Mitsubishi is going big car sales hunting with its all-new, Australian-developed 380, the replacement for the popular but long-in-the-tooth Diamante.
Designed and engineered by Mitsubishi Australia's research and development department, the 380 is based on the American Galant, and is the product of a $AU600 million programme that included extensions and major changes to the company's Adelaide, South Australia, factory.
Mitsubishi says the 380, which goes on sale here in November, has been designed with two clear goals - to be the best quality car ever built in Australia, and to redefine large car agility by designing a car for Australians and New Zealanders.
It had to have the five main attributes buyers of large cars want.
It had to have true large car power and performance, sporty styling, be outstanding value for money, have large car space and comfort, and world class quality and refinement.
The power comes from a 3.80-litre 24-valve SOHC MPI V6 engine, a development of the Diamante's 2.5-litre V6.
The 3.8 puts out 175kW of maximum power at 5250rpm in all but two of the models, the VR-X and GT, which get upgrades to the induction system for NZ only. The changes take output to 160kW.
The V6's peak torque of 343Nm is developed at 4000rpm.
Mitsubishi says the 380 is the first Australian manufactured car to be Euro 3 emissions compliant (Ford's BF Falcon will also be), and it also meets the new, more stringent drive-by noise regulations.
The engine management system uses a torque demand system that was collaboratively developed by Mitsubishi and Bosch and tested extensively in Australia, Japan, Germany and Switzerland.
The 380 has a BOS (Body Optimised Suspension) system.. It uses MacPherson struts at the front and lower A-arm at the front and multi-link at the rear. Stabiliser bars are fitted front and rear, and the dampers have been specifically tuned to give sporty handling and a flat cornering stance.
The front suspension cross member is low and flat, but rigid and light, to allow the steering rack and tie rods to be close to the plane of the lower control arms to reduce bump steer and improve directional stability.
The rear suspension is a low-mount, multi-link arrangement. The low profile positioning of the entire rear suspension - with its strategic location of coil springs, shock absorbers and links, and reduced mounting point height - helps increase boot space.
Transmissions are a five-speed fully manual especially developed for the engine's substantial torque, and a five-speed INVECS II Smart Logic automatic with Sports Mode sequential manual shift capability.
Braking is provided by a large and specially developed braking package using Mitsubishi's extensive rally experience. The front discs are 294mm diameter ventilated discs with two-pot callipers. At the rear are 284mm diameter ventilated discs with one-pot callipers. ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) optimises braking effort between front and rear, regardless of loading conditions and gentle or emergency stops.
The base model 380 uses 16-inch by 6.5-inch wheels fitted with 215/60R16 95H steel-belted radials and full sized wheel covers.
The luxury LS variant comes with 16-inch by 6.5-inch six-spoke alloys fitted with 215/60R16 95H steel-belted radials as standard, and the LX comes with a 17-inch by seven-inch six-spoke alloy wheel option that is fitted with 215/55R17 93V steel belted radials and sports suspension.
The sports variants - the VR-X and GT - come fitted with 17-inch by seven-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/55R17 93V steel belted radials. The VR-X alloys are six-spoke, and the GT has unique eight-spoke alloys.
The rear underfloor of the Mitsubishi 380 has been specifically designed to take a full size spare wheel - which is stored under the cargo board - and serious towing equipment (it can two up tom 1600kg).
Though the 380 range has standard driver's and passenger's front and side airbags, it doesn't have side curtain airbags, though Mitsubishi says they could be fitted to the model later in its cycle.
Mitsubishi 380 prices range from $38,990 for the base 380 to $50,990 for the GT.
380 Fast Facts
The GT blends the sporting nature of the VR-X with the luxury trappings of the LX to produce the range-topping model
The car goes on sale in New Zealand on November 6 with an aggressive advertising onslaught. Mitsubishi NZ plans to get the car publicly visible before then by having 200 cars on rental fleets by November 1
Unlike the outgoing Diamante, there is no 380 station wagon. Mitsubishi says the large wagon market is dwindling in Australia and New Zealand, and sales levels didn't justify devloping an estate car. Mitsubishi NZ says, too, that it has plenty of other wagons it can offer for sale here
Mitsubishi is chasing sales figures of 2500 in the 380's first year on the market, a figure that would give it its best-ever slice of the big car market. Its best previous big-car year saw a little over 2000 sold
Mitsubishi Australia expects eight percent of its 380 sales to be manual gearbox cars. Mitsubishi NZ has much more modest expectations. NZ is an automatic gearbox market, and Mitsubuishi NZ says that after the initial excitement, manual sales here could be as low as a couple of cars a month