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.