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2003 Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X Road Test

By Brian Moody
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $25,000 - $30,000 Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car: Someone looking for a comfortable mid-sized front-wheel drive sedan with a sporty flair.
Comparable models in this class: Acura TL, Buick Regal GS, Mazda Millenia, Nissan Maxima, Pontiac Grand Prix, Volkswagen Passat

Mitsubishis Flagship gets Sporty

The Diamante has an uphill battle to fight in order win buyers, and the sporty VR-X version is Mitsubishis attempt to get people talking about their flagship sedan.

Todays new car shopper has a wide variety to choose from when considering a mid-size sedan. The new Honda Accord, Ford Taurus, Buick LeSabre and often overlooked Nissan Maxima all offer attractive exteriors combined with proven V6 engines that, as a rule, offer at least 200 hp. 

So where does the Diamante VR-X fit in todays ultra competitive sedan market? The Diamante is bit of a mystery; it is a great-looking car that offers more sport than the Camry, but falls short of the Maximas 255 hp benchmark. 

TheVR-X is a sporty rendition of the Diamante and in many ways it succeeds. The VR-X offers sporty seats and gauges along with an extra 5 horsepower over the more sedate Diamante ES. And yet even the rather pedestrian Honda Accord can now be had with a 240 hp V6. Granted, there is more to a sport sedan than just power, but with its sporting pretensions, the Diamante VR-X falls short with its mid-pack 210 hp engine. There was a time when 210 hp was more than enough to win accolades from the public and journalists alike. The Eagle Vision TSi offered 215 hp and that was lauded by the press as being a fast and fun sedan with power to spare. Times change, the Diamante hasnt.

One area where the VR-X excels is exterior styling. Yes, the optional rear wing could be called excessive, and perhaps only draws attention to the fact that Mitsubishi is trying too hard to get us to see the Diamante as cool, but overall the car is quite stylish. Headlights behind a clear cover are slightly reminiscent of BMW, and the squared taillights add a modern touch to an aging design. Alloy wheels are expected considering the VR-Xs price tag and sporty nature, but the chosen wheels lack pizzazz.

Inside the Diamante is a cabin that veers more toward sport than luxury; still the supportive seats are comfortable and welcoming with wide seat bottoms that offer some support. Although the Diamante is not a small car in overall dimension, the interior seems less roomy than expected. Rear seats are comfortable, but lack adequate legroom for most normal sized adults. The driving position is rather European. Legs are close to the pedals, while arms are outstretched to reach the steering wheel. The sporty steering wheel on the VR-X has a nice fat grip but lacks the radio controls that are found on the LS model.

There are plenty of metallic looking surfaces, but closer inspection reveals them to be little more than painted plastic. Subaru uses this same technique, its fine on a less expensive car, but the VR-X can run above $28,000. Sporty, white-faced gauges with a red glow work well, and the Infiniti sound system sounds better than average.

On the road, the VR-X feels every bit the sport sedan it is intended to be. Steering is quick and precise and handling is predictable and light, but lacks the no-holds-barred precision of a Lexus IS or BMW 3-series. Acceleration is brisk, and the automatic transmission feels perfectly geared for all driving conditions from open highway touring, to heel and toe sprinting. The 3.5-liter V6 has a nice exhaust purr not normally found on mid-size sedans. The Diamantes tires seem too narrow to allow the car to really shine in the handling arena. Wider or more performance oriented tires could really change the character of the VR-X. The fun factor is there, but the tires are not up to the task. This car feels, acts and drives like a European sport sedan, albeit a budget sport sedan like an Opel or Fiat. The Diamante doesnt do one thing really well, but settles for doing many things adequately.

Highway driving is pleasant as there is little wind noise at speed. Road noise is more pronounced than it should be, but its not irritating - if this were intended to be a luxury car, more sound insulation would be required. Ride quality on the open highway is a bit choppy. Again, a luxury car would suffer as a result, but the sport-oriented VR-X makes compromises between sport and luxury that, in the long run, are worth it.

The Diamantes snappy handling, brisk linear power and non-generic styling alone are reason enough to take a test drive. With Honda and Nissan offering V6 powered cars with well over 200 hp, its hard to see the Diamante VR-Xs advantage in an already competitive market, on the other hand there is something to be said for uniqueness and individuality.

Somewhere between true sport and true luxury lies the Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X, a good-looking, spunky car that no one seems to know about. A loaded Diamante VR-X is retail priced at about $28,000. That is similar in price to a Camry XLE, Maxima SE or a loaded Accord V6. If you abhor the thought of seeing your new car in everyone elses driveway, opt for the Diamante. If buying the 6th maroon Camry on your block doesnt bother you, then youll likely not find any reason to consider a Diamante. Bottom line; bargain hard on the price, then use the saving to buy some serious wheels and tires. The combination of bigger wheels, cool sounding exhaust (straight from the factory mind you), and the Diamantes sleek exterior will really set this car apart from the crowd.

 

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Specifications 

2003 Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X Front-Wheel Drive Sports Sedan
Engine Type  3.5-liter SOHC V6 engine
Horsepower 210 @ 5,000
Torque 231 @ 4,000
Fuel Recommended Premium  Unleaded.
Transmission  Electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control
Drive Type Front-Wheel Drive
Tires P215/60VR16 all season tires
Overall Length 194.1"
Wheelbase 107.1"
Width 70.3"
Turning Diameter 36.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,439 lbs.
Fuel Tank 19 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon 18 mpg City,  25 mpg Highway
Acceleration 0 to 60 8.0 Seconds
Base Sticker Price  $26,997   Plus $560 Destination Charge.

Standard Equipment

  • 14-way adjustable (10-way power) drivers seat with 2-position memory
  • Sports tuned suspension
  • Traction control
  • Air conditioning with auto climate control
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Anti-lock braking system
  • Integrated fog lights
  • White-face gauge panel
  • 100-watt AM/FM/CD player with 6 speakers

Major Available Options

  • 210-watt Mitsubishi Infinity Premium AM/FM/CD player with 8-speakers and separate amplifier
  • Six-disc in-dash CD player
  • Leather sport seats with VR-X embossed
  • Rear Spoiler

For more information on the Diamante VR-X, visit Mitsucars.com

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