A Brief Look at the Mitsubishi Starion
The Evolution of the Mitsubishi Starion
The Mitsubishi Starion was first manufactured in 1982, and it immediately became a popular sportscar. It was introduced as an alternative to more expensive European makes and boasted impressive technology and performance. The vehicle quickly garnered a reputation as a reliable and high-performance car and has remained an enduring classic for enthusiasts.
Despite the name suggesting a star-spangled theme, Mitsubishi designed Starion (a portmanteau of “Star” and “Orion”) with an American market in mind. The car needed a strong-sounding, easy to remember name that would compete with other sports cars of the time. It was initially called the “Chrysler Conquest,” but this was eventually changed to simply the Starion.
First Generation: 1982-1985
The first generation Mitsubishi Starion was launched in 1982 and was available in two body styles – a two-door coupe and three-door hatchback. The first generation was only produced for three years and underwent minor updates; one of the most notable changes was the addition of a rear stabilizer bar.
The initial model featured a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine developing 145 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. This output was enough to make the Starion the fastest 2.0-liter car of its time. The Starion also featured a rear-wheel drivetrain and a long-list of technology innovations including electronic fuel injection (EFI), four-wheel independent suspension, and power-assisted disc brakes.
Second Generation: 1986-1989
The Second-generation Mitsubishi Starion was launched in 1986, and just like the previous generation, it was available in two body styles. Critically, a 2.6-liter G54B four-cylinder engine replaced the previous iteration, producing 170 horsepower and around 190 lb-ft of torque. This power upgrade significantly improved the vehicle’s performance and set the standard for all future generations.
The second generation had a more rounded but sportier design, and it featured larger windows that allowed for better visibility and rear-quarter vision. The vehicle also featured a larger stabilizer bar and revised suspension to significantly improve cornering performance. Other technology enhancements in the generation included anti-lock brakes (ABS) and an electronic instrument cluster.
Third Generation: 1998-1989
The third generation Mitsubishi Starion was introduced in 1988, and it was the last year of the car’s production. This last iteration was the most powerful and most advanced of all three generations of the Starion. The car received new bodywork, which included a different front grille and fascia, color-keyed bumpers and rear spoiler, and wider side-body moldings.
This generation’s engine had an output of 188 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque (this was the most significant power output increase of the Starion’s entire production run). In terms of suspension, it featured a new rear strut tower brace that further improved the vehicle’s handling.
In total, Mitsubishi produced 66,929 Starions between 1982-1989, 4,000 of which were sold in the UK. The vehicle’s reliability and solid performance have meant that many Starions maintain their value today.
Notable Starion Variants
The Mitsubishi Starion, like many classic cars, was produced in a variety of limited special editions versions. Below are two such variations of the Starion:
1. Starion ESI-R – This variation was only available in North America and it was produced from 1988-1989. The ESI-R had a higher-spec engine that produced 188 horsepower, paired with an intercooler and stronger internals. It also featured enhanced interior and exterior details. Particular ESI-R models were also fitted with the first-generation digital dash (similar to that used in the early Mitsubishi 3000GT models).
2. Starion GSR-VR – The GSR-VR was a limited-run model produced to celebrate the Starion’s 4-wheel-drive technology. Only 400 units were produced, and all of them were sold in Japan. The GSR-VR was fitted with a 2.0-liter engine that produced 210 horsepower and featured four-wheel drive.
The Legacy of the Starion Today
The Mitsubishi Starion has a cult following among car enthusiasts who appreciate the car’s impressive performance, reliability, and technological innovations. Despite being out of production for over 30 years, Starion classics are still used for racing and cruising, and there is a growing appreciation of the model from younger generations of car enthusiasts.
The success of the Starion also goes beyond the car itself. Its technological advancements and impressive performance have influenced many subsequent cars from Mitsubishi and other manufacturers. In some ways, the Starion served as a bridge between old school muscle cars and cutting-edge technology-driven cars like the Mitsubishi Evo.
The Mitsubishi Starion remains one of the most important performance cars of the 1980s. It was a unique blend of reliability and high-performance and, as a result, remains a popular classic vehicle today. While its production run may have been relatively short, the technological innovations and performance benchmarks set by the Starion have left an indelible mark on automotive history.