Have you ever driven a car worth $600 million? I have…
Well, not really. But, that’s the amount of money Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited has invested into their new model, the 380.
As we all know, Mitsubishi really needed a new model. The late model Magna looked awful; it didn’t stand a chance against its direct competitors, the Falcon and the Commodore. The only thing that made it remotely tempting was the warranty.
The 380 range comes in 5 forms. The ‘380’, which is the standard trim and base model. The ‘LS’, which is the lower-luxury model. The ‘LX’, the upper luxury model. The ‘VRX’, the ‘sporty’ variant of the 380 range. And last but not least, the ‘GT’ which is supposed to be a mixture of sport and luxury.
Our review was conducted with the 380 LX. Valued at $46,490, it’s the second most expensive vehicle in the 380 range.
My first impressions were very good. The LX interior has beige leather seats and beige door inserts. It looks very impressive to start off with but, with only 8000km on the clock, the driver’s seat was already becoming dirty and un-attractive (and before you ask, I did have my weekly shower on the day I picked up the car, so it wasn’t me!).
The dreadfully slow power driver’s seat is a disaster. It feels like an eternity before it gets to the place you want it to be in. Heaven forbid accidentally hitting one of the memory settings; you’re in for another dreadful wait before it gets back to your preferred place. It has motorised lumbar support, motorized horizontal motion, motorized vertical motion and motorized horizontal and vertical tilt support. On the upside, the seats are extremely comfortable but, sometimes don’t support you enough through tight bends.
Once you turn the key, the engine is dead silent. So silent that I barely even noticed it was idling. After taking off you are in 3rd gear by 30km/h and is in its final gear by 60km/h (5th gear), the gear changes are very seamless and precise.
One thing that irks me to no end with almost all new cars is some of the damn automation. If I switch the fan on, it means that I want the fan on. It doesn’t mean that I want the air-conditioning compressor to automatically come on. If I wanted it on, I’d hit the little button that says ‘A/C’. Unfortunately the LX was a perfect example of this personal gripe.
The centre console in the LX is very attractive. The controls are labelled with large text and are very easy to find and get used to in no time. The audio system is equipped with a 6-stacker, MP3 and CD compatible player with 8 speakers that outputs a very nice sound. Far better than I was expecting. The ‘hidden’ steering wheel controls leave a lot to be desired. Not only are they located deep behind the wheel but, they are very confusing until you get a chance to play around with them and get used to them. I would have preferred to have the controls in plain sight with writing on them, steering wheel controls are one of the things you don’t want to be distracted with whilst trying to drive.
The engine is very impressive. Based on the previous V6 Magna engine, the 380 comes with a 3.8ltr V6 that produces 175kW at 5250RPM and 343Nm of torque at 4000RPM. We weren’t able to replicate the claimed 0-100km/h time of 7.86s, most probably due to a boot load of camera equipment and two passengers. The closest we got was just over 8.1s. The best times were achieved when manually controlling the transmission through the sequential shift mode and 100km/h was achieved at the end of 2nd gear.
Our test vehicle had some dreadful shuddering problems. With only 8000km on the clock, after a cold start, when you slow down to stop, the car started violently shuddering at low speed. At one point it felt like the car was actually going to stall. A similar situation was achieved when the engine was warm at low speed but, certainly nowhere near the extent of the cold start. To me, this is totally unacceptable for a near new $47,000 car.
The traction control system on the 380 is total rubbish. It’s far too relaxed and when it finally decides to engage it drops the power levels to un-bearable lows. With a large chunk of our testing on dirt roads, it became evident how little research was put into the traction control system on dirt. It seems as though the traction control system resets at the start of each gear, so from a standing start there would simply be wheel spin at the start of first before the traction control engaged and then more wheel spin at the start of second and then again at the start of third.
The ABS system on dirt is also disastrous, only as expected. Once you exceed the braking threshold on dirt and ABS engages, your stopping distance is strikingly increased. It also caused the back end to twitch a bit during cornering on the dirt roads. Although this is a consequence of ABS, it would be nice if some more development took place in this area.
Apart from the traction control and ABS, the LX handled well on dirt. The new suspension system is fantastic. It’s very smooth on both dirt and tarmac and with the help of the strut tower brace, the car is very stable and rigid through the bends. With all the money and time spent on the 380, it’s totally let down by the fact that it’s a Front Wheel Drive. It’s at a point where there is just too much power for the Front Wheel Drive system to be beneficial. It can only take so much before it begins understeering and becoming a total nuisance.
The luxury instrument cluster lets you customise features such as the amount of time the headlights stay on after locking the car and even down to the noise the blinker makes. But, it’s a little screen and can be a little hard to see when there is glare from the outside. The other total disappointment was the lack of a pause button on the stereo. There were a few occasions where I wanted to pause my CD and I wasn’t able to.
Passenger room in the 380 is very generous. There is plenty of room in the front and in the rear and the boot is very big. The only let down was the boot lip; it didn’t enable the driver to easily insert large objects. Due to the aerodynamic design, the roof stays as low as possible, this made head room for rear passengers somewhat limited.
Now, to the fuel consumption. It was surprisingly good for a car of its size. Officially, the 380 uses 10.8L/100km, the closest we got to that figure was 13.4L/100km, this was achieved with around 450km of highway driving and 800km of city and country driving. So, overall the fuel consumption is very good.
Is all the hype really relevant?
Yes, I certainly think so. The 380 is a step in the right direction for Mitsubishi, it’s the metaphorical cabin of life-jackets for the sinking crew of HMAS Mitsubishi Motors, and all they need now is either a Rear Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive version of the 380 to get them entirely back into the game.
It’s truly a family car, there’s no two ways about it and it gives the enthusiastic driver the ability to have a bit of fun on the weekends. Whether or not it beats down the Fairmont Ghia and Calais is hard to say, I think each model is unique in its own way.
In summary, the new 380 gets the thumbs up from me. With a bit of luck and clever marketing, this will mean Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited’s survival in Australia.
- by Paul Maric
CarAdvice rating (out of five):