1996-2000 TE/TF/TH Magna and KE/KF/KH Verada
As the first examples of today's shape drop below the $10,000 used price point, top shelf refinement and crash safety have never been so accessible. Joe Kenwright looks at the early versions of the current shape Magna and luxury Verada.
The sleek new Diamante shape was launched in April 1996 as the local Magna. It was fitted with single headlights, smaller bumpers, basic wheels and tyres and smaller tail lights, and had a plainer interior with a 2.4-litre, 16-valve, single overhead cam, four-cylinder engine or 3.0-litre V6. The export Diamante was re-badged as the Verada for its October 1996 local release with a 3.5-litre V6, premium quad headlights, big bumpers and extra luxury. An Australian-designed Magna and Verada wagon followed in March 1997.
The mid-1997 TF model change was to bring the local cars in line with Mitsubishi's global model prefixes. 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 August 2000 TJ series was the first major styling change and is priced well above the $10,000 price point of these earlier models. All models are regarded as a local benchmark for ride, refinement and crash safety and won many awards on release.
High mileage early four-cylinder TE Magna Executives can drop as low as $5500 but you will need closer to $7500 for a tidy early V6 Magna. The later TH Magna with the optional 3.5-litre engine spans the $9500-11,500 range with excellent TF and TH 3.0-litre models hovering around $10,000. Veradas can command up to a $3500 premium over an equivalent Magna; a small price for the extra style, luxury and 3.5-litre grunt. Top used wagons are already fetching a $2000 premium, as they are the sole choice in this size category now that the Camry wagon has been dropped.
Toyota Camry/Vienta, Nissan Maxima, Honda Legend, Audi A6, Ford Taurus, Eunos/Mazda 800.
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Sleek 0.28 Cd body depends on flush-fitting frameless door glass for whisper quiet travel. Wind roar can be intrusive if rubber window seals on body are torn or distorted or door shut lines are disturbed in a crash.
Flush-fitting bumpers on Magna provide token protection compared to full-size Verada items especially at rear, so look for poor boot lid repairs. Aero shape with high tapered rear leaves poor rear vision for shorter drivers in sedan and wagon.
Front overhang and easily disturbed plastic splash shields lead to broken front underbody shields dragging along the road -- a common sight on this model. Check that all under-body plastic splash shields are present, undamaged and properly fastened.
Front-drive dictates larger turning circle than expected so check for crunched passenger's side front wheels and bumper corners. CV joints last well providing boots are not split. Check for power steering leaks. Front strut inserts can become noisy with age.
Alloy heads and water pump must have fresh coolant. Oil and filter must be changed no later than 10,000 km, otherwise expect rattly hydraulic lifters and worn valve stem seals. Oil consumption will increase without warning in most Mitsubishi V6 engines from around 110,000km as valve stem seals harden, but they are among the few that can be replaced cheaply without removing the heads. Engine can go beyond 300,000km providing owners fix valve stem seals before running out of oil.
Big service requires cam belt change and replacement of expensive long-life spark plugs in the rear cylinder bank. Check that both have been done if the car has travelled over 100,000 km.
V6 manual is best choice for trouble-free long life with its double-synchro first, second and third gears, although clutch may be worn. Early autos had a seal that failed but most will be fixed by now. Early auto also had aggressive adaptive shift with computer that could get tangled for harsh changes. Simple fix is to disconnect battery to reset it.
Although engine hardware stayed much the same, improved computer power transformed both V6 engines over this series. The original 8-bit ECU (engine control unit) went to 16-bit in 1999 and is even higher today. The autos had a reprogrammable computer from January 1998; the manual from December 1998, allowing later software upgrades to improve performance and economy.
Check front brakes for undersize rotors and vibration.