By on March 10, 2022

In Part I of our Rare Rides Diamante coverage, we talked almost exclusively about our subject’s predecessor, the Sigma. Alternatively called Galant Σ, it was a hardtop luxury version of the standard Galant offered in the US market. It was dated when it arrived, too small, and not differentiated enough from the Galant to warrant its high price. U.S. customers mostly ignored it, and Canadians never knew it existed since they didn’t receive any Mitsubishis until 2002. Headed into the Nineties, Mitsubishi had no upscale sedan offering at all in North America, as the Galant was the firm’s largest car. That changed in 1992 with the arrival of the all-new Diamante.

Mitsubishi was more determined its new upmarket sedan would be successful this time around. The Sigma was a product of the early Eighties and was in production before Japanese competitors created luxury brands like Acura. Mitsubishi was caught by surprise when Acura debuted in 1986 and wanted to compete for a share of the new Japanese luxury pie. Its new offering entered production in Japan in 1990, shortly after Lexus made its North American debut.

The first Diamante on sale maintained the same basic principles as the Sigma that came before it: A conservative frameless hardtop sedan. The hardtop body style was built exclusively at Mitsubishi’s factory in Nagoya, Japan. Focused more on luxury and technology than the other versions, the hardtop was the flagship of the line. It was sold in exactly two markets: Japan and America.

Shortly thereafter a more traditional body style arrived, and took the Diamante name for certain markets but was simultaneously branded as Sigma (in Europe and Japan in particular). The sedan was less sporty than the hardtop and used slightly different styling front and rear. It was the second body style to enter production, about five months after the hardtop. The Diamante sedan lead an interesting life: It was transformed into a more mass-market vehicle, the Magna, and built-in Australia for world markets. Interestingly, the Magna had its own luxury version different from the Diamante called Verada. Both Magna and Verada were in their second generation of Australian production and were replacements for their former iterations. Those were based on the old Sigma but not quite the same.

The Australian models lead us to the third and final Diamante body style, the wagon. It arrived three model years after the hardtop and was based on the secondarily introduced Diamante sedan. The wagon was produced solely in Australia alongside the Magna and Verada that wore different bodies. Keeping up with the international fun so far?

All Diamantes were based once again on the Galant platform, like the Sigma was previously. But this time there was a difference: Mitsubishi made the Galant platform longer by 2.59 inches, which made the platform midsize. The platform edits made quite a difference in wheelbase compared to the old Sigma, up to 107.1 inches from 102.4. The wagon’s wheelbase was a hair longer, at 107.2 inches. Width increased generously as Mitsubishi created a midsize for international markets, up from 66.7 inches to 69.9″.

Overall length grew about 10 inches, from 180.3″ in the old Sigma to 190.2 inches in the new Diamante. The wagon was slightly larger at 192.4 inches. For reference, the Acura Legend of 1990 was 190.6 inches long, and 68.9 inches wide. Perhaps benchmarking of the Legend’s size happened at Mitsubishi.

Unlike the Sigma that offered inline-four engines in most markets outside the United States (that was V6 only), Diamante went all-in on the V6. Three different displacements of V6 were available, of 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 liters. The smallest 2.0 was the same 6G71 from the Sigma, but a new 6A12 V6 of the same size was available and had 24 valves. The 2.5-liter was the 6G73, which also had 24 valves. You’d find that engine in the first generation Chrysler Cloud cars a couple of years later.

The 3.0-liter was the 6G72 in standard or 24-valve versions and was used in many things including Mitsubishi’s largest car the Debonair, the sporty GTO, as well as many Dodge products. There were no diesels available in any Diamante this generation. Transmissions were a four-speed automatic, and a five-speed manual was available for the driving enthusiast. Once again, the five-speed was off-limits to American customers.

Also of interest to enthusiasts, Mitsubishi was early in the all-wheel-drive sedan game with the Diamante. Used only on the hardtop version and only in the Japanese market, Diamante was available with AWD in its first generation. Trim levels were different for the AWD Diamante, and it used a different suspension to front-drive versions. Front-drive Diamantes used a fully independent setup, with MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink set up at the rear. In general, in the Japanese market, trims were determined by engine selection. The engine size had a direct effect on the annual tax paid by the owner. Luxury electronic equipment was layered on appropriately as the engines got larger.

Diamante was sold in the Japanese market as a bit of a tech marvel. Mitsubishi implemented the first radar cruise control system in the world with Diamante, which it marketed as Preview Distance Control. There was also a unique traction and trace control combination system that debuted on the Diamante. Eventually, the system was renamed Active Skid and Traction Control. The system used sensors much as you’d expect to monitor grip and throttle through handling situations. However, the system was proactive and used preventative braking and throttle interference. That was in great contrast to other traction control systems of the time that were solely reactive. Other electronic goodies included a computer-controlled suspension, and that old eighties holdout, four-wheel steering.

The Diamante was a clean break on styling compared to the outgoing Sigma. It wore its size much better, with less front-drive overhang. Styling was generally slick, smooth, and BMW-esque if one considered the quad headlamp arrangement. The grille came to a sporty point in the middle and was separated into two simple sections of black slats. Bumpers were more rounded and softer, approved for the Nineties. Door handles changed from a chrome dogleg style to a better-integrated pull handle. Smooth chrome trim surrounded the windows, which did away with any chunky rubber weather stripping.

At the rear, the curves blended into a simpler rear end, with better-integrated tail lamps. Though other markets saw the rear lamps joined by a stylish heckblende (and here on the wagon), that feature didn’t make it to the North American Diamante sedan. Instead, lamps were two simple red and amber lenses. Mitsubishi used a similar lamp style in the circa 2016 Outlander, and I’m not joking. The more modern look was finished by some nice five-spoke alloys in place of the Sigma’s weird twisted lace discs. The overall look was much improved over Diamante’s predecessor, and much more upscale.

Available from 1992 as a sedan and in 1993 as a wagon, the first-generation Diamante was shipped from Japan and Australia to the U.S. but allowed limited choice for the customer. All examples were automatic as mentioned but varied via trim in the version of the 3.0-liter V6 they used. Base trims used a SOHC version of the 6G72 engine that made 175 horsepower, while the LS used the DOHC version of the same engine, good for a much more impressive 202 horsepower. The DOHC power meant a 0-60 time of 9.2 seconds, which was decent in 1992. The electronic goodies from the Japanese market were largely excluded from American models, with one exception in the aforementioned traction and trace control. The traction control was only available as part of a handling package on the LS trim.

There was generous standard equipment on both trims of Diamante, with an airbag as standard. Optional things like cruise control, nicer alloys, and ABS  on the base model were standard on the LS. Leather was optional on both trims, as was a sunroof. From 1993 onward, Mitsubishi renamed the base trim to ES. There was a singular update to the first-gen Diamante, in 1994. That year, smoother revised tail lamps arrived, as well as a more modern-looking steering wheel. Circa 1992, a base Diamante asked $19,939 ($40,963 adj.), while an LS was considerably more expensive at $25,135 ($51,637 adj.). Sounds expensive, until priced against a comparable Legend sedan that began at $28,435 ($58,417 adj.) and ranged to $35,245 ($72,408(!) adj.).

More revisions occurred for 1995 as Mitsubishi slimmed the Diamante lineup in preparation for a new model. The ES sedan was available only to fleet buyers that year, while the LS sedan and both trims of wagon remained at dealers. Additional slimming occurred in 1996, as the Diamante aged out and were made fleet only. By that time, the new generation Diamante was already on sale in the Japanese market. 1995 was the last year for a Diamante wagon in America, as wagon-hating customers passed it by.

The first Diamante’s last year was another odd one since in 1996 there were none available to regular consumers. The new Diamante was delayed until late in 1996 when it debuted as model-year ’97. The second Diamante would be the last, and Mitsubishi aimed even higher with it than it had before. The premium Diamante was pitched against a big player: the ES 300. More next time.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

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27 Comments on “Rare Rides Icons: The Mitsubishi Diamante Story (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    Something about the first picture fills me with 90s nostalgia.

  • avatar

    Man I loved these 1G Diamante’s. Still do. It’s one of a handful that when I see one, I stop and appreciate it for a second, regardless of condition.

    Sadly though, it seems like even the most well kept of these were huffing blue smoke out the exhaust by like 2005.

    I’ll still take a 1G over a 2G any day.

  • avatar

    Huh now that you mention it those 2016 Outlander taillamps always did look familiar. If it really was a throwback to Diamante, that was cool.

    I always thought “Diamante” was a great name for a range-topping sedan, not to mention the nice connection to the Mitsu diamonds. They should bring back the name for a range-topper, or it would make a good top-level trim name if they want to be cynical (Outlander Diamante could work…Mirage Diamante and Eclipse Cross Diamante not so much)

  • avatar

    So my Dad and I were shopping for new cars in late 91. He got a Diamante with all the options on it and I got an Eclipse GSX. He got a letter in the mail 5 days later from the president of Mitsubishi USA saying thank you for being the first person in the USA to buy one and to call his office first if he had any problems with the car before contacting the dealership. We did go to an Acura dealership but after walking around for 20 minutes and no salesperson approaching us we left( pulling up in a 10 year old beat up truck may not have helped but the Mits dealer had no problem)

  • avatar

    My family was likely VERY unique in that my parents had a very early (May 91 delivery) base (wheel covers and velour seats) hardtop in the same green as the top pic, AND a better-equipped 93 wagon. They were reasonably luxurious, and the HT drove pretty decent. The wagon was a bit wallowy and the beam rear axle was noticeable. Neither held up that well over time, though as was the norm for period Mitsubishis. Paint, trim and drivetrain were all in pretty bad shape 10yrs/<200k mi later.

    They were ultimately replaced by mid-00s, still 100% bulletproof Hondas, though my parents miss the quiet ride and exhaust burble.

  • avatar

    Looks like a dollar store knockoff of a BMW E39.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi had some very interesting cars on offer, but after a couple *horrible* experiences in Chrysler Corporation vehicles with the Mitsubishi 2.6 liter engine, I swore I would never buy any vehicle having anything to do with Mitsubishi. I wonder if that was just me, or a broader experience.

  • avatar

    The photos bring back memories about mid 90s when all Mitsubishi cars looked cool and sporty: Colt, Galant and Sigma (a.k.a. Diamant), even Pajero. My neighbor had Sigma looking exactly like one shown on first photo. I had though boring Toyota that was chosen mostly on it TUV reliability ratings.

  • avatar

    I kind of want a Diamante now… thanks for that Corey.

  • avatar

    9.2 seems slow for the power and weight. The Legend, with the same power, a similar transmission choice, and a bit higher reported curb weight, did it in the low- to mid-8s.

    The styling also has much more than a bit of second-gen Legend in it, at least aft of the A-pillar.

  • avatar

    I rented one of these on a trip to Vegas and really liked it. I sold the Corolla I was leasing to buy a used one. Put about 30,000 miles on it, it was my first luxury sedan. It drove great.

  • avatar

    I always like the Diamante wagon.
    I never really thought of the Diamante looking like a BMW knock off but that last picture does the trick

  • avatar

    Can someone explain the difference between the hardtop version and the regular sedan version the Diamante? Is the only difference the hardtop doesn’t have frames around the windows?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Great writeup! I thought MB was 1st w/ radar cruise, and now Mazda’s touted advanced ESP is based on 90s tech. Oh well.

  • avatar

    For older folks such as myself, hardtops are generally considered to be pillarless (without a B-pillar), unless otherwise designated, such as “pillard hardtop” (which is an anachronistic term). Automotive manufacturers usually described their models without B-pillars as “hardtops,” (especially in the golden age of hardtops from the early 50s through the late 60s) as a distinct and sportier alternative to the traditional sedan (which always featured a B-pillar between the front and rear doors.

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese built a whole genre of cars from the ’70s through the early ’90s that had the hardtop look with frameless windows, and obscured the B-pillar, but actually did have a B-pillar. This is one of them.

      I don’t think anyone built an actual pillarless hardtop sedan after the early ’70s. It was just too much of a challenge to meet safety regulations and higher build quality expectations with that structure.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        No, there were a number of true (pillarless) hardtop sedans available in Japan until the beginning of the ’90s. They were mostly Nissans (Bluebird, Skyline, Laurel, Cedric/Gloria, and Cima), but Toyota (Carina ED and Corona EXiV) and Mazda (Persona and Eunos 300) made a few in the mid-late ’80s.

        Ateupwithmotor has a nice writeup on the topic:

  • avatar

    A6M (also assembled at Nagoya) had a range of over 1,100 miles. [On perhaps 40 bucks worth of fuel, but I have zero confidence in this estimate.]

  • avatar

    Back then, Mitsubishi was coming on strong, as good as Toyota or Nissan with a full line of vehicles. If I had been in the market for a car during this time, a Diamante would have been in the driveway. A Mitsubishi franchise was worth something.

    Now, Mitsubishi is a laughing stock, crowded out by the Koreans. Mazda is not much better. Goes to show how important pumping out new products is soooo important to remain relevant.

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