The Mitsubishi FTO: The 90s Mitsubishi You Probably Forgot About
The FTO is a long forgotten 90's JDM car. It was a car that was supposed to bridge the gap between the Eclipse and 3000GT but it flew under the radar.
In the 1990's Mitsubishi was producing some of the best cars on the planet. The Evo was dominating in the WRC and on the streets. The DSM Eclipse and 3000GT (GTO) were popular amongst car tuners across the world. There is one Mitsubishi that never really got the credit it deserved though and you probably forgot about it. That is the Mitsubishi FTO.
Some of you guys (especially my fellow Americans) may have never heard of this car and that's probably because it was never sold much outside Japan. If you played Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, I may have jarred your memory a little bit. If you never forgot this car Props to you!
If you've never heard of this car or forgot about it, let me tell you about the car. It was produced from 1994 to 2000 and was supposed to bridge the gap between the Eclipse and 3000GT. It was available with 3 engine options but only one is worth having. The base model engine was a 1.8L inline-4 producing only 123hp (GS). The other two were both a naturally aspirated 2.0L V6 which started at around 168hp (GR) but the MIVEC V6 is the best one churning out 197hp (GXP and GP trims). All the trims could be mated with either a 5-Speed manual or 4-Speed "Tiptronic" automatic transmission. Now before you say that the automatic sucks, it was actually pretty cool technology. The Tiptronic was basically a smart transmission. When you drove the car in manual, it would learn your shift points and driving style and apply it when it was put back into automatic. It was pretty cool and ahead of it's time. The car won the 1994-95 Car of the Year Japan award. The car was also originally only supposed to be sold in Japan but the popularity of it in grey import markets allowed it to be sold in the UK before it was discontinued.
In 1997 the FTO got a facelift. The front fascia was updated and gave the FTO a more aggressive look. There were also a few new Trim Levels added. The GP version R was the highest and and the GX was placed in between the GPX and GP trims (all trims listed include special editions). These two trims also received an aero wing standard but it was a paid extra for lower trim levels. Also in 1997, the FTO also received a new 5-speed automatic transmission that was available for all trims, GPX and higher. Other than that, not much changed. It still used the I4 and V6 engines with no gain in power even though the FTO got an uprated ECU which was really disappointing for this somewhat advanced car.
So what made the FTO so forgettable? I have some theories as to why it may have been forgotten. My first theory is the fact that it was sold mostly in Japan and in limited numbers to the UK. There weren't many people that had heard of the FTO outside of these two countries unlike the Eclipse and 3000GT which had admirers in North America. My second theory is the fact that there wasn't a turbocharged AWD version of the FTO like the Eclipse and 3000GT. The Eclipse GSX and 3000GT VR-4 were highly sought after Mitsubishis because there were stupidly fast AWD turbocharged cars. It is worth noting that the GSX and VR-4 had decent tuning capabilities. The FTO isn't really known for it's tuneable engines and had lackluster performance as the 90s came to a close when compared to the Eclipse and 3000GT and that really made it forgettable.
What do you guys think of the FTO? Let me know in the comments. I think it is a charming little car and the fact that is more uncommon than the other Mitsubishis mentioned appeals to me. On another note for any Americans who want this car, 1994 models will be legal to import in October of next year under the 25 year import law.