Mitsubishi TR/TS Magna (1991-96)

words - Joe Kenwright
The TR/TS Magna series can provide safe and roomy family transport at bargain prices or can be an ideal first car. The rare V6 manual is the pick for performance, economy and longevity

HISTORY
The original Mitsubishi Magna was a world-first for a Japanese family car when Australian engineers widened the Japanese Mitsubishi Sigma beyond the Japanese 1700mm width limit to create a spacious and refined four cylinder family car alternative without the bulk of local rivals.

Because driveline parts had to be adapted from different models, the original Magna's glowing reception was soon tarnished by reliability concerns when they didn't all work as expected in their new surroundings.

Yet it was still successful enough to prompt Mitsubishi in Japan to develop an export wide-body prestige model called the Diamante. Mitsubishi Australia became an exporter of the new model and the sole export source of the later Australian-designed wagon as build quality was lifted to another level.

For local consumption, Australian engineers adapted the heavily re-engineered and now reliable four-cylinder drivetrain from the previous Magna to the Diamante body to create the new TR Magna in 1991. This 2.6-litre engine, previously shared with the rear drive Sigma, was now exclusively engineered for the front drive Magna.

A new V6 model which was effectively a rebadged version of the export Diamante, soon followed as the KR Verada. Its silky smooth and economical 3.0-litre V6 engine was closely related to the V6 already proven in Australia under the Pajero bonnet. Although the Magna and Verada shared the same body, the KR Verada is easily distinguished by its larger export bumpers.

This was the key difference between this series and the first Magna series. The first was a larger cut and shut version of a smaller car, the second was designed from scratch as a premium export model and you could feel the difference.

The line between the Magna and Verada was then blurred when a V6 Magna was launched in early 1993.

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.

Most of these later Magna 2.6 and 3.0 EFI engines will adapt to premium unleaded fuel for a substantial boost in power and torque with a corresponding drop in fuel consumption for a cost-neutral improvement in refinement and driveability.

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.

The 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. For its time, the Aussie-designed wagon was an outstanding example of packaging and this rare Touring wagon was the stand-alone version.

Ongoing crash studies show that this series provides outstanding crash protection for a four-cylinder family car, a product of its strong body shell that has substantially more beef in it than its larger Commodore rival, fixed rear seat and extra width. Factory Magna parts are amongst the cheapest for any car which means they are less prone to be fitted with dodgy replica parts.

MODEL TIMELINE

  • Apr 1991: TR Magna launched as Executive, SE and Elite as 2.6 EFI sedan only.
  • Aug 1991: KR Verada Ei and Xi V6 announced.

  • Nov 1991: Fleet special GLX with carburettor engine and basic trim.

  • May 1992: New export wagon launched as a Magna and Verada.

  • Sept 1992: Verada Ei upgraded, former luxury pack option now standard.

  • Mar 1993: TR Magna V6 launched with Verada's 15 inch wheels. All other TR Magnas gain extra features.

  • Mar 1994: TS Magna and KS Verada facelift

  • Apr 1996: All new TE Magna replaces TS sedan. TS wagon stocks continue into 1997.

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Engine & Transmission
Upgraded 2.6 EFI engine delivered extra grunt over earlier Magnas but hefty body when loaded can peg fuel consumption figures to levels of big local sixes. Basic GLX carburettor engine sacrificed economy and power to cut initial cost but should cost less to maintain as car ages.

Noisy valve lifters and rattly, loose timing chains are the main worries in the four-cylinder cars. Failed tensioners, shaved heads following head gasket failure and wear can all increase slop in the chain allowing it to gouge out its housing and circulate metal shards throughout the engine. Avoid these neglected engines.

Fuel injection systems on 2.6-litre four and 3.0-litre V6 can be ready for attention including sensors, cold start devices, injectors, fuel pumps, filters, air-flow meters and various idle controls.

Thermostat in cooling system is prone to sticking open forcing engine to run too cool which then prompts the electronic control unit to constantly activate the electronic choke for massive increase in fuel consumption, black smoke and destruction of engine oil. Any engine that runs constantly on the lowest reading of the temperature gauge needs immediate attention but it is not an expensive repair if caught before it damages the engine.

The V6 has a timing belt that must be replaced according to the specified interval or else. The high aluminium content of this engine makes it prone to serious damage if the correct Mitsubishi-approved coolant is not flushed and replaced according to the specified intervals. Weeping water pumps, damaged radiator cores near the header tanks, leaking head gaskets and heater cores emerge in rapid succession if the coolant has been neglected.

The 2.6-litre four-cylinder model is good for 200,000 trouble-free kms and the V6 up to 350,000 trouble-free kms providing quality oil and filters are used. Both must be changed more frequently than 10,000kms under short runs. All Mitsubishi engines are prone to hardened valve stem seals after 100,000km which accelerates oil consumption overnight. Most owners who never check the oil between services usually run the engine dry the first time it happens. Make sure that the example you are buying has not been hastily put on the market with thick oil to hide a terminal death rattle in the engine after running out of oil. This problem, common to all Japanese overhead cam engines, is easier to fix in a Magna than most when its seals can be renewed cheaply without lifting the cylinder head. Let the car idle while hot for a minute then blip the throttle. A puff of white smoke indicates the need for imminent attention.

Early Magna autos were an ongoing weak spot and while this series was better, early failures were not uncommon. At this age, it would have failed already and the quality of repair and warranty terms on the replacement auto is now a bigger issue. Manuals can also be showing worn synchros and dodgy fifth engagement. Easy shifting cable selectors can stretch and go vague with hamfisted drivers.

The clicking of Magna CV joints as it rounds a corner or under power is a common sound in suburbia. Broken CV boots generate failed joints which in turn lead to failed driveshafts and other broken parts as it flails around. Check the boots and replace immediately if split.

Early alternators were a failure item. Battery capacity was marginal and if cheap battery is fitted expect ongoing electrical glitches and alternator failure as it struggles to keep up.

Big rear muffler can rot prematurely under constant short trips.

Suspension & Brakes
Front suspension does it tough with weight over front wheels so listen for rattly strut inserts, worn spring pads, tired ball joints and worn bushes in control arms and anti-roll bar.

Front brakes do most of the work so distorted or undersize brake rotors are common.

Model is sensitive to good tyres. Avoid those without matching tyres as they must be rotated every 10,000km otherwise fronts will chop out in 17,000km or less.

Steering can do it tough on urban cars with worn rack ends, bushes and leaking seals. Power steering pump can be noisy and leaking while hydraulic hoses are starting to fail. Check fluid level and colour.

Body
This Magna was one of the first locals to use advanced and classy clear over base metallic paints hence tough shine and good colour range. Ignorant owners who cut and polish the top clear coat will expose the matt colour base which will require a respray. Look for poor panel fit and tell tale variations in the paint texture. Fine door fit near the roofline is critical and even minor damage can generate a huge increase in wind noise if not correctly repaired.

Most common problem is scuffed front bumper corners due to large turning circle and clumsy drive-in parkers who cut across the front. Bumpers take an enormous whack before they show external damage but can be hiding significant panel damage underneath.

Sensible shape provides outstanding all round vision and decent boot but no fold down back seat so check boot lid and seal for damage from long loads. Check all lights and body trim items. Front left wheel and hubcap are prone to severe scraping which can gouge rims and destroy tyres. Throw away any tyre where you can no longer read the markings.

There are a number of plastic fittings inside that break with ongoing family abuse including centre console and other fittings. Check that all accessories and controls work and if air-conditioning has failed, allow for R134a upgrade. Early fleet and hire car use may have generated cigarette burns in carpet and seats so lift covers and mats where fitted.

Front spoiler and underbody subject to damage from regular grounding on kerbs and spoon drains. Flared wheelarch extensions will almost certainly be scraped and may need protection strips.

Wagon load area can be a disaster area in some examples. Check that the gas liftback struts don't sag after opening. Check that loads haven't gouged the rear window demister and broken the circuit.

 

 

 

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Published : Saturday, 1 January 2005
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