The Mitsubishi Diamante is a rare gem, a comfortable, gracious sedan that delivers more than its price promises. With its sleek styling, roomy, first-class cabin and powerful V6 engine, the Diamante rivals luxury sedans costing thousands of dollars more.
A new hood, grille and decklid give the Diamante a more distinctive look for 2002.
ES ($25,687); LS ($28,447)
Mitsubishi Diamante's styling has an appealing freshness. Its aerodynamic shape results in an extremely low drag coefficient of 0.28. The Diamante's stance is a dynamic forward lunge. Its body contours are muscular and handsomely molded, with the greenhouse set off by a spare, tasteful perimeter of chrome.
A twin-nostril grille has become part of the Diamante's identity. This feature had faded into understatement on recent editions, but it's back and bold for 2002. A businesslike under-grille intake adds a serious demeanor.
The Mitsubishi Diamante features a handsome and functional driving environment. It includes every appointment expected of a modern luxury sedan. The LS model spreads wood lavishly on the dash, console and all four doors. No one could complain that Mitsubishi has held back.
Diamante's instrumentation is composed of excellent analog dials, including a mechanical odometer, which is becoming a rarity in this digital age. The windshield wipers offer three fixed speeds plus an infinitely adjustable intermittent range, another rarity, even among luxury cars.
The steering wheel adjusts for tilt, but does not telescope. The turn signal stalk includes a textured switch for the fog lights; it's not at all intuitive, but you do get used to it in time. Unfortunately, there is no dash light to indicate when the fog lights are on.
The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system features a neat graphic readout in the center of the dash, showing the temperature you've set, and where the air is going (to the defroster, for example, or the foot-level vents). It even displays the outside temperature. But the fresh air vs. recirculation symbols are confusing. Temperature settings are conveniently selected with a radial knob.
Elsewhere on the dash and console are controls for the Infinity premium audio with CD, as well as cupholders galore, two in front and two in the rear. The double-jointed lid on the center console tips to either side, allowing easy access for both driver and passenger. That's a clever touch.
Optional front seat heaters make driving pleasant in the winter. The LS driver's seat adjusts eight ways under power, with intuitive analog controls. The Diamante is also one of the few cars whose headrests adjust not only up and down but fore and aft as well.
Outward visibility is excellent both from the front seats and in the rear, enhancing the driving (or riding) experience. Windows, mirrors and door locks are all electric, while the trunk can be accessed both by remotes in the driver's-side door and the key fob.
Rear seat spaciousness matches the best in the Diamante's class. However, we found the seat cushions uncomfortably hard and flat, offering minimal lateral support. Perhaps in compensation for this shortcoming, an extra-wide, fold-down center armrest serves as a bolster to hold rear passengers in place.
The Diamante's trunk is also near the head of the class in volume. Furnished with a cargo net, it swallows up to 14.2 cubic feet of stuff.
The Mitsubishi Diamante is not a tepid little people-hauler. Press the pedal down and this sedan rushes to life. Mitsubishi's strong V6 makes a pleasing growl during acceleration. And it provides more than enough thrust to make the drive home interesting.
The Diamante's 3.5-liter V6 is bigger than most engines in the $30,000 sedan class. Thanks to its large displacement, no variable valve-timing technology is needed to produce plenty of bottom-end torque. It delivers 205 horsepower at 5000 rpm, and a hefty 231 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It's this generous torque that delivers such a vigorous throttle response, enough to propel the Diamante from 0 to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds.
The Diamante will easily spin its front wheels on wet pavement. When you're hurrying on a rainy day, you will see the little dashboard traction-control monitor light up regularly. But the traction control is not over-anxious to engage, which is a good thing; better to have a little wheel slip, than to have the computer constantly applying the brakes when they are not needed. Overly eager engagement of traction control can be intrusive, unnecessarily impeding your forward momentum, while simultaneously wasting fuel and brake pad material. Some of the most prestigious luxury cars err in this manner. A switch on the Diamante's dash allows the driver to turn off the traction control, when using snow chains, for example.
Mitsubishi's traction control also includes what the company calls trace control, which is a simplified yaw-stability system. Sensors compare steering-wheel angle to vehicle speed, and a computer dials down engine power if the driver is in danger of exceeding the car's cornering grip.
Steering response is crisp and precise, thanks to the Diamante's well-calibrated power-assisted rack and pinion. Isolation from road irregularities is extremely good. At highway speed the noise level is pleasantly low, except for some wind whistle at the driver's door.
The all-season tires provide good roadholding and lateral stability. When pushed hard on back roads, however, the Diamante floats over undulating pavement and leans in hard corners. It does not offer the dynamic control of a firm European-style suspension, feeling more like an American sedan. Drivers who spend long hours on the freeway, however, will be pleased with the Diamante's suspension tuning and ride quality.
Although designed in Japan and assembled in Australia, Diamante is one of the most definitively American luxury cars you can buy. Its engineering emphasis is on occupant comfort and convenience, coupled with freeway-friendly competence. This also means sumptuous luxury-car furnishings, conspicuously roomy proportions both in the passenger compartment and trunk, a vigorous powertrain, and luxury-car ride quality. This is a good car for bumpy Interstates and long commutes.