- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

If Mitsubishi’s estimated sales of its 2004 Galant are correct, how thoroughly do buyers investigate when purchasing a car? Is price the only factor used in their decision?

The Galant is available in four models: DE just under $18,000; ES at $19,000; LS at $21,000 and GTS at $26,000. Mitsubishi believes the ES will constitute 65 percent of the Galant sales and the LS will only get 15 percent of the sales. They expect the DE model to constitute 5 percent, and the GTS model 15 percent. Such estimates made by any manufacturer are usually accurate in the final count.

I drove both the ES and LS models and, even though there’s about $2,000 difference in the price, the LS is far superior to the cheaper ES. The LS is an enjoyable, high-quality sedan while the ES has some shortcomings.

The exterior appearance of both cars is similar. But even though an observant viewer will notice the more attractive alloy wheels on the LS, the types of tires on the ES are more easily overlooked.

The ES tires do not provide a good ride. They are a bit noisy in turns, and on some road surfaces, the ride is harsh, which is one of the first problems I noted. The ES has a newly designed 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, 160-horsepower engine that is noisy and lacks impressive acceleration.

The overall interior appearance of the ES, although of the same dimensions, does not have the upscale quality of the LS. Even the sound system is not as good as in the more expensive version. Basically, after driving about 100 miles on various road surfaces, I was not favorably impressed with the ES.

The LS offers a world of difference. The tires give a quieter ride, and better traction. The interior has a much nicer appearance. But there were two features that set the LS far apart from the ES: The engine and transmission.

The LS has a new 3.8-liter V-6 engine that produces 230 horsepower and is linked to an automatic transmission. This transmission offers a Sportronic shifter allowing the option of manual shifting when the situation is desirable.

Incidentally, Mitsubishi will not have a manual transmission for any Galant.

The Galant is a front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, four-door sedan, and is available with numerous options to accommodate various budgets.

They have the usual configurations such as four-wheel disc brakes, keyless entry, and power windows and locks, and all models have the latest innovations in safety equipment.

The array of standard equipment improves as you move up the line from DE to ES to LS and GTS. The top-of-the-line vehicle comes with a 270-watt Infinity sound system that is outstanding.

A couple of other notes: The odometer numerals are easy to read, and when driving into a darkened area in daylight, such as a tunnel, the instrumentation is clearly distinguishable in bright blue.

One area that I noted favorably toward the ES was the fuel economy. The ES model produces 23 miles per gallon and 30 mpg highway, while the LS is rated at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

The rear seats of both models are reasonably comfortable for a midsize sedan, and include the LATCH system for child seats. Both vehicles are equipped with numerous other safety features.

The bottom line is this: even though the extra $2,000 for the LS is well worth the investment, 65 percent either don’t recognize the difference between the two cars or, if they do appreciate the difference, aren’t able to afford the additional cost.

I wonder which answer is correct.

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