Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

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The 3000GT VR-4, successor to the Starion, and probably to be called that when it reaches these shores over 18 months from now, is a typical new Mitsubishi in that it features its fair share of innovation.

It follows the lead set by the HSR-11 research vehicle in that it makes use of what the Japanese manufacturer calls its Active Footwork System. This combines the 4WS and 4WD already familiar on the Galant with 41S and Active ECS (four wheel, electronically controlled, independent suspension), and 4ABS.

The word ‘Active’ is perhaps over used for this car’s technology with both the aerodynamics and the exhaust system so described.

The 3000GT uses what is said to be the world’s first mass production system that actively and simultaneously controls both front and rear lift, known as the ‘Active Aero Control System’, this features a motorised venturi under-cover which extends downwards by 80mm at over 50 mph, plus a rear spoiler, the attack angle of which increases by 14 degrees. The overall effect is said to reduce the co-efficient of lift from +0.10 to —0.07 without increasing drag. The other ‘Active’ ‘first’ reflects the fact that this car was designed with the US market very much in mind — Mitsubishi hopes to sell 300 a month there once the car has been launched, this autumn, in both Japan and America. Indeed, it is questionable whether a sporting exhaust note will pass European noise legislations; Mitsubishi engineers claim not to know the answer.

The innovation in question is known as the ‘Active Exhaust System’. What it means is that the exhaust note can be decided by the driver, a ‘sports mode’ or a ‘tour mode’ being available at the touch of a switch mounted in the somewhat claustrophobic cockpit. In either mode a computer minimises exhaust back pressure for, it is claimed, ‘optimum engine performance’.

Included in the system, which only works below 3500 rpm, are a valve which controls the flow of the exhaust gases, a cable which operates the valve, a motor that drives the cable and a computer that controls the overall operation. When the valve is open in the sport mode the exhaust gases flow smoothly to reduce back pressure and enhance combustion efficiency. When it is closed in the ‘tour mode’ the gases are allowed to expand fully and disperse within the system, thus reducing the overall noise levels.

A first impression of the car is that it is heavy, and with a low down pick up that is disappointing in such a performance car, a car said to achieve to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Having said that, this is a long distance car, which, when wound up, truly warrants the GT tag. A top speed of 160 mph is claimed.

The 4WS means fewer steering corrections than normal, and the large 245/45 ZR17 tyres ensure tremendous grip. With marginally better performance figures, the advantage of a new 4WD which uses a planetary gear-type centre differential in conjunction with a viscous coupling unit, and with a lower price planned at least in the US, the 3000GT is more than a match for its most obvious rival, the Nissan 300ZX.

Mitsubishi says that it has ‘been designed to be driven by as many people as possible, unlike Porsches and Ferraris’. The company reckons that in including so many new technical features it has established a new category of all-wheel drive sports car, one that ‘does not require special driving skills’.

The engine is a 2972cc ECI-MULTI digital fuel injection 6G72 60 V6 DOHC with twin turbochargers and twin intercoolers. Three hundred bhp is claimed for this transversely mounted monster which seems to fill every square inch of the engine compartment. The five-speed manual transmission is supplied from Germany by Getrag. However much of the componentry is shared with the new Diamante saloon.

Mitsubishi’s answer to the Mercedes Benz and BMWs that are threatening its domestic market, the Diamante also has its fair share of innovation, not least a traction control system TCL.

At present geared for the Japanese market, and therefore liable to take over control from the driver to perhaps an excessive degree, TCL combines trace and slip control. Unlike other systems, the former works not on brakes but on regulating engine power. In the event of impending understeer caused by increasing speed in a 2WD car, TCL takes over enabling the correct line to be followed.

The system features wheel speed sensors on the rear wheel, an output shaft speed sensor (equivalent to the average speed of the driving wheels), a steering shaft angle sensor, throttle opening sensor and a microprocessor. The slip control monitors the front wheels, regulating engine power to prevent wheel spin.

The Diamante also features what Mitsubishi calls its Comprehensive Chassis System. Combined with TCL are Active ECS, 41S, 4ABS and 4WS. When, probably next March, the car is launched in Britain, it will feature a number of major changes, not least in cockpit size. It will also be offered only in a 2WD drive version. A 4WD, obviously without TCL is included in the domestic line-up. The UK model, J41, as opposed to the J42, will also have another name. As yet, Mitsubishi will not say what it is to use instead of a ‘fake diamond’. IRW