Here’s What Makes the 3000-GT VR4 JDM’s Most Legendary Car

slightly modified gen 1 3000 GT

The 90’s hold significance for many car fanatics and there are several reasons for this. Car technology was being reinvented and redefined during this era. Significant changes were taking place in the automotive industry and there was fierce rivalry between automakers, within and between their continents. Not only this led to invention of many marvels but also dozens of masterfully created machines. As much as this helped progress European and American automakers, it helped the Japanese even more. In their pursuit for perfection, they created some of the most effort-put and well-thought-out cars such as the NSX, R34 Skyline, Supra, RX7, to name a few. But one of the most underrated and significant cars that emerged during this era includes the Mitsubishi 3000-GT, a tech infused grand tourer, which finally now, is getting the attention it deserves. Following is a comprehensive list of details and reasons that makes the 3000-GT VR4 JDM’s most legendary car.

Some Backstory:

Development on the 3000-GT began in the late 1980’s and was completed till 1990. The 3000-GT (known as the GTO in Japan) made its debut in 1990. A top-of-the-line model, the VR4 (standing for Viscous Realtime 4WD) was introduced in 1991, that included a range of “ahead of its time” technology. The 3000-GT consisted of 3 generations and was discontinued in 2001.

stock red 3000 GT Gen 1
Stock White 3000 GT Gen 2
A red 3000 GT Gen 3

Following are its most impressive technological capabilities and the reasons why the 3000-GT VR4 is JDM’s most legendary car:

  • All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
  • Active Aero System
  • Active Exhaust Control Valve
  • Electronic Controlled Suspension (ECS)
  • Twin-Turbochargers
  • Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Active Traction Control (ATC)
  • Digital Instrument Cluster
  • Four-Wheel Steering (4WS)

1. All-Wheel Drive:

Most of the performance segment cars back in the day were rear-wheel drive, which did provide a thrilling driving experience but also led to loss of power due to wheel spin and sometimes resulted in accidents. While AWD is the most common drivetrain now a days, in the 90’s it really wasn’t. The VR4 model came with AWD which not only provided superb control of the car but also helped fully put down its 300/320 horsepower. I mean the damn car even accelerated faster than the NSX while being significantly heavier.

2. Active Aero System:

Another revolutionary feature the 3000-GT rolled with was active aero, a feature that is still commendable by today’s standards. The AAS included an adjustable rear wing and a front air dam that increased the cars predictability and stability. The wing would adjust according to the cars speed for increased performance.

3. Active Exhaust Control Valve:

The 3000-GT had a variable exhaust system that allowed drivers to customize the exhaust note according to their preference. While not performance focusing, it definitely enhanced the driving experience and is only of the earliest examples of customizable driving experiences. Following is the active exhaust system in action:

Touring Mode (Closed Valve):

Sport Mode (Open Valve):

4. Electronically Controlled Suspension:

The VR4 had an active suspension system that could adjust damping rates in real time. This led to better handling and control over the vehicle without sacrificing drive comfort. This is a feature that is still, only found in luxury vehicles.

5. Twin-Turbochargers:

While not something new, this point merely exists to appreciate the car’s performance. The 3000-GT VR4 came with a twin-turbocharged V6 that produced 300 horsepower (320 hp for later models), that were respectable figures for the time.

6. ABS and ATC:

Some features that great European exotics and American muscle cars lacked at the time were driving aids, despite being bold, loud and beautiful and powerful, they offered poor handling and stability. the 3000-GT came with anti-lock braking system and active traction control, advanced features for the time that helped the car stay planted and stop, when required.

7. Digital Instrument Cluster:

While some few cars had a Digital Instrument Cluster at the time, it still wasn’t a commonly used feature. The 3000-GT came with digital cluster that efficiently displayed various information and statistics about the car.

8. Four-Wheel Steering:

Four-wheel steering is still a feature few cars employ today. The VR4 models were equipped with 4-wheel steering. At lower speed the rear wheels would turn in opposite direction to the front, greatly reducing the turning radius. At higher speeds the rear wheels would turn in the same direction to the front, providing greater control.

So why it never gained popularity:

Despite being ridiculously advanced for its time, the 3000 GT VR4 never gained popularity like its other JDM brethren did. One of the reasons includes the weight, despite being powered by a respectable powerplant, all the encompassed technology made the car very heavy, weighing around 3900-4000 lbs (1760-1810 kg), resulting in the car feeling sluggish in some areas, and this was a time where lighter sports cars had more demand. For reference the NSX weighed around 3150-3250 lbs (1430-1475 kg). All this overengeerneing also led to high development costs. The VR4 was also never positioned as an exotic car.

Now that the 3000 GT lies dormant for more than two decades, it would be nice to see it return (but not as a crossover), just like the Celica and Prelude which are said to return in 2026. A modern over-engineered Mitsubishi is something we all require.


NOTE: Image rights go to their respective owners (classics.com, reddit, etc.). Audio rights go to RebuildHub on Youtube.


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