Mitsubishi Magna/Diamante Ralliart – Forgotten Heroes

Sometimes when browsing car classifieds, you come across a vehicle you forgot even existed.

One such car is the Mitsubishi Diamante Ralliart (known as the ‘Magna’ Ralliart to Australians; I’ll use the two names interchangeably).

In doing my research for my recent article on the Nissan Maxima Spec R (which was a rare, New Zealand-only performance version of the non-USDM Maxima) I jumped on TradeMe and decided to see what else was out there in terms of early/mid-2000s, family-sized V6 sedan cars … and this beauty popped up.

It’s been a while since I saw a Mitsubishi Diamante Ralliart on sale. So long, in fact, that I had kind of forgotten these cars even existed. 

Sagging headlining aside, this car looks like a nice one and these are a truly rare vehicle now.

Believe it or not, at the time of writing this there are actually three Diamante Ralliarts for sale in NZ. The first – with a NZ$10k asking price – has big mileage on the clock but it seems like it has been pretty well looked after. The second is a bit more expensive at $14k but with lower mileage and the third, most expensive car has been stripped down and rebuilt to a show-like condition level.

Remember When Mitsubishi Made Interesting Cars? 

Credit: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi in 2023 is a shadow of its former glory, at least from a motoring enthusiasts perspective.

Look at the current Mitsubishi lineup, and it’s basically a bunch of crossovers with the primary selling point being “we have PHEVs that will save you heaps your fuel bill”.

There are a few other options thrown in the mix, but Mitsubishi has fallen from

The Magna/Diamante Ralliart evokes memories of an era when Mitsubishi was still making a lot of interesting cars, particularly performance vehicles. The GTO/3000GT and FTO were not long gone, and you still had the likes of the legendary Evo making waves. In all markets, Mitsubishi was doing cool stuff through the 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s. 

To cut a long story short, the Magna Ralliart was Mitsubishi’s attempt at building a performance-oriented sedan in Australia, both for the domestic market and export (I believe the Diamante Ralliart was only ever exported to New Zealand, but feel free to correct me in the comment section. In fact, I’d appreciate corrections for any aspect of this article).

The History Of the Magna/Diamante Ralliart

Credit: Mitsubishi

The history of the Mitsubishi Magna – which was exported out of Australia as the Diamante, as well as a few other names over various generations – is relatively complicated and storied. Wikipedia has a very detailed article, or you might like to read FINISH

At a simple level, starting in the 1980s Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited took the Galant, and then modified it for the local market, developing the first Magna.

A second generation followed, which used the Japanese Sigma/Diamante platform of the time, but once again adapted for Australian market conditions and requirements. With this second generation, a luxury version of the Magna was also developed, called the Verada. The Verada came with a 3.0 V6 engine, and various luxury fittings and upgrades.

The origin of the Magna Ralliart lies in the third generation Magna, which was released in 1996 and based on the second generation Japanese Diamante (confusing, right?). There were several versions/iterations of the third generation Magna, and the Ralliart was released for the “TJ” series, which arrived in 2000.

Credit: Mitsubishi

By this point in time, the base model 2.4 4 cylinder engine was dropped, and a 3.0 V6 became the base engine. A more powerful 3.5 V6 was available across the range, particularly on the luxury Verada variants and on the Magna Sports and Magna VR-X (which was the ‘top spec’ sports Magna/Diamante).

At the 2001 Sydney Motor Show, Mitsubishi Australia showcased a Magna Ralliart concept, which was very much dialled up to 11 featuring Recaro seats, a Momo steering wheel, a super aggressive bodykit and even all-wheel drive. 

The production model launched the following year, and owing to financial considerations it was dialled back to some extent, with AWD giving way to FWD and no Recaro seats or Momo wheel. 

However, you still did get a lot of kit with the Ralliart! 

Mitsubishi Magna/Diamante Ralliart Specifications

  • Engine: 3.5lt 24v SOHC V6 (a revised version of the 6G74 engine, bumping power from around 165kw to 180kw). Various tweaks were made to bump up the power output, including a different compression ratio and exhaust. 
  • Transmission: 5 speed manual with limited slip differential, or five speed automatic transmission with a “Traction Control Unit” taken from the Mitsubishi FTO GPX.
  • Front wheel drive
  • Upgraded suspension, e.g. Koni dampers
  • Various visual modifications e.g. Evo-style rear wing and more aggressive bodykit
  • Model-specific 17″ Enkei alloy wheels
  • Interior upgrades, including a red and black leather steering wheel, colour-coded sports seats and special gauge cluster
  • 1493 kg – considering the physical size of the car, it’s actually relatively lightweight, and this helps to explain why the Magna was capable of beating more powerful sedans from Holden and Ford in 0-100 acceleration tests, as the Magna was many kgs lighter

Was It Any Good?

Reviews of the big Ralliart sedan are generally positive. This car won applause in its day, and it has a loyal enthusiast following 20-odd years later.

In particular, reviewers praised the strong in-gear acceleration, great comfort and space, and rare and head-turning nature of the car. You could also have this car with a manual gearbox – many are auto – along with a limited slip differential; the Ralliart badge was well-deserved on this car, and a typical theme from contemporaneous reviews is just how good of a job Mitsubishi did at building a car that could take it to the V8 performance sedans of the day, and match them at their own game.

Even by 2023 standards, this is still a quick car with an impressive turn of pace. 

The big Mitsubishi also sounds great when being driven hard. On this short acceleration video – which showcases just how hard the Magna still pulls by today’s standards – you can really hear the soundtrack, and it is genuinely impressive. 

Negative comments typically seem to focus on the decent-but-not-remarkable handling (although some reviews are actually rather glowing), potential for expensive servicing, and the fact that it perhaps looks a bit too “hot” for what is ultimately a 180kw family sedan.

From my perspective, this car is very much a “Marmite” car in the looks department (or should I say Vegemite, seeing as it’s Australian).

What I mean is that you’ll either love the looks or hate them, primarily as it looks like an Evo body kit stretched out over a larger sedan. An old colleague of mine once described the Evo as “a robot’s shoe”, and I think the Magna is a big robot’s shoe in that case. 

There is also So. Much. Red. Everywhere – red on the seats, red on the gauge cluster … I’m surprised Mick Hucknall hasn’t bought one. As far as I’m aware, the vast majority of examples sold were red, but there were other colours available too. 

Personally, when I compare the Ralliart Magna/Diamante to the Maxima Spec R that I wrote about recently, I’d have to say that I prefer the looks of the Maxima (and I don’t think that is a particularly great looker either). The Mitsubishi is just a bit too big and chunky looking for my liking; but I can appreciate why many people would like the way it looks. It’s distinctive and authoritative looking, and hard to miss on the road. However, the Mitsubishi has the advantage of a proper manual gearbox option, as well as a sportier – albeit very red – interior. 

Should You Buy One?

Credit: Mitsubishi

If you like the looks, and you want to own a piece of Australian automotive history (or you just want a “blast from the past” type car – the days of the affordable, family man performance sedan seem limited) that also has a reputation for being a great car to drive, then the Mitsubishi Magna/Diamante Ralliart could be a good buy.

With production limited to 500 examples (as far as I’m aware, this was across both the Magna and Diamante branded examples – not per nameplate) the Ralliart is a rare vehicle and a sure-fire collectible, in fact you could easily argue it is an enthusiast/collector’s car already.

Unless you enjoy visiting the petrol station on a frequent basis, it probably isn’t the best daily driver … nor would you necessarily want to daily drive what is such a hard-to-come-by vehicle. That being said, if you’re considering 

The main issues you are likely to encounter when it comes to trying to buy one of these big Mitsubishi Ralliart sedans are as follows:

  • Rarity – Considering relatively few were produced (and surely some must have been scrapped, crashed or otherwise taken off the road by now) you might struggle to find one. Of course I look like a bit of a fool saying this, because there are three examples for sale right now in New Zealand, but ultimately this is not an everyday-sighting kind of car. You might struggle to find the right example for you, with cars being either beat-up old dogs or collector’s pieces going for too much money. 
  • Condition and service history – As I mentioned in my article on the Nissan Maxima Spec R, cars like this tend to fall into one of two categories; either well-maintained collector’s examples (where the owner(s) know what they’ve got, care for the car, and want a corresponding sum when selling) or occasionally you will find ones where the owner maybe hasn’t been aware of the fact that they are in possession of a rare car, and has just treated it like a cheap set of wheels. In this case, you’ll save on the purchase price but need to catch up on maintenance. For example, the engine in the Magna Ralliart uses a cambelt, whereas many competing vehicles from the era were using cam chains instead – so check for service records when buying. 
  • Pricing – As with any remotely collectible and/or interesting automobile, prices have been rising in recent years. You’ll find that prices of even mediocre examples have risen. If budget allows, then this won’t be a problem, but I don’t expect prices to fall any time soon as these cars become even more collectible. 

If you don’t care for the aesthetics of the Ralliart, then another option might be to purchase a VR-X Magna/Diamante and modify it a bit to get the same (if not better) performance, probably for less money. Obviously this wouldn’t be taking the “collectible” path, but it’s another way to get a similar sort of car. 

Additional Reading

If you’d like to learn more about the Mitsubishi Magna/Diamante Ralliart, then I’d suggest starting with MotoringBoxTV on YouTube.

This YouTube scored a cheap, somewhat beaten-up example of the Ralliart and in recent videos has been going through the ownership experience, repairs, modifications etc.

There is a wealth of information in these videos, as well as in the comment section – where various knowledgeable owners and enthusiasts have been contributing insight and expertise.

This first video in his series is great watching: 

Here are some other resources you might like to check out as well:

 

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  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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