The Mitsubishi Magna is a mid-size car built between May 1985 to September 2005 by Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL) at the Clovelly Park, South Australia (Tonsley Park) assembly plant spanning three generations. The engines were also built in South Australia at the Lonsdale engine manufacturing plant.
Prior to the Magna, Mitsubishi, as one of Australia's three automakers, did not field a large family car to rival the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore—while it inherited the Chrysler Valiant from Chrysler Australia when Mitsubishi took over their operations in 1980. The Valiant ended production the following year and the much smaller compact Sigma instead becoming the largest Mitsubishi model on offer.
When Sigma's replacement became due, it was recognised that a car's width was an important factor for the Australian market. As a result, to compete more effectively in the Australian market, former Chrysler engineers now working for MMAL set to work on creating a wider car that would battle in the old Valiant segment and compete against Holden Commodore. The success of the Magna's formula is represented by other manufacturers following suit. For example, the Australian-made "wide-body" Toyota Camry range from 1993.
The 1985 TM Magna was initially available only as a sedan, an Australian developed station wagon was released in 1987 with the updated TN series, which proved popular with fleets. While the side profile was identical to the Japanese market Mitsubishi Galant of the time, the car was several centimetres wider - although still with similar styling to the overseas Galant - accommodate Australian market customer requirements. The Magna was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1985.
The 1985 Magna range included these models: GLX (fleet-special), Executive, SE and Elite. In later years, the range was expanded with the sporty Elante and Grand Tourer models as well as several limited edition models. The Magna was front-wheel drive and was fitted with a single overhead cam (SOHC) transversely mounted 2.6 L Astron II four-cylinder engine derived from its Astron predecessor fitted on the Australian-made rear wheel drive Chrysler/Mitsubishi Sigma. This new engine featured hydraulic mounts and counter-balancing shafts (technology adopted by, amongst others, Porsche) to reduce vibrations associated with such a large engine. Initially the engines carburetted 2.6 with a EFI version launched in May 1989. Fuel consumption on average for all models was 11.0 L/100 km in city driving and 7.8 L/100 km in highway driving, as measured according to the applicable Australian Standard.
The Magna was fitted with either a five speed manual or a four speed automatic with overdrive (the button on the shift lever allows for 3 speed or 4 speed mode), with the luxury Elite available only in automatic. In terms of suspension, the car featured a MacPherson strut type independent front design and rear De-Dion setup (for example, as on Alfa Romeo's of that time). The rear suspension setup in the sedans were different to the rear suspension setup in the wagons.
On the more expensive models such as the SE and Elite variations the radio/cassette player was provided with a security system that would make the unit completely inactive if the power was disconnected therefore making the radio unusable.
As in the case of other Australian vehicles, the first range TM Magna was marred by various problems (fragile engine heads and automatic transmissions), rectified in later years. The TP wagon was alongside the new 2nd generation TR-series Magna for a period, being sold-out as the Safari limited edition model.
The first-generation Magna's line-up included the following versions:
TM (sedan-only 1985–1987)
The Magna was reengineered from the ground-up in 1991, with the introduction of a sedan and wagon version based on the Japanese Mitsubishi Diamante and Sigma hardtop. This range was larger, more strongly built and had more power than its previous version. Unlike the Japanese model on which it was based, this Magna featured B-pillars, more conventional suspension designs and fewer electronics. Nevertheless, the Australian-made TR Magna range was designed to be exported and the build quality reflected this engineering intent.
Like the first generation Magna, the TR model was initially an entirely four cylinder range. With the Australian economy still in recession at the time, there was little enthusiasm for introducing a six cylinder vehicle. But by 1993, with the economy recovering and oil prices stable, the TR Magna was offered with a V6 engine, the same engine that had been present on the KR Verada since late 1991. The Magna and Verada shared the same body, however, Verada models (Ei and Xi) had larger bumper bars for export to the USA and luxury fittings, including electronic suspension control on the top of the range Verada Xi. From 1993, V6 engines were also made available as an option on Magna models.
All models were facelifted in March 1994 with the TS and KS facelifts of both Magna and Verada. Both engines were further upgraded and the Verada gained more export features including a different grille and headlights and extra equipment to distinguish it from the increasingly popular Magna V6.
It is claimed that most of these later Magna 2.6 and 3.0 EFI engines adapt to premium unleaded fuel for a substantial boost in power and torque.
This body shape was replaced by the all new TE series in 1996 although TS wagon stocks continued into 1997 until the new TE wagon was ready for launch. Famously, to demonstrate that the MMAL was able to build high quality products, a wagon model was flown to Japan, planting the seed for world exports of the Australian-made Magna range. The ensuing premium export version of the V6 wagon was sold locally as the Mitsubishi TS Verada Touring Wagon in December 1995 in a limited edition of only 81 manuals and 99 automatics.
Ongoing crash studies suggest that this series provided outstanding crash protection for a four-cylinder family car of its time.
In 1996, Mitsubishi released a third-generation Magna, the TE series (codenamed YR) broadly based on the pillarless Japanese Diamante. A 2.4L four-cylinder (codenamed 4G64-S4 and with 90% new parts to its related engine fitted on the second generation Magna) and a 3.0 L V6 were initially available, while a 3.5 L V6 was offered in the upscale Verada (many of which were exported as the Diamante to Japan, the US, and other markets). The four-cylinder Magna was dropped in March 1999, in time for the TH facelift when the 3.0-litre V6 became standard and the Verada's 3.5 litre engine became a Magna option. The four-cylinder engine for the Magna was dropped at the end of 1998 due to slow sales and growing consumer preferences for larger more powerful engines. The Magna/Verada was again Wheels’ Car of the Year for 1996.
At the time, this Magna was the most aerodynamic Australian-made sedan with a 0.28 Cd factor. It featured frameless windows, a slimmer centre/B pillar and was longer and wider than the outgoing second generation TS Magna. Boot space had significantly increased, with front and rear leg room also claimed to have been increased. However, a criticism of the sweeping roofline was that headroom was reduced. Inside the vehicle was a combination of grey trim and a high waistline, resulting in some criticisms about the 'bunker' effect this caused.
The TE Magna range included four and six cylinder engines, with the trend towards emphasising the six-cylinder models as petrol prices remained relatively low by Australian standards. The range initially comprised two models, the Executive and the Altera, both of which offered the choice of four and V6 engines, four-speed auto and five-speed manual. From October 1996, fully equipped Advance and Altera LS models were added. The four cylinder engine was a new 2.4 litre fuel-injected unit offering and . The fuel-injected 3.0 litre V6 was also all new with and , and claimed to be markedly quicker to the benchmark. As well, it claimed improved acceleration in the crucial 80-100 km/h overtaking region. The four-speed electronic automatic transmission, dubbed INVECS II, was new and could adapt to the driver's pattern of use and road conditions to select the optimum gear for any situation. Suspension was independent front (as opposed to the more costly multi-link front setup on the Japanese Diamante) and rear along with disc brakes, and there was an option of an ABS anti-lock braking system. Braking system also included Australia's first 'Banksia' parking brake, some 10 to 20% lighter and cheaper than conventional systems at the time.
The entry model for the TE range was the Executive which included features such as power steering, four-speaker sound, power mirrors, remote boot and fuel filler release, central locking and an engine immobiliser. The Altera model added standard features of air-conditioning, power windows and cruise control. Options included airbags for driver and passenger, ABS, a CD player and alloy wheels. The Advance and the Altera LS model included ABS, airbags, CD and alloy wheels as standard. On the New Zealand market all V6 models from this series onwards were badged Diamante, rather than Magna and Verada. Previous exports to New Zealand were known as V3000.
The TF Sports was available in only 4 colours: Paris White, Flame Red, Navy (Nautilus) Blue and Dark (Frontier) Green. It carried all Executive features as standard as well as a rear spoiler, red side strip, 16in polished alloys borrowed from the Verada range, and unique interior trims. This version had a similar V6 with the option of a 4 speed automatic transmission with 'tiptronic' manual mode, and improved handling characteristics thanks to: the addition of an 18 mm rear swaybar (a rear bar swaybar was not fitted to the standard Magna's), 11% firmer rear springs, firmer upper control arm and trailing arm bushes, and suspension height lowered by 10 mm. The TF Sports options included dual airbags and ABS. TF Sports production ceased after September 1998.
Several new colours were introduced during the later production of the TF range and the final unit built was built in December 1998. The 3.5L KF Verada's were identical to the previous KE, except with a few upgrades such as the speed alarm, etc. About 60,000 units were built.
The TH Range was launched early in 1999 with the earliest examples built in December 1998. The cost of this upgrade (including Verada models) reached $12 million. There were some upgrades to the basic design of the car, such as a more aggressive front grille, redesigned rear, upgraded interior, complete new designs in the wheel covers and alloy wheels. The Flame Red colour was dropped and replaced with Sienna Red and Sable Black was added while all other colours were carried over from the TF range. The 2.4L engine was dropped and the 3.0L and 3.5L was available in the Executive and 3.5L was standard in all other models. This Magna claimed the honours of being the first Australian-made car with ABS featuring Electronic Brake-forced Distribution (EBD). One of the main new features was the 8 function trip computer and integrated anti-theft alarm system. The line up was: Executive manual and auto, Advance manual and auto, Altera LS auto and Sports manual and auto.
Mitsubishi became the first Australian manufacturer to offer a traction control system named 'TCL' available on its large automatic models only (e.g. Magna Sports), which was switchable. A limited edition Solara was introduced later in 1999 and another limited edition model known as the V6 Si in April 2000. Altera LS was discontinued in 2000, due to its closeness to the Verada Ei model. The 1999 models lacked V6 badges but the 2000 models often featured V6 badge on the back lower right end of the boot lid. The later TH models were the 1000 Executive LS units were built from May to June 2000, which were similar to the discontinued Altera LS but without Power Windows, Dual Airbags and somewhat not fully colour coded.
Magna Sports participated in the Australian GT Production Car Championship with various successes at the hands of MMAL's engineer and privateer, Robert Chadwick. The vehicle featured a front Limited Slip Differential (LSD) later fitted on the TJ Magna Ralliart.
With the release of the TJ series in July 2000, a new aggressively-styled range was introduced. The car's overall shape remained the same as the previous TE to TH range, except for a raised central section for the bonnet ending with a beak splitting the grille and featuring a new chromed Mitsubishi badge instead of its traditional red diamonds. Magna Sports and the new VR-X model featured the same one-unit turn-light/headlights as Verada (being the first Australian produced car with parabolic headlamps). At the back, the bonnet featured a recessed centre section and new tailgate lenses with circular lights. Proposals for black diamonds on Sports and VR-X models were rejected by Mitsubishi Japan's conservative management.
The TJ range comprised Executive, Advance, Sports and a new VR-X model. Several new colours were introduced including the very bright Island Blue (Aqua) and Glacier Green (Green Aqua) which were discontinued after only a few months of production. In May 2001 new darker Pacific Blue colour was introduced to replace the just mentioned two colours and Flame Red was also reintroduced to the range. Grey and Beige interior options were available to any exterior colour in the Executive/Advance but Grey was clearly much more popular and was made standard when the Series II was introduced.
The new range still carried over the 3.0 L however was soon dropped in favour of an all 3.5 range, 3.0 Executives are extremely rare compared to the previous TH 3.0 Executives. The 3.5 was slightly modified giving it a power rating of , shortly after to . For the first time, a factory-fitted LPG option was not available on Executive and Advance models with engines delivering the maximum power of at 5000 rpmand maximum torque of at 4000 rpm.
The new VR-X and Sports now had a better free flowing sports muffler and minor ECU mapping and cam tweaks which boosted power up to , resulting in a moderately sporty exhaust tone. The Sports featured full colour coding, 16x6 inch alloy wheels with standard tyres, improved suspension and swaybars, and a rear spoiler. The mechanically similar VR-X featured full colour coding, aggressively-styled full body kit with the same rear spoiler and alloy wheels as on Sports, as well as front and rear bumper extensions, wheelarch extensions, side skirts and chrome exhaust tip. At the time, the TJ Sports and VR-X models proved to be the fastest Australian-made, naturally aspirated 6 cylinder vehicles compared to the AU Ford Falcon XR6 & Falcon XR8, V6-supercharged Holden Commodore S and even HSV XU6. These mechanicals were later fitted to the automatic-only Verada models, thus creating the limited edition TJ-series Verada GTV model (a standard range model later in Magna's life). The Verada GTV was exported and sold in the USA as the Diamante VR-X.
In May 2001, Mitsubishi launched around 200 Magna VR-X Limited Edition featuring 17x7 inch alloy wheels, black brake calipers, black door handles and a Luxury Pack (featuring colour-coded part black fabric trim/Howe leather in blue or red with matching instruments fascia depending on selected exterior colours, twin-tone silver/black leather steering wheel, silver centre console, chrome gear selector plate, upgraded Verada sound system with 4 in-dash cd stacker and Verada trip computer) and optional sunroof (with upgraded interior lighting package). Another limited edition included the Executive-based, Magna Limited Edition (LE) which featured the following Verada fittings: full leather trim, front parabolica headlights and foglights.
The sunroof option was later made available to all Magna models from TJ series II guise, with the 17x7 inch wheels also becoming standard VR-X models, as well as climate air control from Verada. Automatic Sports and VR-X (as well as Verada) models were now fitted with a 5-speed triptronic transmission (making Mitsubishi the first Australian manufactured to offer this instead of traditional 4-speed automatic transmission of the time). 4-speed tiptronic automatics became standard on all other Magna models in TJ series 2 guise.
In October 2001, Mitsubishi also showcased the Magna Ralliart at the Sydney Motorshow, alongside the prototype Magna Sportswagon. The latter was a Magna station wagon with Sports/VR-X mechanicals and a full bodykit. The Magna Ralliart was instead a prototype engineered to show Mitsubishi's rally prowess - with styling inspired by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution/Lancer Evolution VI TME including bi-plane wing. In prototype form, the Magna Ralliart was said to be launched with All-Wheel Drive system and full Recaro fittings (sport seats and steering wheel), as well as upgraded stereo system.
Due to budget constraints, Mitsubishi later launched the Ralliart in front wheel drive only, with Mitsubishi's own sport seats and steering wheel (with Recaro leather) and upgraded sound system. Mechanically, it featured 17 inch Enkei alloy wheels and suspension components, upsized brake disks, an upgraded bigger cam profiles, modifications to the head and recalibrated ECU, free-flowing extractors to produce 180 kW and was available with either a 5-speed manual or 5-speed tiptronic automatic. The automatics were similar to the Sports/VR-X models and therefore featuring TCL traction control, whereas on manuals, a limited slip differential (LSD) was introduced exclusive to this model. In TJ guise, Mitsubishi also launched a Sports wagon model, featuring a full body kit and sportier suspensions and similar alloys to the Sports sedan.
The TJ Magna range was the official vehicle of the international 'Tour Down Under' cycling event held in Adelaide, South Australia, where these vehicles and V6 engines were manufactured. In 2001, a Magna TJ Sports won class C/D of the GT-Production "Showroom Showdown" Enduro race at Bathrust, with a rear-wheel-drive Magna V8 entered in the V8 Future Touring class of the Australian Super Touring Class Championship.
In 2001, total production reached 43,492 units with exports accounting for 19,215 units. The TJ/KJ range was exported to the US, New Zealand, the Middle East and Puerto Rico - for a time, even serving as the car for the Iraqi police force.
In 2001, the Mitsubishi Magna VR-X was voted the best-value performance car on the Australian market by a News Limited panel of motoring journalists.
From that year, speculation of the Adelaide plant's closure resulted in extensive marketing promotions by Mitsubishi Australia, such as free servicing and cash-back offers.In 2002, the export Diamante also won New Zealand's Car of the Year award for 'Best Large Car'.
The AWD and Verada shared the / engine, while the Sports had a / version with a free-flowing exhaust. Those power and torque outputs were down slightly on the 2WD Magna’s due to the space restrictions placed on the free flowing exhaust with the extra driveline equipment required for the AWD system. The AWD range required a revised firewall to acoomodate the new hardware. Due to budget and development constraints, the TL Magna VR-X AWD was also limited to 16in instead of the front wheel drive's 17in wheels.
Original sales projections were for 300 sales per month, but sales figures by August 2003 showed about 150 AWD Magnas were being sold each month. The AWD was available in both the Magna and Verada range in sedan form only and only with an automatic transmission, however it came with the 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic in all models. Due to budget constraints, Magna VR-X AWD featured only 16in wheels instead of the standard 17in on front wheel drive models. The AWD model was first introduced towards the end of the TJ model life, late in 2002. All initial production of the AWD model was bought by fleets and rental agencies, and private sales of the TJ AWD model began in 2003.
In TL guise (see below for further details) - where the Sports model were newly badged as VR - apart from the driving and handling characteristics, there was minimal badging to differentiate the AWD cars from the 2WD models. They were significantly heavier than the 2WD cars, up to depending on model and equipment levels. Official fuel consumption figures suggested they used marginally more fuel than the 2WD cars. In TL VR guise, the AWD model was used by the New South Wales police force, particularly in the Sydney region. In terms of motoring competitions, the TL Magna was entered in the Australian Cup class of the Australian Rally Championship, winning that Cup on debut in 2004.
Production of AWD models ceased in 2005, when it was discontinued with the launch of the new sedan-only Mitsubishi 380.
Mitsubishi previewed the new style Magna at the New York Motorshow in 2003, retaining its Mitsubishi Diamante badge and for expanded export to Canada. Mitsubishi Australia launched this new Magna and Verada range - now in TL and KL guise - in early July 2003. In a similar evolution to the Holden Commodore - from VX II to VY - the TL Magna had newly styled front and rear ends, a smattering of mechanical changes and revised interior.
The range no longer featured Executive, Altera or Sports models, replaced by ES, LS and VR, respectively. The only carry-over badge remained VR-X. A limited edition Solara package was re-offered with electric windows, alloy wheels and rear spoiler. Full leather trim became an option on select models (VR-X). Other limited editions included the Ralliart versions of the VR and VR-X marketed on television with the aid of Mitsubishi rally driver, Ed Ordynksi and featuring Koni suspension components, greater colour-coding and alloy wheels from the original TJ Magna Ralliart model. Engine and brakes remained standard.
The new range featured an extensive facelift styled by Frenchman and ex-Mercedes designer Olivier Boulay. Mechanically, however, the car remained the same as the TJ series. The radical front-end styling was often the first thing that most people noticed. Gone were the angular lines of the superseded model, replaced by what Mitsubishi's new global head of design envisioned as the Mitsubishi corporate face, a style that would eventually be part of every Mitsubishi that rolls off its numerous production lines.The frontal appearance of the Magna/Verada range had a distinctive divided grille with a large chrome three diamonds symbol on the front of the car, which could also be seen on the turbocharged Evo VIII sedan and Colt (Mirage) small car. Apart from the grille area, the front guards had a swoopy appearance, with triangular headlamp assemblies; at the rear, a rounded bootlid and bumper bar was featured with similar tail lights as TJ models (except for VR-X which featured a darker lense). The new car's design was controversial and not well received by Australian buyers. Inevitably, sales slowed dramatically.
The TL Magna benefited from a number of safety upgrades. All models met the latest Offset Deformable Barrier (ODB) and Dynamic Side Impact requirements. Front driver's and passenger's air bags were standard, as were side air bags contained in the sides of the front seats. While the wheelbase of the TL Magna had not changed, rear legroom was claimed to have been increased by way of reshaping the rear of the front seats, the rear seat back and cushion, as well as careful re-arrangement of the rear seat hip points and squabs. Other interior revisions included rear air vents for the first time on Magna as well as electric driver's seat height adjustment. For the first time, a factory-fitted GPS system was also offered as an option whereas most cars gained climate control, without the previous' range, Verada-derived display. Cost-cutting measures included the relocation of the front power window controls on the lesser range models from the door panels to the centre console.
The mechanicals and drivetrain of the Magna/Verada range for all models remained largely unchanged. The 3.5-litre single overhead camshaft, 24-valve V6 engine developed of power at 5250 rpmand of torque at 4000 rpmon Magna ES, LS, Verada Ei and Verada Xi models. Magna VR and VR-X (as well as Verada GTVi, no longer a limited edition as in TJ guise) retained their uprated 3.5 V6 engine of power at 5250 rpmand of torque at a higher 4500 rpm. Rear stabiliser bars were now fitted to all sedan models as well.
The TL Magna went on sale in early July 2003.
With slowing sales, an extended warranty campaign was launched in late 2004. This helped reduce the number of stockpiled vehicles, an important requirement in the lead-up to the launch of the Magna's replacement name, the Mitsubishi 380. The changed warranty extended full manufacturer's coverage from 3 years to 5 years or 130,000 km (whichever comes first), and gave a further 5 years or 30,000 km coverage on the driveline components to the original owner only.
This range was promoted using an advertising campaign featuring the company's CEO Tom Phillips, who told potential customers "If you can find a better built car - buy it!". This approach recycled advertising of Chrysler cars in the USA in the 1980s, when Lee Iacocca gave American car buyers the same advice. This warranty, coupled with a heavy advertising campaign and extensive discounting of the retail price, was credited with reducing the stock of eight thousand unsold 2004 TL and 2004 and 2005 TW Magna cars. The warranty was effective for all Mitsubishi vehicles sold from 1 December 2004.
While they were ignored by many new car buyers, TL and TW Magnas became popular in the second hand market as well engineered and reliable cars at a value price. In particular, ex-government fleet cars were popular for conversion to taxi usage in South Australia- birthplace of the Magna.
In 2005, Western Australia's Sprintex developed a supercharger kit for application to Magna's 3.5 V6, developing 225 kW and 422 nm.
The line-up comprised:
- Limited editions:
- Limited editions:
Note: The first 30 or so TH units were built in December 1998.
TJ series I/II (2000–2003) — facelift
- Limited editions:
TL (2003–2004) — major facelift
- Limited editions
KEY PRODUCTION-FIRST FEATURES