Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Magna - VR-X AWD sedan
Price, styling, grip, handling, steering, balance, refinement, comfort
Room for improvement
Lack of 17-inch wheels and manual transmission, power deficit to 2WD VR-X
25 Jun 2004
ONE could easily be forgiven for overlooking Mitsubishi’s Magna AWD since its historic release some 18 months ago. Lack of promotion by a cash-strapped Mitsubishi and a lack of obvious differentiating features on the car itself have both been blamed for the low profile Australia’s first homegrown AWD sedan.
The revised Magna sports range goes some way to addressing that with its larger, more prominent "AWD" and "QuadTec" badges, slightly more aggressive look via a rear bumper insert and brighter paint colours, and extra promotion of the revised range can only increase the awareness of it this time round.
A significant saving of $3600 can now also be had on the regular, front-drive Magna VR-X as part of the Magna sports model revamp. But the big news here is the addition of the VR-X nameplate to the Magna AWD range, which has lacked a fully fledged sports flagship since its inception.
Inside the new model there are subtle differences that better herald its sporting intentions, such as the new black cloth sports trim, titanium-look inserts and the contrast-stitched optional leather. VR-X has never looked better, both inside and out.
It’s true, too, that this is the first application of firmer, sports-tuned suspension to the AWD range that has so far only comprised the basic Magna AWD, the quasi-sports VR AWD and the luxury Verada AWD flagship.
As the first sports-suspended all-wheel drive Magna (and the first to wear wider, 7.0-inch wheels), VR-X AWD raises the bar in terms of outright grip and dynamic ability even further than the highly competent Magna AWD.
But, crucially, after an 18-month wait for the release of an AWD VR-X – apparently due to the development of new suspension knuckles to accommodate 17-inch wheels (which have long been integral to VR-X’s make-up) – VR-X AWD has been launched sans 17-inch wheels.
The new AWD sports flagship also lacks the front-drive VR-X’s manual transmission, which hasn’t been engineered to fit with AWD, and nor does it get its 2WD namesake’s full 163kW power output, instead making do with 159kW.
Admittedly this is more than base AWD variants’ 154kW output, but with the same power as the outgoing VR AWD there’s dynamically little to separate the new VR-X AWD from the VR AWD it replaces – save for suspension and (wider) wheels. Indeed, the driving experience isn't all that different.
Of course, like all Magna AWDs, VR-X AWD brings major advantages over other Magnas such as vastly improved chassis balance, unencumbered steering performance and more grip.
Oh, and the AWD VR-X comes with a significant braking advantage over its 2WD cousin, featuring the bigger discs of the AWD models plus twin-piston (not singles) front brake callipers.
AWD aside, Magna also remains one of the most advanced Australian cars available, with the one of the most efficient and refined V6s around and the only five-speed semi-autos found in a locally-built vehicle. So in VR-X guise, Magna AWD not only looks the part but makes a logical alternative to performance versions of large, rear-drive Australian cars.
But without the power, wheel sizing and manual transmission that have been a staple of the VR-X brand for three years now, we can’t help thinking the long-overdue Magna AWD sports star is a little half-baked.
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