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Magna replacement out of the box

First look: Mitsubishi's Magna replacement, shown here in an official sketch for the first time, is based on Mitsubishi's Galant sedan sold in the US (below) but will be 70 per cent new when it goes on sale in October.

Mitsubishi releases first details of its make-or-break Magna replacement

24 Feb 2005

FIRST-RATE quality, an advanced V6 engine, improved transmissions, sophisticated suspension and a stiff body will help define Mitsubishi’s crucial new Magna replacement as a dedicated driver’s car.

This was the message Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) delivered this week in the first of a series of briefings to be held in the run up to the sedan’s launch at the Australian International Motor Show in October.

While the new nameplate and a moniker for higher-series models (replacing Verada) are still to be confirmed, MMAL management stressed the $600 million it has invested in the car, codenamed PS41, would ensure it was far removed from its left-hand drive North American donor car, the Galant.

Indeed, 70 per cent of PS41 will be new and more than 2000 components unique to the Australian-made vehicle.

This week’s briefing was held in conjunction with the opening of a new $40 million ‘AA Class Tandem Press Line’ which, as part of a wider $250m upgrade to Mitsubishi’s Tonsley Park assembly plant, is said to "guarantee" unprecedented levels of quality in an Australian vehicle.

According to Mitsubishi, the ability to stamp one-piece body side mouldings, and increased accuracy stemming from new manufacturing processes like Mitsubishi’s ‘Toy-Tab’ panel-fit system, will contribute to a significantlystronger, smoother, quieter and more refined car, and one which is also easier to enter and egress.

"Our mandate is to have our new car be the best-quality car ever built in Australia," said MMAL president and CEO, Tom Phillips.

The new processes will make for a stiffer body – thought to be almost double that of the current Magna – which in turn will aid handling, ride and refinement qualities to the point where MMAL insists the PS41 will lead all locally produced vehicles in these areas. And most imports, too.

This, in turn, fits neatly with findings from the largest market research campaign Mitsubishi has ever undertaken in Australia, which indicates that Australian family car buyers now consider sportiness and power to be primepurchase considerations.

To that end, the PS41 will use a variation of Mitsubishi’s venerable 3.8-litre 24-valve V6 engine that – backed by the company’s MIVEC variablevalve technology and a new-generation Bosch engine management system– should boost power and torque to around 192kW and 335Nm respectively,as well as improve emissions and driveability.

MMAL’s general manager for research and development, Lee Kernich, said the company took the opportunity to improve the V6 – to be built in Japan – as it had to be re-engineered to meet the relevant Australian Design Rules.

It has been calibrated "to suit Australian drivers", and is part of what Mr Kernich referred to as "control tuning" and "optimising" of the entire PS41 drivetrain, including the drive-by-wire accelerator pedal and wheel/tyre combinations.

21 center imageA smoother, less-intrusive traction control system will also form part of the package, while Mr Kernich added further that the engine management system would be compatible with a turbocharger.

He stopped short of saying there were plans for such a model, but take it as read that one is at least on the drawing board.

Harnessing all this is an upgraded five-speed automatic transmission with a Tiptronic-style shift and a new control unit featuring driver-adaptive hardware for increased response and greater efficiency.

A manual gearbox, believed to be a six-speed unit, will further enhance the PS41’s driver-orientated credentials.

Questioned on possible enthusiast driver resistance to the car’s continuing front-wheel drive set-up, Mr Kernich pointed to research indicating 70 per cent of large-car buyers did not consider front-drive a disadvantage.

Toyota could also attest to this with the success of its Camry Sportivo.

All-wheel drive variants have been ruled out for now.

A strut-based front suspension design with a flat fabricated cross-member and low-mounted steering rack, and a similarly placed multi-link arrangement in the rear, are expected to reduce road noise as well as boot-space intrusion.

Ultimately, "excellent roll control, flat cornering feel and European handling characteristics" are all promised for the PS41.

Body rigidity, already stiffened by the single-piece stamping system, will be bolstered by extra body bracing between the front suspension strut towers and rear-seat bracing – meaning the new car, like the current Magna, will eschew a split-folding rear seat.

According to Mr Kernich, incorporating a split-fold mechanism compromises body strength and rigidity. However, he did indicate that a larger aperture than the Magna’s ski-port opening should be available.

Braking will be by 16-inch ventilated discs up-front and 16-inch grid ventilateddiscs at the rear, the latter a preferred option over the 14-inch solids used on the US Galant.

It seems Mitsubishi has run out of time and resources to develop 17-inch wheels for the PS41, which must comply with the company’s extensive year-long wheel-testing regime before being signed off for production.

Far from being a hindrance to the Australian team, the US Galant platform has provided substantial economies of scale in various development and engineering areas.

"If we had to start with a clean sheet of paper we’d still pretty much end up with the vehicle we have now," Mr Kernich said.

The first Australian prototype PS41 in right-hand drive form was developed in September 2003 and was tested extensively here, in Europe (mostly Germany) and Japan.

Around August last year, the first off-tool-parts prototype arrived.

The car is now in the trial production phase, and will again repeat the vigorous testing leading up to Job Number One (to borrow a Ford phrase) in September.

Confirmation of the car’s name is expected next month, ahead of the unveiling of the PS41’s locally adapted exterior styling which should carry greater differentiation than ever between the main car and higher-series model.

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