, as it settles mid-pack among its mid-size sedan competition (Ford Fusion, Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura, new-for-2008 Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, Kia Optima) by nearly every other measure. Inside and out, it is better than some, but not so good as others. Avenger is head and shoulders above the 2001-06MY Stratus, but Stratus had been allowed to slip into mediocrity, and Avenger competes against modern offerings instead of the past.
Finally! A formidable adversary to the BMW 3-Series. I’d call it an adversary, others may call it an antidote or a nice alternative. But what ever you call it, this Audi A4 was pretty impressive. When I think of Audi, I think of Bavaria, when I think of Bavaria I think of BMW. Some may enjoy the current generation 3-Series but I think BMW may have lost their aficionado edge. Some may even say they’ve gone off the reservation. I think the real BMW cowboys left the marque just as Bangle’s design caught on and these enthusiasts are looking for a place to hang their hat. Well, my guess is they’ll find Audi a brand that may meet their demands.
Audi is poised to make waves over the next few years. Some of those waves are going to take prospective new car owners away from BMW and into new Audi’s like this A4 3.2 Quattro.
Like anyone in this business, I can get pretty amped shooting images or driving a $60,000 car. Unlike many in this business, I can also get pretty excited about good cheap transportation.
At this time of year, everyone wants you to know about the best cars, trucks and SUVS of the year. AutoPacific has already taken a big step in that direction, but with a twist: Partnering with Intellichoice, AutoPacific shared the best vehicles of the year, as picked by you – and that’s saying something! The Awards are called the Motorist’s Choice Awards and this year included the Lexus LS430, The Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4×2, the Infiniti QX56 and the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro. Where else can you go to get the best possible input from your own peers about the latest vehicles in the marketplace? Since you’re here, we think you’ve come to the right place.
My Personal Choices for Best Rides of the Year
Watch the Podcast: AutoPacific & IntelliChoice Motorist’s Choice Awards
It’s part of my job to drive a new vehicle nearly every week. In some cases, more than one vehicle at week gets the once-over, not only by me, but by a number of the analysts and experts at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. As the resident speed-guy, I might have a slightly different take on things and while I do try to avoid going to court, I do need to put my foot down. And that’s part of what my list is about. The other things I’m taking into consideration are everyday drivability, cost, and return on investment. And as you know, everyone is concerned about fuel costs and gas mileage. Not me! Not yet… So, let’s get to it.
As anyone reading this VehicleVoice news section knows, GMC has an all-new crossover SUV. With Acadia, and its Saturn Outlook sibling, GM’s approach for innovative people-moving solutions still relies on a large basic vehicle. The package is well done, but the extra length GM had to work with versus true mid-size competitors helped make it possible. Acadia has the overall length of a Yukon or a long-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country, about ten inches longer than the Envoy. With Acadia, GMC is targeting mid-size and crossover SUVs. In reality, they will pull buyers from the minivan set and full-size SUVs right along with buyers of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, or Toyota Highlander.
GMC invited VehicleVoice and AutoPacific along as they showed off their new baby to journalists along a four-hour drive from Palo Alto to Hollister, California, with a stop at Leal Vineyards
(minus a wine tasting), and back again. The weather was spectacular, the roads varied and challenging, and the Acadia a comfortable and willing steed. We’ve also had the opportunity to drive the Saturn Outlook
around our town, where it performed about the same as the Acadia around Palo Alto, but roads more challenging were added to the Acadia experience.
The Acadia and Outlook are powered by the same 275HP 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with a self-shift feature operated by an up/down switch on the gearlever. There isn’t much difference between Acadia and Outlook suspensions. The engine was tuned for optimum torque and power response geared toward stronger low-end acceleration, enabling the 4720-pound front-drive (4925-pound AWD) Acadia the power to satisfy in its primarily urban jungle environment.
General Motors is rolling out three new crossover SUVs that share an all-new, purpose-built platform. GM has called this platform Lambda for internal purposes. The Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are on sale now and the Buick Enclave arrives in summer 2007 as a 2008MY vehicle. These crossover SUVs are taking on not only traditional and crossover mid-size SUVs but also full-size SUVs and minivans due to their large size and dimensions (they are nearly as large as the Chevrolet Tahoe). They do not have the towing capability of truck-based SUVs, but do have the other attributes for which buyers go to SUVs, or minivans. They have high seating positions, available AWD, and interiors big enough to hold seven passengers or lots of stuff.
Following the roll-out of the Lambda crossover SUVs, General Motors will kill their conventional minivans (similar to Ford’s strategy of killing the Monterey and Freestar minivans). The Pontiac Montana SV6 is already history and its demise will be followed by the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Oh, yeah, Chevrolet will get a Lambda Crossover SUV in the next year or so as well.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice analysts have been included in the reviews of these critically important General Motors vehicles.
General Motors describes their current state as an interior renaissance, and these products are examples of smart interior thinking. They include a level of interior detail not before seen from the General. As these products were developed with a clean slate, new platform, new interiors, new powertrain, GM took the opportunity to make sure they will be easy to live with.
The second- and third-row folding operations are simple and easy to use and the overall package is terrific. One could buy any one of these vehicles and spend the life of the vehicle discovering all the little things that will add up to a product that enhances and eases daily life. It’s taken GM a very long time to get to such a solid package design, but they have finally succeeded.
For a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, it’d be easy to dismiss the Lincoln MKX as little more than a tarted up Ford Edge. MKX could be another case of a redressed everyman’s car devised by sinister marketing types to pick the pockets of the gullible wealthy. Sure it uses the same platform, drivetrain, chassis bits and much of the sheetmetal with the more affordably priced, er, Ford. But this kind of misanthropic thinking sells the premium-badged vehicle short in many ways. Frankly, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were suitably impressed by the MKX and how different it was from the Edge.
For starters, Lincolns spun off high-volume Ford products have been the norm rather than the exception over the luxury nameplate’s 85 years of Ford ownership. After a calamitous attempt at building overweight Mercury and Lincoln vehicles off a common platform in 1949, both brands pretty much fell into lockstep with the lowly Ford. Other than a couple of other unsuccessful tries to build stand-alone Lincolns in mid-fifties for a decade or so, common sense (and rising development costs) meant Lincolns would have to be derived from higher volume platforms.
For 2006 Lincoln got its own version of Ford’s latest mid-size sedan the Fusion. With specific sheetmetal at both ends and a unique interior the shortest car to ever carry a Lincoln badge was dubbed the Zephyr. A name for Lincoln’s illustrious past, the original Zephyrs were more modern than the KB-Series the company had been offering. They were also far more affordable carrying sticker prices a fraction of the essentially hand-built KBs.
While the latest Zephyr didn’t carry quite the same type of pricing relative to a Town Car, it did share the original Zephyr’s mission of bringing new customers to Lincoln. And while the new Zephyr sold beyond many people’s (and Lincoln’s own) expectations, a bit of Town Car style old-think found its way into the 2006 model… specifically its chassis setup. Timing constraints meant the Zephyr would have to carry over the entire drivetrain from the Fusion. This meant a modern but workmanlike 221HP 3.0L V6 and a pleasant Aisin-sourced 6-speed automatic gearbox. The Fusion’s front drive chassis was employed and received some minor, but as it turned out, rather unsettling tuning. Somebody decided that since the Zephyr was going to be a Lincoln it should ride like one. But apparently this was interpreted to mean Town Car rather than “Lincoln.” Compared to the original donor vehicle the Zephyr was softer with a far more “floaty” ride than the Fusion. The Zephyr was also shod with a V-rated “ride tire.” Biased for comfort and low-tread noise over adhesion, the Zephyr turned out to be a car better suited to riding in the passenger seat than sitting behind the steering wheel.
The Hyundai Elantra is one of a string of all new Compact Cars introduced recently (September 2006): 2007 Nissan Sentra, 2006 Honda Civic, Kia Spectra… and smaller entries: 2007 Hyundai Accent, 2007 Nissan Versa, 2007 Toyota Yaris, 2007 Honda Fit. So, the competitive set for Elantra is very busy with better and better cars. AutoPacific was on hand for the media launch of the Elantra that included a drive from Santa Monica to Ojai.
More Expressive Styling
The Elantra meets its competition head on. Wider (+2.0-inches) and taller (+2.2-inches), Elantra is much larger than before with its interior volume rating now in the Mid-Size Class. Among its facing competitors, only Sentra also is rated as a Mid-Size Car in interior volume. Hyundai brags that Elantra has a larger interior than the Acura TL.
While Elantra’s size may be its major distinguishing attribute, its style is more expressive than before, but Elantra is still not a head-turner. Side surfacing is more distinctive using rising contours reminiscent of the first generation Santa Fe crossover SUV, but not so contrived. The hood has a slight power bulge flowing into an evolutionary Elantra grille. While its stance is more purposeful than before, the standard P195/65TR15 tires are too anemic looking. The P205/55HR16s on the SE and Limited models look better, but still don’t give the car the beefier appearance we prefer.