PORTLAND, OR - Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America's (MMSA) 1999 Galant, the latest redesigned entry in the ever-crowded midsize sedan segment, is for the first time exactly that - midsized.

The previous model, which shared its Mirage stablemate's truncated platform, was classified as a compact car by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The longer, wider and taller stance of the '99 Galant now plants it firmly in the midsize segment, among formidable and dominating opponents such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Its overall length is stretched by a mere 0.2 ins. to 187.8 ins. (477 cm), but it now sits 2.6 ins. (6.6 cm) higher and 0.4 ins. (10 mm) wider than the model it replaces.

But size isn't the only story with MMSA's latest effort. The '99 Galant now offers an optional V-6 engine for the first time in four generations of Galants to hit American shores. The punchy 3L SOHC 24-valve V-6 sits among the top of its class in power output, cranking out a Camry-beating peak of 195 hp at 5,500 rpm and 205 ft.-lbs. (278 Nm) of torque at 4,500 rpm - good numbers for a first-time offering.

The base Galant DE continues to come equipped with the same 2.4L SOHC 16-valve I-4 offered with the previous generation, with performance tweaks including a boost in output to 145 peak hp available at 5,500 rpm and 155 ft. -lbs. (210 Nm) of torque at a usable 3,000 rpm.

In a world that expects almost silent engine performance, MMSA attacks minor noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) issues by reorienting both transversely mounted engines 180 degrees, shortening the intake runners and reprofiling the cams.

MMSA expects the engine mix to fall at roughly 70% to the 4-cyl. Responsibility falls to either one of two gearboxes to transfer power from the 4-cyl. to its front wheels, a 4-speed automatic featuring updated electronics or a 5-speed manual coming later this year that Mitsubishi claims will be less noisy than the unit it replaces.

Absent from the model mix, however, is a 5-speed option with the V-6, particularly in the newest addition to the Galant lineup, the image-setting GTZ sport version. Mitsubishi executives contend the profits garnered from such a niche product can't justify the additional expense of offering the manual, even though competitors, both domestic and import, offer that V-6 combo. The GTZ does feature a sport-tuned suspension setup specific to the model, body color detailing and a spoiler.

All versions of the '99 Galant ride on an all-new and exclusive-to-the-U.S. suspension, with a MacPherson strut front design and a multi-link rear arrangement that more closely resembles big brother Diamante's setup.

Other enhancements include a stiffer body structure, with torsional rigidity up 32% and bending rigidity improved by 7%. And Mitsubishi says its interior is designed to allow in as little noise as Camry.

The most distinguishing enhancement, however, may be how the Galant's exterior styling more closely aligns it with MMSA's much-overlooked Diamante flagship. Although Japanese buyers have been driving the new Galant for several years, this U.S. version features an interior aimed squarely at American tastes, with drafting responsibility falling to Mitsubishi's design studio in California.

Base price for the standard-equipped entry-level Galant DE should fall below $16,990, with the base GTZ coming in at $24,350. Mitsubishi is shooting for annual U.S. sales to hit 60,000 units within a few of years. The nameplate's best year was 1996, with 65,692 units, but sales dipped to 42,607 in 1997. All U.S. Galants are built at Mitsubishi's Normal, IL, assembly facility.