Mitsubishi Magna TE Executive Car Review
With a fresh new look, two new engines, new manual and automatic transmissions, extensively re-worked suspensions, and many added refinements and extra features, the 1996 TE Mitsubishi Magna ups the ante in the hard-fought battle for a slice of the lucrative 'family' car segment.
In keeping with its aim to compete more directly with the big-selling Falcons and Commodores, Mitsubishi is marketing the TE Magna with the emphasis very much on six-cylinder power. The company says that more than 70 per cent of TE Magnas sold will be powered by the new locally-made 3.0 litre V6, and what a lovely sweet engine it is.
It may not have the outright performance or huge torque of the larger capacity engines in Falcons and Commodores, but the Magna 'six' is smoother, more refined, and more economical.
The TE Magna's other big advantage is that it's a fresh design. It has attractive new styling, and its overall levels of refinement, handling and stability, comfort and quietness tend to leave the Falcon and Commodore looking a little old hat.
Another obvious competitor for the V6 Magna is the Toyota Vienta, and like the Magna, it represents a refined alternative for those buyers who don't need as much power as in a Falcon or Commodore, and who like to drive something a little more compact.
At launch, the TE Magna was only available as a four-door sedan, with a choice of four variants. There are two equipment levels - Executive and Altera - and a choice of 2.4 litre four-cylinder power or the 3.0 litre V6. Five speed manual, or a "Smart Logic" adaptive four-speed automatic transmission, are available in all except the Altera V6 - it's auto-only.
Come July, the Verada range will be released, but we'll have to wait until early next year for the wagon. With Mitsubishi Australia's responsibility to supply every market in the world outside Japan with the Diamante (Magna) sedan, development of the wagon version has taken a back seat. In the meantime, the TS model wagon will continue. Prices for the manual four-cylinder TE Magnas are: Executive, $27,250 and Altera, $33,060. Add $1650 for automatic. Six cylinder model prices start at $28,000 for the manual Executive, with the auto Executive costing $29,650 and the auto-only V6 Altera priced at $35,540.
The $29,650 auto V6 Executive is sure to prove the popular fleet purchase and at that price, is fairly closely aligned with the Vienta CSi at $29,730, the Commodore Executive at $29,310 and the Falcon GLi at $30,249 (Falcon has a driver's airbag standard).
Features & equipment
Standard features on Executive models include power assisted steering, four-wheel disc brakes, remote central locking with engine immobiliser, power mirrors, remote boot and fuel lid releases, height adjustable steering wheel, dual height adjusters and lumbar support adjustment for the driver's seat, adjustable front seat belt upper anchorages, lap/sash centre rear belt, a rear centre armrest with boot access hatch behind, a four-speaker security-coded radio/cassette and variable intermittent windscreen wipers.
Alteras add cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, front seat back pockets, rear head restraints and rear heater ducts.
"Stand Alone" options for the Executive include air conditioning at $1,985 and alloy wheels for $890, but if you want ABS brakes, they come with air conditioning, in three option packages ranging from $2,975, through $3,965, to $4,475. The two dearer packages respectively include driver or dual airbags.
ABS brakes are available separately on the Altera for $990, with an ABS/driver's airbag pack for $1,980 and an ABS/dual airbag pack for $2,490.
Body & finish
Even if it didn't have its many mechanical improvements and higher levels of refinement and comfort, the new TE Magna would no doubt attract many buyers on the basis of its appearance alone.
The TE's "pillared hardtop" body, with steeply rakes front and rear windscreens and flush, frameless side windows, is clean and uncluttered, and has a high-class, almost European look about it.
Besides being more aerodynamically efficient (Mitsubishi claims a class-leading CD factor of 0.28), the new body is said to be considerably stiffer, and better insulated against noise and vibration.
The quality of the overall structure certainly felt reassuringly strong over the varying road conditions of our test course, and noise levels were comfortably low in the tradition of previous Magnas.
Not quite so impressive was the lack of attention to detail finish in the test Executive V6.
Examples included misalignment of body moulds, stiff and jerky action of the recirculation/fresh air control lever, and patchy paint cover inside the fuel flap and boot lid.
The resilience of the bumpers was tested when an inattentive driver clouted the rear of the test car whilst it was stationary at a set of traffic lights. Initially, there looked to be enough damage to possibly warrant a bumper replacement, but the affected section soon reformed itself, leaving just a few abrasions on the white painted surface. Unfortunately, the latest Magnas don't have protection strips on the bumper faces, so some paint damage in these situations is inevitable.
Comfort & space
The TE model has grown a little, to be longer, wider and a whisker taller than the outgoing TS model. The extra space appears to have been devoted mainly to the boot compartment, which has grown in length by over 100 mm.
Though it's a fraction tighter up front, the Magna still has the best front leg room, the longest front seat cushions (good for thigh support), and the second best head room in class, according to my measurements. Comfort rates very well in the front, and the large, well-shaped seat provide good support.
Rear leg space is less than Falcon, Commodore or Vienta, but if the front seats are set forward a notch or two (as most front occupants would have them) there's satisfactory room for adults.
Being narrower than the Falcon and Commodore, the Magna can't offer their generous rear seat width, but it's wide enough for three average-size bodies. Comfort is good in the two outer positions and satisfactory for the centre occupant.
Though the rear seat doesn't fold (a porthole for skis, etc., is provided behind the centre armrest), the boot is quite long and wide. Overall, it should be big enough to cope with average family requirements, and with a low lip, it's easy to load and unload. I'd like to see a more substantial cover over the spare wheel than the thin piece of masonite used.
The Magna has a reasonable size glove box, but it and the door pockets are too small for a full size street directory. The Altera adds pockets in the backs of the front seats.
Behind the wheel
Occupants sit quite low in relation to the window sills, which is not great for side vision when you're manoeuvring, but the range of seat adjustments means most drivers should be able to get comfortable in relation to the controls. The driving position could be further improved if Magna had telescopic steering wheel adjustment, as in the Falcon and Commodore.
The Magna's control and instrument layout follows standard practice, meaning it's clearly labelled and easy to use.
Though the TE Magna's turning circle measures smaller than the preceding model, it's still larger than Falcon and Commodore, which means you have to do a few more three-point turns in the Magna than in those two.
On the road
Though it doesn't match the Falcon or Commodore on the dash from 0-100 km/h, or over the standing 400 metres, the Magna V6 has ample performance for all occasions, is a winner on smoothness and responsiveness, and easily beats those two on fuel consumption.
As smooth and quiet as it is at normal engine speeds, the Magna V6 has another, slightly more sporting side to it. When taken into the higher rev ranges, it responds with a healthy growl that is not unlike the delightful sound made by BMW 'sixes'.
The "Smart Logic" automatic transmission is devoid of any extra buttons to vary driving modes or shift points. Instead, it identifies different road conditions and individual driving styles and accordingly, uses this data to shift gears in a similar way to a good driver would using a manual transmission.
In practice, the system works well enough, with very smooth upchanges, though the test car displayed a couple of characteristics that weren't ideal. The first was a reluctance to readily kickdown after driving steadily for a time, and the second was a jerkiness when slowing to a halt, as the transmission dropped back into first gear.
With its new multi-link independent rear suspension, aluminium front cross member, wider front track, larger wheels and tyres, added body rigidity and refinements to the power steering system, the TE Magna makes big advances in the handling department.
It's no sports car, and under track conditions, it still displays a good deal of understeer and a lack of pin-point accuracy in the steering, however under normal road conditions, it's very good. The Magna is impressively stable at all speeds, displays a balanced and forgiving nature, and handles all types of conditions easily and comfortably.
Provided an approved load distribution hitch is used and the specified maximum towball download is not exceeded, the front wheel drive Magna would have no trouble towing a decent load. In NSW however, the maximum recommended trailer mass of 1500 kg is outside the regulations, which for passenger cars and station wagons derivatives, state the laden mass of the trailer must not exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle. For TE Magna sedans, this would be between 1372 and 1476 kg, depending on the model.
Whichever way you look at it, the new TE Magna is an impressive update on the old model. It looks better, drives better, feels even more solidly built, and offers many added features and attractions.
Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, success in the marketplace may hinge not so much on how good the new Magna is, but on how much the opposition discounts their products.
Test vehicle supplied by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd.
|Model||Magna TE Executive|
Smooth, powerful and responsive engine performance
Larger turning circle than competition
|Country of manufacture||Australia|
|Warranty||Two years, 50,000 km; three years/100,000 km on specified engine, driveline and electronic control units|
$28,000 - V6 Executive manual
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||3.0 L|
|Induction||Multi point fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||140 kW @ 5500 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||255 Nm @ 4500 rpm|
|Wheel size||15 "|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||3.2 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.6 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1785 mm|
|Fuel capacity||71 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1500 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||71|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.7 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||7.4 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||6.8 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||9.7 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||10.4 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||12.3 L/100km|
|Average on test||11.0 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||31.4 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||66 dB(A)|
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