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Mitsubishi Diamante GTV


Car names. They can be bizarre, descriptive, evocative.Bizarre like Colt Hearty Run or Mazda Bongo Brawny; descriptive like Galant Super Saloon or F-250 Super Duty; evocative like GTO or GTV.

GTV is one of motoring's most evocative nameplates, conjuring up images of the almost impossibly beautiful Alfa Romeo 1750 and 2000 GTVs of the early 1970s.

That car's Bertone-penned lines are timeless and perfectly proportioned. When you look at it there's nothing you'd want to change; not a jarring styling note anywhere.And those lovely lines are backed up in spades by the way the car drives and the glorious notes its exhaust pipe sings.

The steering was nicely weighted and communicative - proof that a recirculating ball steering box could deliver precision and pleasure. The ride was compliant and the level of chassis grip very high.

It was a very desirable motor car, let down only by questionable reliability on used examples. I advised a colleague not to buy a 2000 GTV in the mid-1970s. He was assured it had been looked after and he just had to have it.

It certainly looked the part and behaved the part when it was going - which was rarely. It became a seemingly bottomless pit that swallowed big chunks of his wages.

GTV. An evocative name indeed, one associated inextricably with Alfa Romeo. The current striking, swoopy, maybe even oddly-styled Alfa V6 coupe uses the name.

So what's it doing on a Mitsubishi Diamante? That was the first question that popped into my mind when Mitsubishi NZ unveiled the new V-range in Christchurch earlier this year.

We didn't get to drive the GTV then, instead sampling the Ralliart version which adds real sparkle to the Diamante name.

The GTV lurked in a corner of the presentation room, looking elegant and solid. It's the luxury car in the V-range which includes the capable VR-X and the rather nice VR base model.

But GTV? In the Alfa sense that name would probably sit better

on the Ralliart. Alfa's GTV badge is an acronym for Gran Turismo Veloce (it translates roughly as fast grand tourer).

The Australian-developed Diamante GTV is fast - faster, indeed, than those old 1970s Alfa GTVs, both in top speed and in acceleration to 100km/h. But a sporting car it isn't.

Mitsubishi NZ says it doesn't know what the GTV stands for in the Diamante name. The Australians have only ever referred to it by the acronym. A Mitsubishi spokesman said it's likely it stands for Grand Touring Vehicle. Now is that's the phrase from which Mitsubishi took the GTV nameplate, it's not a very evocative one.

But in the case of the Diamante it is a descriptive phrase. The big Mitsubishi is a very grand touring vehicle.

My love-at-a-distance affair with the Alfa 1750 GTV stirred my interest in this car wearing the GTV badge. That's an irrational response, I know, because the cars couldn't be any more different. One a two-door coupe; the other a four-door executive sedan.

There were things other than the name that attracted me. The form-hugging leather seats, the clear instrumentation, the smart 17-inch diameter spoked alloy wheels, for instance.

I'm also in the car's target age group - above 50 - so that probably added to the appeal. I was itching to get my hands on a Diamante GTV.

And I can't say the Australian-developed sedan disappointed me. It wasn't a GT in the Alfa sense, but it was a satisfying open road kilometre-swallower.

The GTV's heart is a 163kW version of Mitsubishi's silky-smooth 3.5-litre V6.

Australian engineers have enhanced the engine with a freeflow, sports-tuned exhaust system that gives a crisp crackle to the exhaust note at high revs.

At idle and on light throttle, the V6 is whisper quiet. But it shrieks magnificently when you mash the throttle to the floor.

The motor develops 317Nm of peak torque at 4500rpm (maximum power arrives at 5250rpm).

The power and torque outputs are good and they add up to strong performance and acceleration. Expect 100km/h to arrive from standstill in around nine seconds (the lighter but essentially mechanically similar VR-X manages the sprint in around eight seconds).

The GTV drives the front wheels via a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic with Auto Sports Mode that allows manual changing for press-on driving on winding and demanding roads.

Left in Drive mode the gearbox shifts smoothly even when the car is being used hard, and the manual Sport shift also allows very smooth, if not lightning-fast, changes.

Handling is understeer-biased and the chassis offers excellent levels of grip. The low-profile 225/50 R17 tyres kept firm contact with the road and provided a secure footprint in the wet.

Pushed hard on a dry road, the GTV turns-in well and is little troubled by mid-corner bumps. In the tighter corners there's some feeling of rear end movement as the weight transfers.

It's only a sequence of left/right/left/right corners that brings out a hint of clumsiness that is absent from the more sports-oriented Ralliart Diamante.

As you get further into the sequence the nose weights up and the front end starts to run wide, requiring a throttle lift-off to tighten the line.

We ran the car in third gear through our little test sequence of moderately tricky corners. Where the rear-drive Falcon XR6 Turbo sailed through with only a slight lift-off for the tightest corner, the GTV needed a more substantial lift off and a brush of the brakes. Not a bad performance, but one that indicates the GTV is more a sports/luxury car than an out and out sportster.

We averaged 11.5 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres during our week with the car, but a Diamante 3.5 V6 achieved 7.4 litres/100km in the recent EnergyWise Rally. So there's potential to do much better than we did.

Luggage space is good and the cockpit is roomy and comfortable.

Creature comforts include soft-feel leather upholstery; cruise-control; automatic, climate-control air-conditioning and a first-rate four-disc Compact Disc sound system which has easy-to-use controls. The last-mentioned are not always a given in a Mitsubishi and the sound system controls in the Ralliart Diamante are a model of confusion. The GTV's CD player is backed up by a cassette deck which is a nice touch.

There's rather well-done woodgrain trim on the dashboard and the steering wheel - which we found a tad too large in diameter - has and wood and leather rim. That's an area in which the GTV has something in common with its Alfa namesake. The alloy-spoked, wood-rimmed steering wheel on the Alfa was one of the best we've ever used.

In sum the Diamante GTV is a well-developed executive sedan with a good blend of performance, comfort and effortless ground-covering ability. Its handling is competent and forgiving if not pin-sharp and it's a solid-feeling vehicle with a competitive $52,990 pricetag.

As I noted earlier, I'm slap-bang in the target market for this type of car, and in another five years it might be the sort of car I'd hanker after.

For now I like my performance cars a little more sports-oriented and a little sharper-handling - something like Ford's stunning XR6 Turbo, for instance.

But the Mitsubishi GTV's day might come.

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