Impression of the FTO

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This page is my impression of the FTO GPX


Exterior

Although there is a mixture of shapes in the body of the FTO, it's a very unique car. The strong styling divides those who do like and don't like FTO. It has won the Japanese car of the year from 1994 to 1995.
Mitsubishi updated the FTO in 1997. They gave it more standard equipment (ABS, AirBag's etc.) and changed the front nose cone; it was changed to appear squarer. On all models the headlamps looking through clear glass are every bit as aggressive as the Toyota Supra.

Stunning looks

The FTO has large, sweeping wings which set the shape for the rest of the car. The center-line on the bonnet sweeps up through the center into the dashboard and over the roof (on models without the sunroof). The overall design is very striking and unique. One thing you'll notice is the height of the doors. It makes the side windows look very small and the doors very tall but contributes to the very distinctive overall wedge shape. This can restrict the view over your right shoulder as Mitsubishi gave the design of the FTO precedence over it's practical use.

Side-mirror

The rear of the FTO is the biggest talking point - you either love it or hate it because it is unique - the rear end is cut sharply making the FTO's total length to be shorter in comparison with the total width. This emphasises the impression of it being a small sports coupe. My FTO has twin pipes at both sides of the car which makes it look extremely aggressive.

Spoiler

Side view

Inside the boot, it looks like a mixture of a hatch-back and saloon. Although it's smaller than that of an average family car, it can hold a fair bit of luggage (and large subwoofers!).
The exhaust is divided into two sporty pipes as standard although when I bought mine it had a RalliArt system which I've now changed in favour of a twin conversion. The standard exhaust sound is very aggressive (great V6 noise) but not obtrusive unless you fit an aftermarket performance air filter.

Exhaust pipes


Interior

The inside looks surprisingly roomy but when you sit in the drivers seat you feel held firmly by the seats and everything is in easy reach. Though the seats are quite hard it feels good for a short journey but it can mean that you are wiggling in your seat on long journeys. The dashboard took some getting used to because it's typically Japanese - acres of plastic.
One thing that you'll notice is that the doors are very big. You've got two window switches there and a VERY small door bin. The height of the door can be slightly arkward and when you open the window you get the feeling of looking through a small gap. The console wraps around you and is a little higher than other cars but this goes towards the feeling of the FTO feeling so "tight". Well, it is a sports car, and this is exactly how you should feel!
Cockpit

The two gauges on the top of the center console has a throwback to it's earlier cousin, the Datsun Z and the GTO. Those meters are just the clock and the voltmeter as standard but they do help with the overall feel of the cockpit. You can buy a more useful oil meter, vacuum meter etc. to replace them if you wish. although they are very expensive main dealer parts. All the instrumentation is easily read from the drivers' seat.
The standard steering wheel is a MOMO design with an airbag. The previous versions were pretty crap with the non-air bag wheel looking really cheap. I have changed my steering wheel to a MOMO "Tornado" which looks and feels lots better.
Front visibility is good and being able to see the bulging wings gives you an idea of the car's mean looks but side and rear visibility can be a pain for short drivers - the small window over your shoulder makes side-rear visibility difficult and the rear view can be hampered by the spoiler. The map-light is buried in the rear view mirror which is uncommon but is surprisingly useful as the lights can be on without hampering the night vision of the driver.

The FTO is definitely not for family driving as the rear seats are damn near impossible to sit in with the front seats right back. It can carry 4 people, but it is really only a 2-plus-2.

Driving it

The FTO has exceptional handling characteristics oweing to many factors; To increase rigidity of the suspension a second crossmember has been added to ensure optimum alignment and various geometries provide excellent controllability, stabiliy and comfort. However the FTO is a sports car and if you seek a quiet and sedate drive, the FTO is not for you.
I have driven both the auto and manual 'boxes. The auto box has a tiptronic 4-speed shift (which changed to a 5 speed unit in 1997 cars which makes for better driving). The INVECS-II auto gearbox is among the best auto 'boxes available, and has 'fuzzy logic' control which actally learns and adapts to your individual driving style. But the manual shift is the best I've driven. I opted for the manual just because of personal preference - I love to heel & toe while changing down which is something that the auto 'box robs you of. The manual gearbox is not common however and most of them are auto's.

The manual gearstick has a short throw with a very positive action making it feel sporty and satisfying to change gear. Coupled with the pedal layout they have made it easy to heel & toe down the gears - double de-clutching all the way down. The gear lever has direct linkages with the gearbox (instead of cables) giving a very precise action.

Apart from the change from first to second (which I beleive is too much of a gap), the gear ratios are very good because when you change up at 8,000 revs the engine is always over 5,500rpm in the new gear which means that as you plant the throttle again, the MIVEC electronics have the valves fully open taking you round to the 8,000rpm limit once again. The MIVEC setup has a great feeling as it just pulls and pulls right from the word go all the way round the clock - smooth, powerful with loads of torque. Fortunately I have a MIVEC and fuel controller fitted to my car which allows me to set the point at which the MIVEC cuts in and also I can alter the fuelling giving me either more power earlier on or the option of better economy.


As a final word, here are two opinions on the FTO. The first is a quote from Phil Stevens in answer to a question asked about the Honda CRX vs Mitsubishi's FTO...

"Right, I don't know how quick a CRX is, I only know what it looks like and here lies the point: The CRX is an alright looking car. You know, you might get a couple of blokes glancing at it once or twice before instantly forgetting its slightly better than average stereotypical Japanese appearance. But then, there's the FTO. I've had entire groups of people stopping dead in their tracks, all enthusiastically nudge each other whilst craning their heads to watch my car glide past. I've had Jaguar XK8 drivers wind their windows down, shouting over asking me what it is and commenting 'Looks bloody amazing mate!'. I've sat waiting outside a shop in my FTO and watched literally tens of people walk by, suddenly stop taking a complete 360 degree tour of my car (including getting on their hands and knees on one occasion) before noticing me sat there and shuffling away embarrased. I've lost count of the times that I've been filling up with petrol only to get a bloke or two coming over with the now familiar line 'Sorry to disturb you mate, but I have to ask... What on earth is your car?' Even adding on one occasion 'It's beautiful!!'. Beautiful! When would you EVER hear a CRX described with such passion? You wouldn't. Forget 10ths or 100ths of a second. The FTO IS quick from the lights. It's mid-range is phenomenal and it will piss all over most hot hatches and much more besides. Put the cars side by side and there can only be ONE choice..."

The second quote is from David F in Australia who again talks about the FTO's appearance and performance.

"I was having a conversation with a couple of mates yesterday, discussing the styling etc. of the FTO and just what other cars you can compare it to. Here's what we came up with:

The FTO is truly a unique car that cannot be compared easily to another car. The WRX is only quicker because of it's turbo, but even then not by much. Infact in an overall comparison you'd have to put the FTO in the category of cars that are many times more expensive.

Yes, the Integra feels faster because the vibration and noise make you think 'If it's making all this commotion it must be flying!' But in the real world it would be only very slightly faster than the FTO. The Integra type R can be found to be too harsh for many people with its suspension, engine and cabin not designed for constant city use. It's a Honda purist's car. Whereas the FTO GPversionR manages elegance, luxury and performance even with it's firmer suspension, stiffer chassis and handling abilities. It doesn't affect ride quality as some people may have thought. Mitsubishi need congratulated for having made the perfect car with the GPversionR being the ultimate FTO".


The FTO is a fantastic sports coupe, a little out of the ordinary with tons of driver appeal. Buy one and you'll love it.

Daves FTO

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Impression