Mitsubishi Galant, Eclipse & Evo track drive
The setup consisted of three cars following an instructor-driven older Galant around the “hill circuit” of the Autodrome. We press guys had to chase the lead Galant while not overtaking, essentially trapping the turbo Evo behind the V6-powered Galant and Eclipse testers. So the convoy had the old instructor Galant, the new Galant, the Eclipse and the Evo, always in that order.
This was supposed to not be a high-speed test, but the track setup was made interesting with various obstacles. One was a set of roadblocks, designed to imitate a lane-change manouevre. Another was a row of slalom cones on a straight part of the track. We got only 2 laps per car, before switching cars.
I drove the exotic-looking 2009 Eclipse first, but don’t remember much, as it’s been almost a year since I last drove at the ‘Drome, and my focus was on keeping the car on the track. The seating position is low, and interesting touches include frameless doors and a two-tone interior. The 3.8-litre V6 engine, mated to an automatic, is reasonably rev-happy and didn’t have trouble keeping up with the Galant up ahead. Understeer was easy to induce, as the front-wheel-drive coupe squealed its tyres loudly on turns as it moved outwards of the corner, but things were always safely in control and within the lines. Body roll was limited and the car never felt jiggly. I’d assume it can match its conservative coupe competitors in most performance aspects. It is competitively priced too, at Dhs 94,000 for a base 2.4-litre model, and going up to Dhs 119,000 for a loaded 3.8-litre.
The 2009 Lancer Evo was next, and this was the manual version too, mated to a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo and all-wheel-drive. The spacious cabin is exactly the same as that of the base Lancer, except for the Recaro seats and the three aluminium pedals. There was no tyre squeal as we took off at moderate revs. The convoy happened to be very slow this time, as the lead press driver in the Galant took his time through the roadblocks and the slalom. So I was backing off, leaving some space from the Eclipse in front, and then speeding up to easily catch up again. The easy-to-drive Evo was flatly flying through corners without any complaint, at speeds that made the Eclipse howl its tyres. I simply drove in 3rd gear throughout the whole stint, and even managed a slight drift on one corner, for which the instructor scolded me later on. So one thing I learned today is that, unlike crappy all-wheel-drive VWs, the Evolution can actually be a fun tail-happy car. The Dhs 180,000 for one almost seems worth it.
Jumping from the Evo into the facelifted 2009 Galant made its deficiencies glaringly obvious on a track, but then again, it is a spacious family car, and not a tuned rally racer. The new one sports a huge screen on the dash for showing a/c and other settings, as well as being part of the reverse-camera system. The 3.8-litre V6 and the auto gearbox were fine, and while body roll was there, it was progressive and never floaty. Our speeds were pretty low though, as the instructor slowed to a crawl to let the faraway Eclipse behind us catch up. I was pretty much cruising with one finger on the wheel during this lap, and not feeling much from the soft power steering. Prices are not out yet, and I’d need to drive this one again to give it a proper review.
It is good to see that Al Habtoor Motors, the Dubai dealer for Mitsubishi, is expanding the line-up with more desirable models. For once, people here might actually aspire to own Mitsubishis.