Mitsubishi 3000GT

Japan's automotive design is usually driven by the pursuit of efficiency, agility and lightness. At the same time, however, there's a definite obsession with technology: making everything electronic, inventing neat new gadgets and generally providing complex answers to simple questions. For a perfect example of the latter philosophy, look no further than the Mitsubishi 3000GT.
Arriving just in time for the early 1990s sports car revolution, the 3000GT showed up carrying a great big load of stuff, especially in top-line VR-4 trim. To wit: a 24-valve V6 with dual overhead camshafts and twin turbochargers. Electronically adjustable suspension. Four-wheel drive. Four-wheel steering. A limited-slip differential. Front and rear spoilers that extend at 50 mph and retract at 30. Even the exhaust note could be customized with the flip of a switch.
Of all the above features, the twin turbos and all-wheel drive left the strongest impressions. Three-hundred horsepower let the 3000GT VR-4 run with the fastest sports cars of its day, and the security of four driven wheels put it at ease doing so. Strong grip, strong brakes and styling that turned heads for nine straight years rounded out the package. The Mitsubishi 3000GT, along with its Dodge counterpart, the Stealth, got respect.
But Mitsubishi's full load of technology sure resulted in a full load of car. At 3,800 pounds, the 3000GT VR-4 significantly outweighed every competitor and had the most pronounced frontal weight bias. Many drivers also felt its steering and shifter were vague, and its chassis less connected than other sports cars'. Furthermore, no one seemed to find much value in most of the electronics, and no one over 6 feet tall could sit up straight.
As a choice for a used sport coupe or convertible, the Mitsubishi 3000GT is either a poser or a serious performance car, with a wide gulf between the two. Base and SL models look flashy but don't provide performance matching their looks. In VR-4 guise, the 3000GT is a car with serious speed, style and several fun little toys. Just know that: 1) Fun little toys have a habit of breaking; and 2) Unless all-wheel drive is a strong preference, more satisfying '90s-era experiences await the discerning driver in the form of the BMW M3, Mazda RX-7 and Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.
Most Recent Mitsubishi 3000GT
The Mitsubishi 3000GT ran from 1991-'99 and came in three trim levels: base, SL and VR-4. The base and SL were front-wheel drive and were both initially powered by a 222-hp, 3.0-liter V6 that paired up to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
The SL's upgrades consisted of antilock brakes, electronic adjustable shocks, a power driver seat and a handful of convenience features that varied by year. The VR-4 was in another league entirely, boasting all the previously mentioned performance upgrades and bigger 17-inch wheels. Unlike its rivals, Mitsubishi never offered an automatic with the turbo engine.
The Mitsubishi 3000GT received steady changes over the years. After some across-the-board content upgrades for 1993 (such as standard leather for the VR-4), the first major freshening came in 1994. Reworked styling replaced the pop-up headlights with projector units and the interior gained a second airbag. Meanwhile, the VR-4 became an even stronger performer thanks to a boost from 300 to 320 hp, the addition of a 6th gear to the gearbox and upgraded brakes.
In 1995, Mitsubishi expanded the line with the new 3000GT Spyder, a four-seat convertible available in SL and VR-4 trims. Featuring Mitsubishi's most elaborate electronic item yet, the Spyder had a power-retractable hardtop that could open or close in 19 seconds. At the time, it was one of the first modern production cars to feature such an item, though a high price and resultant slow sales limited the Spyder to a two-year run. In other news, the VR-4 gained 18-inch wheels for 1995, and from 1994-'96 Mitsubishi dropped the VR-4's adjustable exhaust and spoilers and its electronic suspension.
Another face-lift in 1997 brought, among other things, a new St. Louis arch of a rear spoiler. In even worse news, the base 3000GT switched to a single-overhead-cam, 12-valve V6 with a decidedly measly 161 hp. The final changes were the addition of a sunroof on the SL and VR-4 for 1998 and yet another face-lift for 1999.
For the driving enthusiast, the non-turbo 3000GTs are a bit of a letdown. By the mid-'90s, even the 222-hp 3000GT couldn't perform any better than some $10,000-cheaper family sedans, while the 161-hp 3000GT fared even more poorly. Still, the pre-'97 cars could serve as decent (and likely more reliable) alternatives to domestic-brand coupes like the Ford Mustang V6 or Chevrolet Camaro V6.
Assuming one can be found in good condition, the real incentive to buy the Mitsubishi 3000GT is the VR-4. Though the basics remained intact throughout its run, models from 1994-'96 seem a little more desirable. The extra power and extra gear can't hurt, the more subtle rear spoiler doesn't impede visibility and the headroom-robbing sunroof was still optional. Also, the VR-4 Spyder deserves special mention as a true year-round sports car, with all-wheel-drive traction for winters, a retractable roof for summers and stronger performance than most any five-figure drop top of its day.

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Mitsubishi Mirage

When it comes to the small car segment, Japanese automakers have long held a dominant role. But some makes and models have been more popular than others. The Mitsubishi Mirage reliably served as an affordable and economical set of wheels for 16 years, usually scoring well in quality surveys and critics' reviews. Yet this compact sedan and coupe never could escape the shadows of more popular models like the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra or Toyota Corolla.
In actuality, the Mirage's road manners, at least on versions equipped with the proper engine and tires, were reasonably refined and up to the demands of basic transportation. Gas mileage was decent, cabins were acceptably isolated from noise and ride harshness, and the Mirage's interior was designed as well as any. Finally, Mitsubishi was ahead of the game in offering what small-car shoppers presumably look for most: a low price.
For awhile there, the Mitsubishi Mirage even showed hints of sports car aspirations by dishing out a couple high-output engines, one of them turbocharged. But the Mirage never attained much sales success. Most shoppers at the time preferred the comfortable reputation provided by more mainstream products. As a used compact sedan or coupe, the Mirage is at least worth a look as a budget buy, especially given its below-average resale value. However, you'll want to be aware of the car's limitations and faults, and comparing it to a few other small car choices would probably be wise.
Most Recent Mitsubishi Mirage
The Mitsubishi Mirage lived its fourth and final life from 1997-2002. Its lineup was divided between sedan and coupe body styles and entry-level DE (later ES) and upscale LS trim lines. Engines included a 1.5-liter engine with 92 horsepower and a 1.8-liter with 113, both of which could be paired with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
At first, all Mirages were sparsely equipped, but LS models could at least be ordered with power windows and locks, cruise control, 14-inch wheels and a sunroof. Style-conscious LS coupes added standard alloy wheels, foglights, a spoiler and a tachometer.
Over the next few years, Mitsubishi tinkered with the different trims' feature lists; the most notable change was the discontinuation of antilock brakes, which were only offered as an option on LS models through 1999. For the Mirage's final year, only the coupe survived, as Mitsubishi discontinued the sedan in favor of the car's eventual replacement, theLancer.
Picking the right Mitsubishi Mirage is critical to its desirability. Because the 1.8-liter engine and 14-inch wheels are necessary for decent acceleration, handling and braking, stick to sedans of 2000-'01 or an LS of any year, which have more amenities anyway. Also note that the sedan's slightly greater length, wheelbase and height (a tradition carried over from past Mirages) made it a passable four-seater, whereas the coupe's backseat suffered from cramped space and awkward entry and exit, partly due to a passenger seat that didn't slide forward easily.
With any Mirage of this vintage, one pressing matter to keep in mind is safety, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it an unusually low rating of "Poor" in its frontal offset crash test.
Past Mitsubishi Mirage Models
The most recent Mitsubishi Mirage owed much of its design to the generation of 1993-'96. The third-gen Mirage was also available in sedan and coupe form, and it used the same engines and transmissions. It was also similar in size and had the same suspension (struts in front, multilink in rear) and the same competent demeanor on the road. The most significant difference is that the automatic transmission attached to the 1.5-liter engine had only three speeds, which made for noisy and inefficient freeway driving.
Trim lines included the S, ES and LS. The 1.8-liter engine initially came only in the LS sedan, then spread to ES sedans and LS coupes in 1994. Other changes that year included an upgrade from 13-inch wheels to 14 (on some models) and a driver side front airbag. Dual front airbags replaced the motorized seatbelts in 1995, the same year Mitsubishi oddly ceased selling sedan versions of the Mirage to the public, instead restricting them to fleets.
While this generation of Mirage had a sound design, the details limit its appeal. The 13-inch wheels and lack of airbags during the early years are a concern, while the later years are limited to a smallish two-door coupe that went without now-common amenities like power windows and locks or cruise control.
The second-generation Mitsubishi Mirage of 1989-'92 was another story. Body styles consisted of a sedan and a two-door hatchback, with most models coming with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 81 hp (92 from 1991 onwards). Transmissions included four- and five-speed manuals and three- and four-speed automatics; its rear suspension was a rigid axle and not all models had power steering. Add it all up and this Mirage was a little less refined than its successors.
But it was perhaps more interesting. One particularly memorable Mirage was the Sport hatchback of 1989 only, whose turbocharged 135-hp 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, sport suspension and four-wheel disc brakes added some spice. Nearly as entertaining was the GS sedan of 1991-'92, whose twincam 1.6-liter engine made 123 hp.
While it's generally a better idea to stick with newer generations given the Mirage's affordability, these rare special editions have gone down in history as being the fastest Mirages that Mitsubishi ever built.
Mitsubishi Montero
The Mitsubishi Montero never quite became a household name in the United States, but fans of true SUVs, whose attention extends beyond America's borders know what it's about. Fact is, this rugged rock-hopper has been off-roading its way around the world for decades and taking home more than a few trophies in the famously grueling Dakar Rally in the process. Mitsubishi has built up plenty of respect for the name Montero -- or Pajero, as this midsize SUV is known in other global markets.
In the three generations and 24 years that the Montero was sold here, Mitsubishi moved it upscale in terms of size, power and class. But all the way through, the Montero never lost its roots as an off-road-worthy vehicle. Four-wheel drive was always standard, and specialty items such as locking differentials and adjustable shock absorbers were available on the second-generation Montero.
Unfortunately, this off-road bias became increasingly at odds with the way many Americans drove their SUVs. The Mitsubishi Montero was tall, heavy and high off the ground, and consequently felt slow-witted on the street. For the third generation, Mitsubishi made fundamental shifts to the Montero's hardware and driving character in hopes of improving the vehicle's appeal. It wasn't enough, however, as this model suffered in regards to on-road performance, engine power and interior roominess. Furthermore, the Montero received some injurious publicity when Consumer Reports reported that this midsize SUV had a susceptibility to rolling over in high-speed turns.
While the Montero was reborn for a fourth life in other nations, Mitsubishi decided America's midsize SUV needs would be better filled by the more efficient, more street-oriented Endeavor crossover. That's a sentiment we share, though the Montero still deserves a look for those shoppers needing a used SUV with solid off-road credentials.
Most Recent Mitsubishi Montero
The third-generation Montero midsize SUV was sold from 2001-'06 and marked several key design changes over the previous generation. The most significant was a switch from body-on-frame to unibody construction to lighten and stiffen the chassis. The suspension was also revised and became fully independent for the first time. These changes, along with a switch from recirculating-ball steering to a more precise rack-and-pinion setup, promised that this model would be the best-riding, best on-road-driving Montero yet.
To a degree, it delivered. The new Mitsubishi Montero certainly dealt with bumps more forgivingly and handled with more precision than before. Off-road ability was still intact as well. However, it still lagged in too many key areas. First, the Montero used the same 3.5-liter V6 as before, and its 200 horsepower provided anemic acceleration at higher speeds. Its handling was also a letdown due to a combination of too-slow steering and excessive body lean, giving it a ponderous feel. We found little compensation in ride quality, which was on the stiff side.
We were more impressed by the Montero's interior, at least in appearance. Solid ergonomics, upscale materials and supremely comfortable front seats made the Montero feel like part of a more expensive class of SUV. Cargo space was generous, too. But comfort wasn't uniform throughout the cabin. The second-row seats were short on thigh support, and the Montero's standard third-row bench had legroom skimpy enough to cramp all but small children.
When this Montero debuted, there were two trim levels: XLS and Limited. The XLS came with a decent amount of equipment including air-conditioning, a CD stereo, power accessories, cruise control, antilock brakes and front seat side airbags. A four-speed automatic came paired to the V6 engine, and part-time four-wheel drive was standard. The Limited added a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, "Active Trac" full-time four-wheel drive, a limited-slip rear differential and upgraded interior appointments such as leather seats and an Infinity stereo.
In 2003, the XLS gained two useful items formerly reserved for the Limited: the five-speed transmission and Active Trac. Also in 2003, Monteros received a 3.8-liter V6 with 215 hp, a stability control system and a head restraint and a three-point belt for the center rear seat. For this model's final two years, Mitsubishi discontinued the XLS trim.
To anyone drawn to a Mitsubishi Montero, we recommend models from 2003 onwards. The added engine power helps to improve the vehicle's acceleration times slightly, while providing more usable torque for highway maneuvers, and the stability control system is a valuable safety feature. Additionally, the XLS's upgraded hardware put it on more equal footing with the Limited. Prior to that, the Limited makes a better choice.
Past Mitsubishi Montero Models
The second-generation Montero was sold from 1992-2000. Smaller than its predecessor in every way but height, this Montero was a traditional four-wheel-drive SUV with body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle.
Power initially came from a 3.0-liter V6 with 151 hp, available with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. In 1994, a 3.5-liter DOHC V6 with 215 hp joined the lineup (with the automatic transmission only), and in 1995 the base 3.0-liter V6 got a boost to 177 hp. In 1997 both engines were discontinued in favor of a new single-cam 3.5-liter V6 with 200 hp, and the manual transmission disappeared.
Initially, the second-gen Mitsubishi Montero came in four trim levels: base, RS, LS and SR. The top two, LS and SR, came only with the automatic transmission and added amenities like power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and cruise control, plus optional electronic adjustable shock absorbers. The LS had antilock brakes from the start; the SR got them the next year. The SR could also be had with a rear differential with limited-slip and full locking capability.
For 1994, the Montero lineup was simplified to LS and SR lines, with the latter getting the new 3.5-liter V6 plus alloy wheels, antilock brakes, air-conditioning, a sunroof, CD stereo, keyless entry and in certain years, adjustable shocks and a locking rear differential. All Monteros now had seven-passenger seating and a driver-side front airbag. A passenger airbag was fitted in 1996, and in '98, Mitsubishi consolidated the trim lines into one well-equipped, slightly restyled model.
This Montero definitely drove more like a truck than did its successor: It was slow to move off the line, tippy in turns and sloppy in steering. Still, since there was no such thing as a "crossover" midsize SUV at the time, the Montero wasn't an entirely bad choice. Its interior was rather luxurious (if busily styled), its first two rows of seats were fairly comfortable and it was bigger and roomier than most rivals. Plus, rear passengers got a kick out of its gigantic sunroof. Only after the 1996 Nissan Pathfinder came along did the Montero start to seem dynamically primitive.
Because no Montero of this generation can hit 60 mph in fewer than 10 seconds, we'd recommend at least picking a sample with one of the two 3.5-liter V6s. The dual-cam version in the 1994-'96 SR would pack the most punch, though the single-cam version found in all Mitsubishi Monteros from 1997 onwards is nearly as quick, and the dual airbags and extra standard equipment of the later models are certainly pluses.
You could also go way back to the first-generation Mitsubishi Montero of 1983-'91. Its structure, mechanical layout and four-wheel-drive hardware were similar to the second-generation's, though it was a tad smaller and was available in two-door form through 1990. There was no third-row seat back then, and the interior has a dated, spartan appearance by today's standards.

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