When buying a car, there are so many things to consider and it's usually a decision that's made with either the head or the heart. It's not often you can make the decision with both but the 2002 Mitsubishi KJ Verada Ei wagon is one of those rare cars that is such an accomplished all-round package, you're able to do just that.
The engine is a gem. A SOHC 3.5 V6 that makes a smooth 155kw & 316Nm. The stadard 4 speed auto was like a soulmate for the V6. Equipped with tiptronic shift, this transmission also featured Mitsubishi's "INVECS-II" which has the ability to learn driving styles and alter shift patterns accordingly. Drive like the accelerator is made of eggshells, the car will deliver smooth, low-RPM gear changes, drive harder and the changes will be sharper, more responsive. And this is where you start to see the joy of this car, the engine will deliver in all circumstances, torquey down low with a strong mid-range (perfect for those highway overtaking manoeuvres) and will pull like a train all the way to the redline with a subtle growl from under the bonnet.
Despite the relatively low tech of the motor, many trips covered between Sydney and Melbourne have shown you can get to the north of Melbourne (Donnybrook) to Sydney's southwest on a full 68L tank.
Long distance driving is a Verada signature. Quiet and comfortable seating for four - five is possible, albeit at the loss of some comfort - the driver will find themselves cocooned in a cockpit by an ergonomic dashboard featuring climate control, cd stacker, and the best instruments fitted to a car. Visible in all light conditions, they look as brilliant as they are.
Point the nose off the highway and down a road with a few curves and you'll arrive at the other end pleasantly surprised. It's no out and out sports car - it never pretends to be - ultimately understeering when pushed too hard but grip levels are high and the damping perfectly suited to Aussie conditions with the wagon's standard rear sway bar certainly proving its worth.
So, if the drivetrain and chassis win the heart, what about the head?
Ease of ownership is taken care of with lower running costs and higher relative reliability. The engine is happy on 91 octane fuel and parts are both reasonable and abundant.
With the back seats folded down, cargo space is comparable to some vans which comes in handy when moving house (something I've done a few times or for camping and if that's not enough, the standard roof rails come equipped with crossbars for even more cargo-carrying ability.
Equipment levels are high, with self dimming mirrors, power windows, mirrors, locks, security alarm, dual airbags and traction control being highlights. The main controls are bound in leather, and the frameless glass adds to the style.
And it's at this point where I have to concede that this Verada car no longer a standard example.
To suit a predilection for spirited driving, the wagon's auto was replaced with a 5 speed manual.
The engine performance has been mildly upgraded using the cams and intake manifold from a 3.8L version of the venerable Mitsubishi 6G engine.
Exterior styling was tweaked using updated door handles and side skirts, while a new bonnet/grille combination transformed the front.
Using all genuine Mitsubishi parts, the brakes, interior trim, seats, as well as the audio system were upgraded.
With the distances we have covered (100,000kms in the last 2 years), the journeys we've been on, my Verada has become more than a car, it's become a reliable companion. With the personalised upgrades, the car has grown into a character not a possession.
And as any car person knows, if you don't look back at it after parking it, you've bought the wrong car.
I bought the right car.