2006 Mitsubishi 380 VRX Road Test

2006 Mitsubishi 380 VRX Road Test

$4,400 Mrlp
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Since the release of the Mitsubishi 380 late last year, I have written road tests on the LX and GT variants, both of which didn’t excite me as much as I had hoped they would. Suffice to say; I had a seemingly predisposed opinion, prior to even setting foot in the car.

The exterior carries the same styling facade as the GT moniker; certainly nothing to be ashamed of as it gives the 380 a more stylish and aggressive look – despite the “sport” model featuring the same engine power output as the base model.

Looking at the outside I wasn’t all that impressed. It simply looked like a GT with VRX badges. Open the driver’s door and it’s a totally different story. Some of the things that first jump to mind are the lack of leather seats. For some reason the leather seats in the 380 simply didn’t gel with me. They smelt, didn’t offer enough ventilation and were roasting on hot days, so I was more than happy to see a black on red cloth treatment on the seats. The other thing that jumped at me at first glance was the beige coloured speedometer backboard. In my opinion it looked far classier than the setup in both the GT and LX models. At the end of the day the interior setup seemed far more fitting in the VRX that the GT and LX models. Simply because of the fact that it looks like it’s worth the VRXs price tag. The GT and LX looked overpriced in comparison to other models in their respective price ranges.

One thing I was looking forward to trying was the manual gearbox on offer. Although the 5-speed automatic job is very smooth and easy to drive with, it just didn’t offer the sportiness or control of a manual gearbox. At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the clutch; it had such a long travel and I didn’t think it would appeal all that much to spirited driving. But, with a bit of driving time it became second nature. More on this later.

The VRX gets the same mini-LCD treatment as the LX and GT. Sure, the display of the concept-sketch on the LCD whenever you turn the key is great for the first four or five times, but soon after it becomes a little blasé and wanky. It would have been nice to see a Falcon-esque LCD screen that was big, but didn’t require a telescope to read. Reversing should only be attempted by the brave; vision out of the rear is nearly non-existent. The boot lid sits up so high that it makes it impossibly to judge distances. Optioning your 380 with rear-parking-sensors is really a must. Lowering your sunshade can also be a death-wish at times. If you drop your sunshade all the way down it blocks ¾ of the vision out of the windscreen; so, make sure you never try it whilst driving along in suburbia!

The engine in the 380 VRX is the same one that is fitted to the entire 380 range. It carries a 3.8ltr displacement and outputs 175kW of power at 5250RPM and 343Nm of torque at 4000RPM. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; why on earth does the sport model have the same engine as the rest of the range, it seems illogical!

Rant aside, it’s time to comment on how the 380 VRX drives. In one word – fantastic. The manual gearbox gives the 380 the credit it really deserves. It feels so much more responsive and aggressive in delivering power and doesn’t hold back until it hits the limiter. It often grapples for grip if you give it a boot-full; in my opinion the VRX could really do with an AWD (All Wheel Drive) system. There is little body roll and the car stays composed through corners with little understeer.

Being front wheel drive, the turning circle is of gargantuan proportions. After a series of hard braking emergency stops a noise emerged from the rear suspension, it didn’t seem to affect handling but became very persistent and annoying. The noise appeared to have vanished by the following morning.

The VRX is priced at $36,990 and comes with a 6-stack CD-player, climate control, trip computer, alloy wheels, sport tuned suspension, front tower strut brace, traction control, electric windows, auto headlights, side airbags, power driver seat and dual airbags. It’s a very well priced package when compared to the offerings from the Blue-Oval and The General.

Fuel efficiency on test averaged out to around 11L/100KM.

Conclusion –

In my opinion, the 5-speed manual 380 VRX is the pick of the bunch. It offers agile handling, responsive performance and appealing looks. If you are looking at buying one, make sure you option it with parking sensors and window tint.

With 5-year roadside assistance, along with 5-year bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year drivetrain warranty, you really can’t go wrong.

Sure, it’s front wheel drive, but if you can deal with that and the fact that resale value might not be all that impressive in the future, the 380 VRX is a winning deal. It offers a load of features, great looks and performance to satisfy most cravings. It’s certainly a viable alternative to the Commodore and Falcon.

CarAdvice rating (out of 5):

- by Paul Maric