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ROAD TEST
Elvis Festival
2008 Elvis Festival

Road Test

 

Mitsubishi 380 ES


by Ian Barrett


11th March, 2008

 

Mitsubishi 380 ES Series III 
 
Click on the image for a larger view

From our very first stint behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi 380, following its launch in 2006, the Next Car team gained an immediate and very positive view of this family sedan's many pleasing attributes. And it's fair to say, that those first impressions have been lasting ones. The award-winning 380 is one stylish and very well engineered car, offering a combination of performance, space and handling which is hard to find in a large front wheel drive car. It is certainly more than a match for some of its immediate rivals.

Unfortunately, its release coincided with a hefty jump in world fuel prices, sparking a trend to smaller, more economical vehicles. Consequently, like its immediate rivals from Holden and Ford, sales have been well below expectations. Sadly, Mitsubishi has announced that production will shortly cease, and the company will simply revert to importing a fine range of imported vehicles.

We recently had the opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with the 380, following the Series III upgrade. Our test car was an entry level 380 ES in which we clocked up some 1,000 kilometres, over a week of driving in a variety of conditions, and we must say it was once again a pleasant experience, for both driver and passengers.

Externally, subtle detail changes, particularly at the front, have improved what was already a stylish car. All models now have a variation of the 'platinum' mesh grille, a small change which really lifts the look of the 380. Appearance is surprisingly similar to the current Commodore, with the biggest points of difference being the extra frontal overhang, and lack of wheel arch flares. This gives the 380 a somewhat cleaner, more European look, which we find very easy on the eye. However, a touch of chrome window or boot lid trim wouldn't have gone astray, to highlight some of the darker colours and even to increase model differentiation. Of note, is the inclusion of alloy wheels and front fog lamps as standard across the range. On the ES, the 16x6.5" wheels are an attractive 6-spoke design wearing, on the test car, 215/60Rx16 Goodyear Ducaros.

Ian Barrett with the Mitsubishi 380 ES Series III 

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The 380 has plenty to offer buyers who need that little bit of extra leg and elbow room compared to the now popular medium 4-cylinder sedans. Front seats are very comfortable and supportive, with 4-way power adjustment for the driver. Rear seat passengers are also well catered for, with good support. A centre armrest incorporates 2 cup holders, and also makes way for 'ski-port' access to the boot. In fact, the spacious cabin is surprisingly well equipped. The ES comes with climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, 10-function trip computer, power windows all round (fast glass for driver), adjustable steering wheel (tilt only) with remote controls, programmable headlamp delay, front map lights, and two 12-volt accessory sockets. Incidentally, the trip computer can even be programmed (30 minutes-4 hours) to tell you when it's time to take a rest break, and also indicates when the next service is due. An AM/FM radio and single CD player (MP3-compatable) with 6 speakers is also included.

Fit and build quality were only spoilt by a speaker buzz in the driver's door. However, the overall look of some of the controls, particularly the plain silver temperature control dials, was a little down-market for our taste. As was the lid and catch for the centre console storage. Otherwise the cabin is modern and controls are well laid out. A nice practical touch are the audio remote buttons on the steering wheel, which are placed at the rear of the upper spokes, where they fall most easily to hand.

Safety is a high priority, with driver and front passenger side airbags fitted in addition to driver and front passenger frontal SRS airbags. Energy absorbing headlining and pillar trim provide added security, as do height-adjustable front seat belt mounts, with pre-tensioners and force limiters now par for the course. Breakaway pedals and emergency door-unlock complete the picture. Of course, we're talking about secondary (post-accident) safety here. Obviously avoidance is paramount and Mitsubishi also provide the 380 with plenty of primary safety features.

Brakes are vented disc all round, the front units with twin-piston callipers. Combined with ABS and EBD, they provide impressive stopping power for a large car. Suspension is by struts, lower A-arm and stabiliser bar at the front, while a sophisticated low-mounted multi-link arrangement with upper and lower control arms, and stabiliser bar completes the rear. The rear control arms are also designed to maximise suspension travel on our uneven rural roads. The result is great stability combined with a supple ride and surprisingly agile handling. The 380 can be hustled around bends with the power on, and remains very neutral, much like some of the better Europeans. Mitsubishi have done a fine job.

Mitsubishi 380 ES Series III 

Click on the image for a larger view

The 380 is powered by a 3.8-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 which develops an impressive and relatively fuel efficient 175 kW of power at 5,250 rpm and 343 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Our test vehicle had Mitsubishi's 5-speed 'Smart logic' automatic with 'sports mode' sequential shift, which constantly adapts shift patterns to suit driving style. It's a superb combination. Unsurprisingly, the Mitsubishi 380 has performance plus, for effortless acceleration, cruising and towing up to 1,600 kg. Naturally, with all this performance available, traction control (TCL)is standard.

We found the 380 relatively economical for its size and engine capacity. Our average on test was 9.2L/100km overall, which is better than Mitsubishi's quoted figure of 10.8L/100km (combined cycle) for the 5-speed automatic. For owners who spend much of their time on the highway, there is potential to achieve somewhat better than that. And one big plus is the LPG-compatability of the powerplant. Mitsubishi have endorsed latest technology LPG kits for the 380, which ensure there is little impact on performance while minimising fuel costs. And don't forget that LPG is one of the cleanest fuels around in termsof greenhouse emissions.

On the road, the 380 is a particularly pleasing package, with great driveability. Performance, handling and ride comfort are all first class. Priced from $28,990 plus on-road costs, the Mitsubishi 380 ES also comes with one of Australia's best new car warranties. The 5-year/130,000km includes 24-hour roadside assist, with 10-year/160,000km for the powertrain. It's your last opportunity to enjoy a unique combination of style, comfort, space, performance and agile handling at a bargain price. As Mitsubishi's advertising says, please consider.....


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