- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

The Mitsubishi Diamante is the Buick LeSabre of Japan.
Respectable, dignified, handsome, great road car, but a little dull in the image department.
Like the LeSabre, the Diamante is a "near-luxury" car, a category I'm not convinced even exists. What's "luxurious" is the sedan itself. What's "near" is its maker; i.e., Mitsubishi is not Lexus, just as Buick is not Cadillac.
You could slap a Lexus or Acura nameplate on this upscale sedan, and I doubt that anyone would squeal. The quality certainly seems to be there, as are the creature comforts, power and passenger amenities. And with a price tag in the mid-$20,000 range, this car certainly seems to be a luxury a few of us really can afford.
But because the Diamante comes from a maker that sounds about as refined as Fuji Heavy Industries, this luxury car seems to park in a marketing no man's land. When I think of Mitsubishi, I can't help picturing this enormous industrial power that seems to build everything under the sun, from ships to planes. Imagine if Boeing also manufactured cars. You would be driving around in an A-52 with trim tabs on your spoiler.
To be honest, few of the Diamante's competitors, with the exception of the stunning new Volkswagen Passat, light many fires either.
There's the Toyota Avalon, which, if it did not exist, would not need to be invented. The Mazda Millennia usually is followed by a question mark in conversation. The Lexus ES 300 is just another number with the word "Lexus" in front of it. If Toyota's luxury division really had any guts, it would name its next model the Nexus. Then, there's the Nissan Maxima, which deserves a spot right behind the Passat in pizazz. After years of trying to win the derby of dull design, Nissan inadvertently came out with a stylish new statement in sheet metal.
What these cars lack in personality, they more than make up in performance. The peer pressure begins with strong V-6 engines that purr like contented kittens while performing like tigers. Smooth, four-speed automatics generally take the torque to the tires while effortless power steering tames the turns.
The Diamante's power comes from a 3.5-liter, 205-horsepower V-6 engine that consumes unleaded at the rate of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway, right about average for this class of car. The tank holds 19 gallons, adding to its credentials as a road car that can get you through Kansas without a refill.
Whether you're trying to get from point A to B or not to B, 'tis nobler in the mind to drive in luxurious surroundings. There, the 2001 Diamante fully satisfies the most demanding tastes.
Available in ES and LS trims, the Diamante is tweaked only slightly for 2001, with a new generation scheduled for production in 2003. The ES wears new seat fabric and wheel covers, while the LS adds fog lights. All Diamantes now include child-seat tether anchors.
Safety features include dual air bags, child safety locks and an optional traction control system. Standard features include automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, cruise control, a security system with remote keyless entry, and an AM-FM stereo with CD player.
The LS adds leather trim, 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a power sunroof, power driver and passenger seat adjustments, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and wood-grain interior trim. An available all-weather package for the LS adds heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and traction control. Hitting the scales at 3,549 pounds in LS trim, the Diamante sits on a 107.1-inch wheelbase that lends great stability to the ride and handling. The suspension feels softer than those of its European rivals, but plenty firm in the turns.
The brakes are discs on all fours, vented in the front with an anti-lock system as standard equipment. The power rack-and-pinion steering has a nice, fingertip-control feel.
With its long list of standard equipment, the LS version of the Diamante bore a window sticker with $28,927 on the bottom line, including a $520 destination charge. While that price certainly seemed fair, given the Diamante's performance and comfort, I still came away searching for reasons to prefer this sedan over its equally impressive competitors.

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