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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - 380 - sedan range

Launch Story

Mitsubishi logo29 Sep 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

THE most important vehicle Mitsubishi Motors Australia has ever released became a reality yesterday, when the all-new 380 sedan replaced the nine-year-old Magna.

To receive its public debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney on October 13, the make-or-break car – which was almost called Contega before management decided on 380 – will dictate the future of Mitsubishi as an Australian manufacturer.

Candidly, however, Mitsubishi concedes the most researched model in its history will not be the largest, most powerful or even the most sophisticated Australian-built vehicle.

Instead, the company argues it has left no stone unturned to design the best-quality vehicle ever produced in this country, as well as a car that meets the needs of Australian customers like no other.

To that end, the largest single investment by Mitsubishi Australia – $40 million – was spent on state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities as part of a total $600 million research and development program for the 380.

That is as much as Holden has ever spent to develop a new model (the VT Commodore launched in 1997), although the forthcoming new-generation VE Commodore is expected to top $900 in total R&D costs by the time it is launched around August next year.

The first in a bevy of all-new large sedans to emerge from Australia’s four big car-makers, the 380 will also be followed by a new Toyota Camry in the second half of next year and a new Falcon in 2007.

As such, Mitsubishi hopes to get the jump on its rivals by invigorating Australia’s stagnant large-car market with a vehicle that will also aim to tempt buyers away from popular mid-sizers like Honda’s Accord, the Mazda6 and Hyundai’s new Sonata.

The sedan-only 380 will be available in five variants, including five-speed manual and automatic versions of the base 380 and sports-oriented VRX.

Official pricing remained secret when GoAuto was published this morning, however, it is understood that Mitsubishi intends to undercut Camry, Commodore and the updated BF Falcon, which also goes on sale in October.

So expect prices ranging from the low-$30,000s for the entry-level 380 – a direct rival for the Commodore Executive, Falcon XT and Camry Altise – to the high 40,000s for the top-shelf 380 GT.

GT replaces Verada as Mitsubishi’s Australian flagship and takes on a sports-luxury persona in its bid to snare Calais, Fairmont Ghia and Grande buyers.

In between, there is the lower-luxury LS and the upper-luxury LX, plus the VRX sports representative.

Mitsubishi has made some bold claims about this vehicle, most of which its rival manufacturers have disputed – or are about to. Among them are that the 380 offers the most space-efficient interior in its class as well as the greatest overall legroom, and that it is quicker, quieter and more refined than its large Australian-built competitors.

A high level of standard passive safety features is also offered, including twin front and side airbags across the range and body rigidity claimedto be double that of Magna.

However, unlike some of its rivals, traction control remains optional on the entry-level 380 and there is no sign of the stability control system offered in top-end Commodores and to be available in some BF Falcons.

Similarly, a comprehensive standard equipment list extends to a 10-function trip computer and climate-control air-conditioning but there is no reach-adjustable steering wheel or the convenience of a split/fold rear seat.

Featuring different front, rear and interior styling to the US market Galant upon which it is based, the front-drive 380 also uses "Australianised" suspension, brakes, wheels/tyres and transmissions.

Of course, the Mitsubishi Australia-developed – and now Japanese-built – 3.8-litre V6 is also unique to the 380 and develops 175kW at 5250rpm and 343Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

That is 30kW up on Toyota’s current Camry and equivalent to the basic version of Holden’s 3.6-litre Alloytec V6 that powers most VZ Commodores.

While the 380’s peak torque figure approaches that of the class-best BF Falcon (383Nm), next month’s upgraded BF Falcon will produce 190kW – the same as the Alloytec 190 V6 found in premium Commodore variants.

With kerb weights ranging between 1625kg and 1700kg (making it, on average, heavier than Commodore but lighter than Falcon), Mitsubishi claims the 380 also delivers best-in-class acceleration.

Compared with the current BA Falcon, which achieved 0-100km/h acceleration of 8.47 seconds in Mitsubishi Australia’s in-house testing, Mitsubishi claims the 380 betters it and the Commodore (7.84 sec) with a time of 7.76 sec.

On premium unleaded, 380 is claimed to sprint to 100km/h in 7.6 sec.

Similarly, Mitsubishi’s own testing figures reveal 380 as the quickest of the Australians (using PULP) over the quarter-mile, with a 0-400-metre time of 15.6 seconds (15.49 sec on PULP), versus Commodore’s 15.55 sec and Falcon’s 16.11 sec. All figures relate to automatic versions of base variants.

The 380’s benchmark performance is claimed to come with no trade-off in fuel efficiency, with official Mitsubishi Australia figures claiming the 380 consumes just 10.8L/100km on the ADR 80/01 cycle, which is better than the base BF Falcon (10.9), Commodore (11.1) and Camry (11.2).

For now. As will be the case in the VE Commodore, Ford’s forthcoming BF Falcon will feature a six-speed auto as standard in selected variants. Come October, the BF Fairmont Ghia will claim a class-best fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km.

Built to last

IN LINE with its mantra to build the best-quality vehicle ever produced in Australia, Mitsubishi has invested $600 million to design, develop and manufacture the new 380.

This included $40 million for a large press, which replaced Magna’s 50-year-old ex-Chrysler press and is capable of stamping 450 one-piece body sides per hour, representing the single largest upgrade in the Tonsley Park production facility’s 40-year history.

Apart from reducing manufacturing costs and complexities, reducing vehicle weight and improving body quality, panel gap accuracy and strength, the press is also capable of stamping panels for any Mitsubishi vehicle – including full-size four-wheel drives.

Replacing the separate panels employed previously, the 380’s single-piece body-side stamping process – an Australian-first known as "toy tab" assembly technology – precedes similar production technology to be used by Holden for its VE Commodore.

Rather than weld each body panel piece-by-piece in the traditional manner, toy tabs allow the entire body shell to be "tabbed" together before final checking and welding takes place on a single fixture.

Greater body accuracy, improved fit and finish, fewer squeaks and rattles and reduced vibration and wind noise are claimed to be the result.

As such, Mitsubishi’s target was to ensure 95 per cent of all critical points were accurate to within 0.7mm – rather than the 1.5mm gap tolerance targeted by most manufacturers.

Used on doors, bootlids and bonnets, the company’s new Versilock epoxy adhesive sets in 30 minutes and requires no oven-curing, which is claimed to eliminate possible misalignment during transit.

Roll-hemming – used to finish edges on door panels – involves robots rather than traditional die-hemming as used on the US Galant, and is claimed to be a Mitsubishi first outside of Japan.

A new $5 million wheel-fitting facility, which is capable of handling up to 20-inch wheel diameters, measures radial force vibration, balances wheels, inflates tyres without touching the wheel, inserts valves automatically (not by hand) and fits both tyre beads sequentially, which is said to ensure greater wheel/tyre fitment consistency and reduce NVH.

A $7 million painted body storage system commissioned in 2004 uses an inductive-power electrified monorail system – the first of its kind in Australia – and is claimed to improve paint quality, reduce costs and improve Mitsubishi’s build-to-order process.

Controller area network (CANBUS) technology is also employed by Mitsubishi Australia for the first time in the 380. Interacting with engine, transmission, instrument, airbag, alarm and ABS ECUs, CANBUS is said to ultimately improve vehicle performance, safety and security.

A new $2.8 million under-body sealing facility measuring 42 metres long – 30 metres longer than Magna’s – employs six robots and is claimed to reduce waste, improve factory safety and provide more consistent sealing application.

It also allows Mitsubishi to offer a 12-year corrosion warranty for 380. In-factory vehicle testing replaces the rattle track around the plant property and settles springs before – rather than after – wheel alignment and headlight aiming. This is done on an indoor track at 8km/h for about 60 seconds.

DC torque guns ensure all 150 critical bolts on 380 are correctly tensioned. Electronic bolt torque sensors eliminate the need for hand tightening, ensure the correct torque for every bolt and confirm the correct number of bolts is fitted.

While DC torque guns are common in Australia, Mitsubishi also records and archives the manufacturing "history" of each bolt in each car. This allows its million-dollar quality assurance system, which employs 10 production line quality gates and transponder tracking devices attached to each car, to be alerted (and production halted if necessary) if a problem occurs.

Bigger issues

MITSUBISHI Australia’s future as an Australian vehicle manufacturer depends on the success of 380. But even if the new sedan meets its forecast of 30,200 annual sales, the company’s Tonsley Park assembly plant outside Adelaide will be, at best, a break-even proposition.

With senior Mitsubishi Motors Corp executives expecting the Australian business to return to profit within two years following its $588 million loss for the financial year to March 2005 – a consequence of massive write-offs, and with 30,000 vehicles representing only half the capacity of its new press – the future of Australian manufacturing for Mitsubishi relies heavily not just on the success of the 380 but on a second model line as well.

Australian production of the next-generation Pajero four-wheel drive wagon, to be launched here late next year, is under investigation by MMC, but is believed to be a less viable alternative to producing a second D-segment (large-car)model.

Following the abandonment of the PS41-L long-wheelbase sedan to replace the Diamante previously exported to the United States – and with 380 exports to the US ruled out because it has its own Galant – export markets will be limited to New Zealand and, perhaps, the Middle East.

A Peugeot-developed turbo-diesel version and a 2.4-litre MIVEC four-cylinder variant are both on the horizon for the 380.

But with typical Australian model-development periods spanning up to three years – and work on the 380 replacement required to begin in two years – the chances of these (and a second model line) becoming a reality depend very much on the immediate success of 380.

Mitsubishi Australia also has the task of reversing a sliding sales trend to achieve 65,000 sales this year – up from 57,000 last year – as well as reclaiming fourth position from Mazda in the manufacturers’ sales charts.

New chief executive Robert McEniry slides into the hot seat at the end of this week. And it wouldn’t be an understatement to suggest that he has got a hell of a job ahead of him.

A clean-sheet design

BASED on the US-market left-hand drive Galant but claimed to be 70 per cent Australian and featuring 2000 new components, Mitsubishi Australia’s 380 sedan comprises less than one per cent of carryover components from Magna, including switchgear like the cruise control stalk.

Representing an almost total redesign over Magna’s 3.5-litre SOHC V6 – with which it shares 10 per cent of its parts – and using the Pajero 4WD wagon’s longitudinal-application 3.8-litre V6 as its basis, the Japanese-built 380 engine uses proven technology rather than cutting-edge powertrain design.

For example, there is no variable valve timing, no double overhead camshafts and no variable intake manifold. Instead, the Euro3 emissions-compliant 3.8-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 continues to feature multi-point fuel-injection and roller rockers with auto hydraulic valve lash adjusters, but adds a number of Australian-developed features like the Bosch "Torque Demand" engine management system.

Compared to Magna’s outgoing 6G74 engine, the Mitsubishi Australia-designed 6G75 offers an all-new (but still cast-iron) cylinder block with larger bore and stroke dimensions, a new crankshaft, conrods, pistons and cylinder-heads with larger valves, plus electronic throttle control and higher compression (up from 9.0:1 to 10.0:1).

Its rev-limiter operates via torque management rather than fuel cut-out and it also features a one-piece main bearing cap, four-bolt crankshaft fixing, coil-on-plug ignition, cylinder selective knock control, 12-hole fuel-injectors, platinum-iridium sparkplugs, three close-coupled catalytic converters and a variable speed cooling fan.

Also featuring 10 per cent higher valve lift and eight degrees more overlap than the 3.6-litre Galant engine – thanks to Ralliart Magna-based camshafts and valve springs – the result is 175kW at 5250rpm and 343Nm of torque at 4000rpm, with at least 300Nm available between 1500rpm and 5000rpm.

Other 380 advances include a strengthened chassis to cope with harsh Australian road conditions, resulting in particular concentration in the rear bulkhead area behind the rear seat – the primary reason for the lack of a split/fold rear seat.

The result is double the torsional and bending stiffness of the aged Magna, which Mitsubishi predicts will make it a "solid four-star" crash test performer.

Claimed to improve stopping distances are larger ventilated turbo-fin brake discs all round, with twin-piston front callipers up front (instead of single-piston units) – making 380 the only Australian-made car to feature ventilated rear discs.

The latest Bosch 8.0 ABS system is employed, and is claimed to be 30 per cent more compact and 25 per cent lighter than before.

As such, Mitsubishi claims brake pedal stroke and 100-0km/h stopping distances are improved by 14 per cent over Magna, the latter now quoted at 43 metres, compared to 46 and 47 metres for its nearest rivals in Falcon and Commodore respectively.

Mitsubishi claims the 380’s brake pedal stroke is less than Falcon’s but more than Camry’s, while pedal force is less than Falcon’s but more than Commodore’s.

While the five-speed manual’s gear ratios are changed to suit the 3.8 V6’s higher torque output, Mitsubishi’s five-speed automatic with sequential manual shift control is now standard across the range (Galant runs a four-speed).

Of course, Galant’s MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions have been modified for Australian conditions, including wider bush mountings to reduce bump steer.

It comprises two levels of tune, including the firmer sports set-up found in VRX, LX and GT. Optional in LS, it includes a front strut tower brace.

A full-size spare wheel well was also added, nticipates 75 per cent of sales will go to fleet buyers.

As such, the base 380 auto is expected to be the volume seller with 45 per cent of sales, followed by the VRX auto (21 per cent), LS auto (10 per cent), LX and GT auto (seven per cent), VRX manual (six per cent) and 380 manual (four per cent).

And despite claims it will capture buyers from both the traditional (but shrinking) large-car segment and the resurgent medium class, it is expected to achieve only a 13.6 per cent share of the medium/large sedan market during its model life.

That is down on the 14.1 per cent achieved across the model lives of the past three Magna/Verada models, but this time there is no station wagon variant.

Mitsubishi has forecast annual sales of 30,200 for the 380, which at 2500 vehicles per month would still make it more popular than Toyota’s Camry.

The previous-generation Magna/Verada (1999-2004) found an average of 20,971 homes annually for a market share of just 10.4 per cent – well down on its 1996-1998 predecessor (30,310 units, 14.6 per cent).

The 1991-1995 Magna/Verada attracted an average of 26,950 sales annually for a 14.6 per cent market share, while the first model (1985-1990) attracted a 14.5 per cent share with 29,074 annual sales.

Mitsubishi argues that as well as targeting buyers of large Australian-built sedans and imported (Japanese) medium sedans, the 380 presents an opportunity to capture buyers downsizing from large 4WDs.

The model variants

BASED on the US Galant but offering a new bonnet, front guards, lights, grilles, bumpers, garnishes and badges, all 380 variants also come with new wheels and wheel covers and seven new paint colours. And the detail counts...

380: Body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and door handles, multi-parabola headlights with chrome bezel and amber indicator lenses, red-lens taillights, bootlid stop light, prestige grille with chrome insert, black lower grille, round black exhaust outlet and 16x6.5-inch steel wheels with 215/60 R16 95H Goodyear Ducaro GA tyres.

VRX: Sports bumpers with integrated airdams, dark silver rear insert, dark silver headlight bezels, clear-lens sports tail-lights with dark silver bezels, black sports foglights, rear wing with stop light, black sports mesh grille and lower grille, oval chrome exhaust outlet and 17x7.0-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with 215/55 R17 93V Dunlop SP Sport 230 tyres.

LS: Chrome headlight bezels with clear indicator lenses, red-lens (380) tail-lights, body-colour luxury foglights, bootlid-mounted (380) stop light, luxury grille with chrome fins, body-colour lower grille with black fins, chrome/body colour side mouldings, chrome bootlid trim, round chrome exhaust outlet and 16x6.5-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with 380 tyres.

LX: As per LS, plus 17x7.0-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with 215/55 R17 93V Dunlop SP Sport 230 tyres.

GT: As per VRX with a body-colour rear bumper insert, chrome/body-colour side mouldings from LS/LX and 17x7.0-inch eight-spoke alloy wheels with LX tyres.

The equipment

THE list of standard equipment on the all-new 380 looks long – indeed, it is long. But will it be enough?

380: Automatic climate-control (with rear-seat outlets), power windows (with one-touch down function for the driver), cruise control, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 player (with on-glass antenna), steering wheel audio controls, 10-function trip computer, power mirrors, front maplights, twin front vanity mirrors, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, tinted side and rear glass, metallic interior highlights, chrome air vent accents, cloth door trim, white-on-black instruments (with blue LED illumination), four-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, driver’s lumbar adjustment, height-adjustable front passenger seat, woven fabric seat trim, through-loading system, folding rear armrest, twin front and rear cup holders, sunglasses holder, front seatback pockets, illuminated glovebox and front door pockets.

Security: Remote central locking via a new integrated and programmable key/fob with panic button, two-stage unlocking, automatic relocking, alarm, delayed headlights off.

VRX adds: Traction control, sports-tuned suspension (including a sports front strut tower brace), eight-speaker premium audio system with six-CD in-dash stacker, colour 4.9-inch TFT screen (with climate-control, audio, door ajar warning and outside temperature displays), leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift and handbrake lever, chrome gearshift surround, technical mesh interior highlights, white-on-silver sport instruments, six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, sports front seats and mesh-knit fabric seat trim with "high tech" woven insert.

LS adds: Twin front sun visors (with extension, and lidded illuminated vanity mirrors), "cherry maple" trim interior highlights, white-on-matt black luxury instruments, front passenger seat lumbar adjustment, soft-touch seat trim with "elegance" woven insert and an electro-chromatic interior mirror. Sports suspension remains optional.

LX adds: Sports-tuned suspension (including a sports front strut tower brace), sunroof, leather-look door trim, 10-way driver’s seat power adjustment (with three memory settings), six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat and leather seat trim.

GT adds: Sports front seats from VRX, leather seat trim with embossed insert, "slate mahogany" interior highlights, rear park assist and a Bluetooth mobile phone kit.

The protection

BUILT using Mitsubishi’s so-called "RISE" body construction, all 380s share the same high level of passive safety equipment.

All model variants get twin front and side airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners and force-limiters, five three-point seatbelts, height-adjustable front seatbelts, breakaway pedals, energy-absorbing headlining and pillar trim, an emergency door unlock function in front and side impacts, childproof rear doorlocks, three child restraint anchors, height-adjustable front head restraints, integrated outboard rear head restraints and a programmable rest reminder.

On the active safety front, traction control is standard across the range but remains optional on the base 380, while rear park assist is standard on GT and an accessory on the rest of the range and a electrochromatic interior mirror is standard on LS, LX and GT.

There is no centre rear head restraint, no stability control and no curtain airbag option.

The detail

Engine type: 3.828-litre 24-valve SOHC V6
Location: Front, transverse
Drive: Front-wheel
Power: 175kW at 5250rpm
Torque: 343Nm at 4000rpm
Bore x stroke: 95.0 x 90.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Manual transmission: Five-speed (380 and VRX only)
Automatic transmission: Five-speed INVECS II Smart Logic with Sports Mode (standard on LS, LX and GT optional on 380 and VRX)
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel ventilated disc brakes 294x28mm with twin-piston calliper (front) 302x18mm with single-piston calliper (rear) four-channel Bosch ABS, EBD
Suspension: Independent by MacPherson strut with lower A-arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar (front) independent by low-mount multi-links with upper and lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Sports suspension and sports front strut tower brace: standard on VRX, LX and GT

optional on LS
Spare wheel: 16x6.5-inch steel with 214/60 R16 tyre
Steering type: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 11.2 metres
Warranty: Five-year/130,000km bumper-to-bumper, plus 10-year/160,000km non-transferable drivetrain and 12-year corrosion


The dimensions

Length: 4837mm (VRX/GT: 4855mm)
Width: 1840mm
Height: 1480mm
Front overhang: 984mm (VRX/GT: 989mm)
Rear overhang: 1103mm(VRX/GT: 1116mm)
Wheelbase: 2750mm
Front/rear track: 1570mm/1570mm
Ground clearance: 162mm
Boot capacity: 437 litres
Towing capacity: 570kg unbraked (1600kg braked)
Front/rear headroom: 1011mm/941mm
Front/rear shoulder room: 1455mm/1446mm
Front/rear legroom: 1083mm/955mm
380 kerb weight: 1625kg (1665kg auto)
LS kerb weight: 1660kg auto
LX kerb weight: 1690kg auto
VRX kerb weight: 1630kg (1670kg auto)
GT kerb weight: 1700kg auto


The options

Five-speed auto (380/VRX)
Traction control (380)
Sports suspension (LS)
Sports front strut tower brace (LS)
16x6.5-inch alloys (380)
17x7.0-inch alloy wheels (LS)
Leather-look door trim (VRX/LS)
Electro-chromatic interior mirror (VRX)
10-way power adjustable driver’s seat (LS)
Six-way power adjustable passenger seat (LS)
Leather seat trim (LS) Leather seat trim with embossed insert (VRX)
Sunroof (380/VRX)


The accessories

Matching alloy spare wheel ($225.50)
Fog lights (380 – $522.50)
Satellite-navigation with DVD player ($3824.70)
Rear park assist (380/VRX/LS/LX – $313.50)
Bluetooth phone kit ($434.50)
Rear spoiler kit (380/LS/LX – $294.80)
1600kg tow hitch ($346.50)
Ash cup and lighter ($66)
Non-slip boot net ($30.25)
Boot parcel net ($88)
Black carpet mats (380 – $93.50)
Matching carpet mats ($106.15)

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