Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X: Clapped Out Japanese Luxury

The U.S. auto market is among the most competitive you will find anywhere in the world. Throughout the age of the automobile, there have been many cars which were notorious for their failure in the market. The Ford Edsel, Chevrolet Corvair, the Ford Pinto, the Yugo, and even the DeLorean DMC-12 became famous for their lackluster sales. These names are known to those who are not automotive enthusiasts.

But for every widely-publicized flop into the North American car market, there are many more cars which sell poorly and disappear from dealerships without anyone even noticing. Cars like the Lexus ES250, Peugeot 405, and the Chrysler TC by Maserati for example.

Today I present another one of these low-production import cars: the Mitsubishi Diamante VR-X.

The Diamante is something of a forgotten middle-child in Mitsubishi’s lineup. While the Eclipse and the Lancer were popular with the tuner crowd in the 1990s and 2000s, the Diamante was a mid-size car aimed at a “near-luxury” buyer who would also be considering the Lexus ES300 or the Honda (Acura) Legend.

In the U.S., the Diamante was sold from 1992-1995 for the first generation and from 1996-2005 for the second generation. The VR-X was a special trim option that was only available on second-gen models from 2002-2005 in North America. Curiously, the cars were built by Mitsubishi Motors of Australia, where the car was also sold as the Mitsubishi Verada.

The car boasts a number of amenities including a stiffer sport suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a 210 hp from its 3.5L V6 engine. The outside looks quite sporty with flared fenders, ground effects, and a spoiler on the rear decklid. Inside, leather trim, power seats and an 8-speaker stereo provided driver comfort.

Mitsubishi was trying to ride the wave of Japanese car companies going up-market with luxury cars in the 1990s, but the Diamante never quite pulled it off the way Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti did. The Diamante ended production in 2005, and it was replaced in the U.S. by the Galant, which ended production in 2012.

This particular VR-X has had a hard life. Both the front and rear bumpers have serious scratches. The clear coat has faded and is flaking off nearly every body panel. The front passenger door and rear wing have dents. The driver’s window has the residue from a hastily scraped-off parking ticket. The passenger rear window is held up with duct tape. The headlights are oxidized and the front wheels are filthy with brake dust. The whole car is completely clapped out – showing severe signs of wear, use, and most definitely lacking in regular maintenance.

Still, I like that it’s being driven by someone just using it as a regular, everyday car. They don’t seem to notice that it was at one point a kind of special, somewhat rare Japanese near-luxury car. Like the other imports I’ve covered, I am doubtful that the Diamante VR-X will ever be noticed, much less appreciated by the collector car community.

Not Sold Here: 1990 Toyota Sera with Super Live Sound System (SLSS)


Welcome to Not Sold Here, the series where we look at interesting cars which were never sold in the United States market, but have made their way to American soil. Today’s feature car is a 1990 Toyota Sera, a sporty, compact car from Japan. About 15,941 vehicles were produced during the five year production run from 1990 through 1995. All models were equipped with a 1.5L engine producing 110 horsepower and 98 ft-lbs of torque, with either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual available. The Sera is noted for its numerous unusual features and options.

The most prominent feature of the Sera is its butterfly hinge doors, which open outward and upward instead of in the conventional fashion. Gordon Murray, designer of the legendary McLaren F1, credited the Sera as his inspiration for the F1’s similar styled butterfly doors. The three-door hatchback has seating for four, though the backseat is quite small.

Another unusual feature of this particular Sera is its paint color. The car was offered in 11 different colors. There were of course standard colors such as black, gray, red, and blue, but there were also less traditional colors like turquoise blue, burnt orange, and greenish yellow, which is what this car has. I really couldn’t imagine a color like this selling well in the U.S. market.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Sera is its optional sound system, which this car has. Toyota’s “Super Live Sound System” replaced the standard stereo with a 10-speaker system connected to a Digital Sound Processor (DSP). The complete system features 3 in-dash tweeters, 2 door speakers, 2 more tweeters and 2 cone speakers mounted in the rear deck, and a 70cm (4.7″) subwoofer in the trunk. A series of power amplifiers delivered 30 watts to each channel, with 36 watts to the subwoofer. A single DIN stereo incorporated an AM/FM tuner with CD player. While these metrics seem tame by today’s standards, they would have been impressive in 1990.

The system has two modes, “Casual” and “Funky” which alters the sound profile. The angle of the rear speakers is actually changed via a small motor, which causes the sound to project into the car or bounce off the rear window glass. They rotate inside the plastic housing, in just 2 seconds. The housing was designed to withstand the vibration and temperature changes associated with being on the road.

Toyota engineers developed the system to create “presence” and “depth” that could not be obtained with conventional car audio equipment. It simulates the feeling of being at a live concert, which Toyota hoped would make the car more appealing to young people.

According to Wikipedia, a functioning SLSS audio system is one of the most desirable of the Sera’s many options. This car sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale 2019 auction for $14,300 US (including buyer’s premium).

While it may not look as flashy as a Corvette or many of the other cars sold at the auction, the Sera is an automotive curiosity with some very unique options that I think makes it quite interesting.