The Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 was the range-topping version of Mitsubishi Motors‘ Galant model, available in the sixth (1988–92), seventh (1992–96) and eighth (1996–2002) generations of the vehicle. Originally introduced to comply with the new Group A regulations of the World Rally Championship, it was soon superseded as Mitsubishi’s competition vehicle by the Lancer Evolution, and subsequently developed into a high-performance showcase of the company’s technology.
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) sought to improve its image through the established path of participation in motorsport.
The Lancer 1600 GSR and Pajero/Montero/Shogun both achieved great success in rallying and Rally Raid events and eventually the company planned an attempt on the Group B class of the World Rally Championship with a four-wheel drive version of its Starion coupé.
However, the class was outlawed following several fatal accidents in 1986 and ’87, and Mitsubishi was forced to reassess its approach. It instead homologated the recently-introduced sixth generation of its Galant sedan for the Group A class, using the mechanical underpinnings from its aborted Starion prototype. Between 1988 and ’92, it was campaigned by the official factory outfit, Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe, winning three events in the hands of Mikael Ericsson (1989 1000 Lakes Rally),Pentti Airikkala (1989 Lombard RAC Rally) and Kenneth Eriksson (1991 Swedish Rally). It was also driven to outright victory in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championships by Kenjiro Shinozuka (1988) and Ross Dunkerton (1991–92), and the American National GT Championship (1992) by Tim O’Neil.
However, Mitsubishi — and their competitors — realised that the WRC cars of the ’80s were simply too big and ungainly for the tight, winding roads of rally stages. Ford migrated the Sierra/Sapphire Cosworth to a smaller Escort-based bodyshell; Subaru developed the Impreza to succeed their Legacy; and Toyota eventually replaced the Celica coupe with the Corolla. Mitsubishi, meanwhile, carried the VR-4's engine/transmission over to the new Lancer Evolution, bringing to an end the Galant’s representation in MMC’s motorsport efforts.
|Nagoya plant, Okazaki, Aichi
|Front engine, 4WD
|2498 cc DOHC 24v V6, twin-turbo
The final VR-4 was introduced in 1996. The engine capacity was enlarged substantially to 2.5 L, which pushed the power up by 15 percent to the Japanese voluntary limit of 280 PS. The car was now capable of over 150 mph when derestricted, and could accelerate from 0-60 in about six seconds.
The Type-V model could be specified with either the existing 5-speed manual or the optional INVECS-II, which was now an advanced self-learning 5-speed semi-auto based on Porsche‘s Tiptronic transmission, while the Type-S model offered the optional Active Yaw Control (AYC). This complex rear diff was first seen on the Lancer Evo IV, and used an array of sensors to detect and quell oversteer, giving the ultimate VR-4 great agility for a vehicle of its size and weight.
With the 8th generation of the Galant, Mitsubishi introduced a station wagon (known in many markets as the Legnum) to replace the old 5-door hatchback, and the VR-4 was now available in both body styles.
North America and Europe were again denied this model, but the burgeoning grey import trade meant that it developed a cult following in several overseas territories, especially the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In 2000 MMC’s motorsport partner Ralliart was contracted to type-approve Galants and Lancers for UK sales, and 200 VR-4s were officially imported before production finally ceased two years later.
Production of the VR-4 was halted in 2002 along with the rest of the Japanese-produced eighth generation, and there has been no indication of a direct replacement. At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show Mitsubishi North America debuted the “Galant Ralliart”, but this was a US-market vehicle powered by the 260 PS version of the naturally-aspirated 6G75 3.8 L V6 from the Eclipse GT. The Galant VR-4 has most likely been consigned to history, obsoleted by marketing (rally-derived technology is now restricted to the Lancer Evo model), motorsport regulations (the adoption of World Rally Cars by the WRC negates the need for road-going homologation specials), and ever-stricter economy and emissions legislation.