2010 Mitsubishi Lancer
2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Expert Review:Autoblog
There has always been a glaringly obvious gap in Mitsubishi's current Lancer lineup. On the bottom is the... Lancer, a biggish-for-its-class economy car that no one particularly likes – at least that's what the sales charts would indicate. It's slow, filled with cheap plastics and dull. It hasn't even proven to be all that reliable by Japanese small-car standards, but at least it looks good. At the top of the heap and on a wholly different plane sits the Lancer Evolution. It's the giant-slayer, David, the little car that humbles supercars. It's also the hottest of the rally-inspired all-wheel-drive turbocharged pocket rockets. The Evo's only real competition is the Subaru WRX STI and, let's be honest, the Evo has been the better car for years now (Subaru has just updated its warrior for 2011, so a new comparison is in order). Its handling is more precise, yet at the same time more insane. The Mitsu is rawer, rougher, tougher and most importantly faster, even though it's down half a liter on the WRX STI in terms of displacement. Don't read this wrong, the STI is a fine backroad killer. But the EVO is more homicidal.
Back to that gap. In the middle of its arch rival's portfolio has long lived the WRX, Subaru's Goldie Loxian sportster, which is very fast, very nimble, but very well priced (it still starts at under $25,000). The WRX has long threaded the needle between excellent all-around performance and the customer not being able to afford a higher monthly payment. Subaru, therefore, has sold a ton of them, for not only does the WRX offer all that power and rally-bred oomph at a low price, it can be had as a wagon. Mitsubishi had nothing until this year, when the Japanese industrial powerhouse brought over two new flavors of its hopped-up Lancer, the Ralliart and the Ralliart Sportback.
Today we're taking a look at the supposedly more practical of those two additions, the five-door Sportback. When the pictures of the Lancer Sportback Ralliart started spilling onto this here internet, Yours Truly was especially excited. The main reason being that for the past eight years, I've owned a WRX wagon in one form or another. Biased? You could say that, but at that same time, I've been driving Evos against STIs and have remained aware (perhaps painfully aware) that the Evo is the sharper blade. Perhaps, then, the Sportback Ralliart could be my next fast and furious wagon, or at least go wheel-to-wheel with its competition from Fuji Heavy Industries? Hop the jump to find out.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
The Sportback is most certainly that: Practicality has been traded away in favor of a devilishly raked rear liftgate that's almost comical. One could argue that the point of a five-door (you can argue amongst yourselves where a hatchback ends and a wagon picks up) is its versatility and cargo-swallowing capacity. Of course, we should point out that despite appearances, the Sportback Ralliart offers nearly 47 cubic feet of stowage, whereas the WRX gives you just 44. Specs not withstanding, our empirical observations suggest that it's easier to pack junk into the Subaru than it is the awkwardly proportioned Mitsubishi. That sharply sloping piece of glass will get your bigger bags almost every time.
As far as the rest of the car is concerned, it looks like a toned-down Evo, which is exactly what Mitsubishi wants you to think. Which is fine, as in many ways, the Sportback Ralliart is exactly that. Viewed from the front, you can plainly see that the tires are thinner, the intercooler is smaller and schnoz less aggressive. Viewed from the side, you can see the sills look a little tacked-on. Speaking of tacked-on, just imagine how strange the Sportback would look if you were to unbolt its rear wing – somewhere between the old Mazda 626 Touring and the Sterling 827? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What's not in anyone's eye is the drab interior that Mitsubishi stuffed into the Sportback Ralliart. Filled with greasy plastics and almost no design of interest whatsoever (just look at the radio), the interior is where the Sportback Ralliart's econobox roots are most painfully apparent. The bargain-basement Lancer starts at $14,790 and features the exact same dash. Don't feel too bad, however, because unless you opt for the navigation system, the $33,590 EVO also comes with that same radio. You could make the argument that cheapo interiors are endemic to go-fast economy cars stuffed to the gills with fancy performance parts – the WRX's cabin is hardly a gift, after all. But then how to explain the Volkswagen GTI? Point is, overly and overtly lousy materials are no longer defensible in a car that starts at $27,590 plus delivery.
At least Mitsubishi gets the important bits right, and we mean really right. The paddle-shifters, for instance, are excellent, being big, metallic (magnesium, actually) and column mounted. There are lots of supposed luxury sports car out there that could only wish for such fine paddles. Then there's the meaty leather steering wheel and equally stout gear shifter. These are the sorts of materials required in a proper performance car. The metal-capped pedals are also quite nice. Again, the parts that matter for driving are, in fact, excellent.
There are a few buttons we have to mention before moving on. The first is the lonely looking AWC button. AWC stands for All-Wheel Control and pushing it changes the way the active central differential routes torque to the four wheels. Your choices are Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. We tried the different AWC settings in Gravel (we tested the car in Palm Springs and Los Angeles, so, sorry, no snow) and the grip does seem better on those types of roads with the setting engaged. That said, it was worlds more fun running Tarmac on a bunch of loose rocks, as the Sportback Ralliart slid around nicely under hard acceleration.
Then there's the SST selector, which will seem quite familiar to those of you who enjoy Guitar Hero, as it's the same as the little thingy you strum. This paddle switch changes the TC-SST dual-clutch six-speed transmission from Normal to Sport. As you might imagine, Normal is a laggard mode tailored for smoothness and fuel economy, where the transmission will happily shift itself up to sixth gear by the time you crest 40 mph. Sport is a pretty good middle ground, as the engine revs higher before the transmission changes gears. Unlike big-brother Evo, Sportback Ralliarts don't feature S-Sport mode, which would provide still higher revs before shifting. However, even in Sport, the TC-SST doesn't seem to shift at high rpm. Instead, you just buzz around near redline. Our preferred choice was to select Sport, but then do all the shifting ourselves via the sweet paddles. Either way, mileage is pretty bad – despite the EPA suggesting that you'll hit 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 out on the highway, expect high teens combined if you're having any fun at all.
Speaking of redline, this is a buzz-box of an engine. Fitted with a turbocharger, the 4B11T 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder is capable of producing 237 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 253 pound-feet or torque at 3,000 rpm. The torque is most noticeable, as the Sportback Ralliart simply surges when you whack the go pedal. Not only does it feel like it's surging, it sounds like it, too. If shrieking four-bangers are your thing, you're going to love it. If not, you will notice that Mitsubishi sure didn't waste any money on soundproofing. Obviously, compared to the 265-hp WRX, the Ralliart is down in the horsepower department.
Worst of all, it feels it. While the initial take off is potent – brutal even – things seem to slow down a bit once you get above 45 mph. Now, while it still sounds like you're going faster as the engine keeps screaming and screaming, brazen, tire-shredding acceleration is not the Sportback Ralliart's forte. Case in point, the weirdly quick WRX can hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds (with an outlet or two clocking it at a silly 4.5), whereas the Sportback Ralliart takes a relatively leisurely 5.5 seconds to do the deed. Quick, sure, but not crazy quick.
If speed isn't the Sportback Ralliart's biggest virtue and selling point, surely handling is. And it is, to a point. Turn the wheel, and you're instantly filled with the sense that there's a whole lot of rally-heritage packed into the chassis. And there is. The chassis and most of the suspension pieces are from an Evo, though not the current one. The all-wheel-drive system in fact comes from the last generation Evo IX. Less pricey tires, too. The result is that while the car feels like a rally monster and consequently you feel like a rally hero, the limits are in fact pretty low. We imagine the sheer volume of noise in the cabin has something to do with this seeming conundrum.
Here's an example: You're hooning along your favorite road and here comes that one decreasing radius, rising elevation turn you know like the back of your Pilotis. You downshift, you turn in, you modulate the throttle, and man, listen to them tires squeal! Thing is, if you weren't so preoccupied with the task at hand, a quick glance down at the speedometer would reveal that you're not moving nearly as quickly as you thought you were. Lack of grip and a preference for understeer are the Sportback Ralliart's biggest handling shortcomings. Put another way, if numbers matter to you (skidpad, lap times), look elsewhere. However, if you just want a little wagon that feels great when the going gets twisty, this one isn't so bad.
While certainly not a bad car, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart is a compromised vehicle. In strict terms of the competition, I like it more than the twitchy MazdaSpeed3 but less than a Subaru WRX. While the Mazda has more power, the Mitsubishi's smart AWD system (last generation or not) lays the power down in a much more competent and satisfying way than the Speed3. The WRX, however, smokes the tires off of both. While the WRX is not the shockingly capable canyon carver it once was (blame the long travel suspension and re-packaged rear introduced in 2008), the Sportback Ralliart comes up short. Initial turn-in feels better, but that's about it. And the not-so-great WRX interior is actually a nicer place to sit. Then comes the real head scratcher: the price. More than $31,000 as tested for Sportback Ralliart is starting to creep dangerously close to Evo/STI territory. And the STI comes as a five-door...
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
New Car Test Drive
Fresh, sporty lineup features economy to Evo.
The Mitsubishi Lancer lineup features a full range of sporty compact sedans. The Lancer ES and bare bones DE are oriented around economy. The Lancer GTS kicks it up a notch with a bigger engine. Enthusiasts will spring for the Ralliart for its sporty performance, while would-be racers will go for the Evo with its racecar levels of performance. The Lancers use four different four-cylinder engines, ranging from 152 to 291 horsepower.
The Lancer models were completely re-engineered and redesigned for the 2008 model year. They feature an aggressive front fascia and a wedgy profile. The GTS, Ralliart, and Evolution boast rally-inspired bodywork. The new Ralliart model joined the lineup for 2009.
All are four-door compact sedans. Inside, there's roomy seating for five. Instruments and dash are pleasing to the eye, and control knobs and switches for the various functions are easy to use.
The Lancer ES is a well-built and good-looking 2.0-liter economy car that gets a EPA combined fuel economy of 25 or 26 miles per gallon (30 mpg Highway with 2.0-liter engine and manual five-speed). The base Lancer ES lacks the visual flair of the others, but choose the optional Sport package and the ES offers much of the eye-catching appeal of the Evo at half the cost. A stripped-down model is available called the DE, but it's primarily intended as a fleet model with air conditioning optional.
The Lancer GTS features a new engine, slightly larger at 2.4 liters, and might be the best bang for the buck if you don't need the all-wheel-drive offered by the Ralliart.
The Lancer Ralliart is an all-new model for 2009. It's meant to provide a taste of the Evo's performance while making more compromises for the street. But since the Evo's comfort is fine on the street (easier on the bones than the Subaru WRX STi), the real compromise the Ralliart makes is handling and power, for the price, which may be more what it's about. It's not meant to be at home on the track like the Evo. If you don't do track days, and your ego or image doesn't need to be wrapped in an Evo on the street, you can save money with the Ralliart. The Ralliart is a showcase for a new six-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission called the TC-SST, with Normal and Sport modes.
The legendary Evolution has evolved to a higher level with the Evo X, the 10th-generation in 16 years of Evolution models. We found the Evo X very easy to drive very hard. We were able to drive it right to the limit on the second lap of an unfamiliar racing circuit, this more a credit to the Evo's predictable handling than our driving prowess. It always seems to do exactly what the driver wants, a benefit of its all-wheel-drive system. It may be the best car on the track for under $40,000, and a solid track entry at any price.
Evolution X uses a racy suspension with forged aluminum control arms, and big brakes with four-piston front calipers. Its engine is a powerfully tuned version of that 2.0-liter intercooled turbo, and makes 291 horsepower. Its all-wheel-drive system is more sophisticated and capable than that in the Ralliart, and the SST transmission has a third mode called Sport Plus, for the track. A six-speed manual gearbox is also available.
The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup spans five models of Lancer, spread over four levels of performance, and if you count the two models of the Evo for each transmission, it becomes six.
Lancer DE and ES use a 2.0-liter engine making 152 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment on the DE ($14,190) is slim, including a 140-watt, four-speaker MP3 sound system and steel wheels with wheel covers; air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, power locks, and remote entry are optional.
Lancer ES ($16,390) comes standard with air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, power door locks with keyless remote, six-way adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatback with folding center armrest, front map lights, floor mats, the auto-up driver-side window, premium fabric upholstery, silver interior accents, body-color outside mirror housings and door handles, second power point, anti-theft security alarm and steering wheel-mounted redundant audio controls and pre-wired Bluetooth switch. Aluminum alloy wheels come standard, and the rear suspension gets a stabilizer bar. The Sun & Sound package includes a 650-watt, nine-speaker, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system; a six-month, pre-paid Sirius satellite radio subscription; a six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 changer; an auxiliary audio input jack; and a power, tilt-and-slide, glass sunroof. Fog lights are sold by dealers. A Sport package is optional ($800).
Lancer GTS ($18,440) features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 168 horsepower. It's mated to either the 5-speed manual gearbox or an optional new CVT automatic (Continuously Variable Transmission) using Sportronic manual shifting with steering-wheel paddles. The six-speaker sound system is standard, along with sport bucket seats. The sport-tuned suspension is tied to pretty 18-inch alloy wheels.
Lancer Ralliart ($26,490) makes 237 horsepower from a 2.0-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, while its suspension and brakes are upgraded from the GTS. It uses just one transmission, a new six-speed twin-clutch automated manual called the TC-SST, with Normal and Sport modes. Automatic climate control is standard, along with sport bucket seats with unique fabric surfaces, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Also standard: six-speaker audio, aero package with front air dam, lower side air dams and rear spoiler, factory-installed fog lights, P215/45R18 tires on alloy wheels. Options include the Sun & Sound package. The Navigation & Technology package includes a GPS-based navigation system storing mapping data on a 30GB hard disk drive (with 6GB set aside for personally recorded audio files). Integrated into the navigation system is the driver information center plus screens displaying, among other things, ambient temperature, barometric pressure and altimeter; vehicle maintenance reminder and calendar; controls for the underlying Rockford-Fosgate audio system and Sirius satellite radio; and customization settings for the Lancer's various interior electronics. Also in this package is Fast-Key, a keyless, proximity-activated, auto-unlock system.
Lancer Evolution comes in two versions, the GSR ($32,990) and the MR. The GSR comes with a five-speed manual transmission. The MR features a computer-shifted, six-speed manual, BBS forged alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs, two-piece brake rotors (steel disc on aluminum hub for weight savings).
The GSR comes with automatic climate control, 140-watt, six-speaker, multi-media stereo, Recaro bucket seats with manual fore-aft and back angle adjustments, power windows, power door locks, keyless remote entry, floor mats and front map lights, Yokohama ASVAN asymmetrical-tread performance tires with 18-inch, cast alloy wheels. Options include the Sight, Sound and Spoiler Package ($2000) that adds HID headlights with manual leveling; a 65-watt, Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system with eight, strategically positioned regular speakers plus one subwoofer; Sirius satellite radio with six months pre-paid subscription; six CD/MP3 in-dash changer; oversize rear spoiler; and FAST Key entry system, which allows keyless door unlocking and push-button start/stop for the engine. Phantom Black paint ($250) is optional.
The MR adds hands-free Bluetooth cell phone functionality with voice recognition, HID headlamps, the oversized rear spoiler and steering wheel-mounted audio controls (the toggle for the three all-wheel drive modes moves to the center console). The MR Technology Package adds Rockford-Fosgate, Sirius satellite radio, the 30GB HDD navigation system with 7.5-inch touch screen (that also displays video with the transmission in Park), the Mitsubishi Multi-Communication system (on-board computer and information system), and FAST Key.
Safety features for all Lancer models include front air bags, side airbags in front, side curtain air bags, a driver's knee air bag, and tire pressure monitor. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution is also standard for all models but the DE, where it's optional. Active Stability Control is not available with the DE and ES, is optional with the GTS, and standard on the Ralliart and Evo. Front seatbelts have pretensionsers and force limiters to help position users for maximum protection from airbags in crashes. Rear seats incorporate child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH).
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a lovely car, even with its fish face. Mitsubishi calls it shark-like, but it's more like a largemouth bass. The nose seems to copy Audi's oversize grille, although the body-colored front bumper perfectly splits it up and minimizes the gaping mouth. And if the angular headlights were human, they would be exotic eyes.
The GTS is cleaner than the Ralliart, which outlines that mouth with a chrome ring, like silver lipstick on a fish. But the Ralliart has a cool aluminum hood with an inset scoop for the turbocharger intercooler, and two functional vents that do resemble shark gills, ta-da. The Ralliart also has flared fenders that house low profile tires. The beautiful 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10-spoke wagon-wheel design, standard on the GTS and Ralliart, add an extra touch of class.
The angular taillamps have that same exotic-eye look as the headlights. They wrap around the rear edges of the car, and cling to yesterday's trend: clear with the actual round lights, red, white, and amber, visible inside. The rear deck is quite short, and both the GTS and Ralliart have a spoiler wing that's so big it nearly fills up the trunk lid. It's not unattractive, but it is overkill. The GTS has one chrome tailpipe, the Ralliart two.
The silhouette is sharp and tidy, and the overall lines are really nice, unlike the more edgy and boxy Subaru Impreza, main competitor for the Lancer. It's very handsome in Graphite Gray Pearl, and Octane Blue Pearl catches the eye. But Rotor Glow Metallic, a bright orangeish copper, is the prettiest color with the most creative name.
The front of the Evo borders on brutish, with a deep spoiler that does double duty, shoving the onrushing air out of the way to keep the front tires firmly planted while forcing cooling air past a sporty looking mesh through the intercooler and radiator. Shark eye-like headlamps curl around the fenders in a stylistic optical illusion masking the longish front overhang. Functional, NACA-like ducts in the hood, like the chin spoiler, serve dual purposes, vacuuming hot air out of the engine compartment, both cooling the powerplant and reducing front end lift.
There's nothing not to like about the interior of the Mitsubishi Lancer. The Lancer ES offers good rearward visibility. The big rear wing on the other models blocks a chunk of visibility out the rear window.
The sport bucket seats on the GTS are comfortable, afford an excellent seating position, and are made of a handsome rugged cloth. The steering wheel has one of the nicest leather wraps we've felt, and is the perfect size for sporty driving. The overall feel for the driver in the GTS is just right. This is another reason the GTS gets our bang for the buck nod.
The optional Recaro seats in the Ralliart seemed to us a bit too tight for everyday comfort. On the track they're terrific, however, so we liked having them on the Evo.
Cubbies and console compartments are good and plentiful, including cupholders between the front seats and in the front door pockets.
The interior is trimmed in faux carbon fiber, stylish and cleanly done. The gauges are tasteful, white-on-black with brushed aluminum rims. The tach and speedo have eaves, a double-hump visor on the dash, that provide shade for the rectangular digital readout that's between them, so you can read its red letters in the sun. It offers the usual information, miles traveled and distance to empty and such, but it's most immediately useful to show, clearly and always correctly (unlike some), the gear you're in, when you have the 6-speed SST transmission in the Ralliart. With that transmission you get butterfly paddles behind the steering wheel, excellent (and rare) because they're long enough to reach without moving your hands when you're holding the wheel in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock position.
Rear-seat room is adequate. There isn't much knee room in the otherwise comfortable rear seat. The fold-down, center armrest in the ES and GTS is more stable than it looks, meaning everyday driving isn't likely to spill the kids' soda pop. In terms of roominess, the Lancer is comparable to that of the other cars in its class. Trunk space is also mid-pack.
The Rockford Fosgate sound system sounds terrific, with crisp highs that let us hear the chuckle clearly in Pink Floyd's 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond.'.
Driving impressions of the various models vary quite a bit due to their vastly different performance characteristics.
Fuel economy for the Lancer ES is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 22/30 mpg with its 2.0-liter engine and five-speed manual. The automatic loses just one mile per gallon on the highway. The Lancer ES offers decent steering response and tracks well through corners, with no excessive body lean. It tends to lose some concentration when pointed straight ahead for long stretches. The Civic feels smoother, the Mazda 3 sportier. Brake pedal feel is solid in the Lancer ES.
We find the Lancer GTS a compelling value for its balance of enjoyable driving characteristics and affordable pricing. If you don't need all-wheel drive or turbocharged acceleration, the GTS has the style of the Ralliart for thousands of dollars less. It's smooth, spirited and sporty. Its handing is taut at speeds inside the box, and its ride is comfortable: softer than the Ralliart, but still firm enough for good handling.
And it gets good fuel economy. The GTS with its 2.4-liter engine and manual transmission gets an EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg City/Highway.
The GTS brakes are nicely sensitive, and the five-speed gearbox is positive, easy to shift with slick clutch action. There's enough power from Mitsubishi's new 2.4-liter engine that you can definitely feel the front-wheel torque steer under hard acceleration, something absent in the Ralliart despite its horsepower, thanks to its all-wheel drive.
The GTS is quiet and smooth on the freeway, where 80 mph feels like 70, and that's saying something for a small car with a four-cylinder engine. Those good-looking 18-inch alloy wheels are shod with 215/45 Dunlops, while the Ralliart gets the same size Yokohamas, rated for higher speeds.
The Ralliart seems to run right down the middle of the road between the GTS and the Evo. It uses the newly introduced (for 2008) all-aluminum engine, 2.0 liters with intercooled turbocharging, like the Evo, but milder components keep the Ralliart at 237 horsepower, compared to the Evo's 291 hp. Its electronic all-wheel-drive system, which Mitsubishi calls All-Wheel Control (AWC), can be set for Gravel, Snow or Tarmac, but the system is not as encompassing as the Evo's Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC, got it?).
The Ralliart lacks the Evo's track-ready suspension (with forged aluminum control arms, quick steering ratio, and big brakes with four-piston front calipers). Instead, the Ralliart's suspension and brakes, upgraded a bit from the GTS, come off the Outlander SUV. Surprisingly, the Ralliart's ride can sometimes feel too firm on the street and wear on you, especially when equipped like our test model, with the Recaro seat package. If you think you can drive your Ralliart like an Evo, you'll be disappointed. Not in the power, but in the handling. The difference is apparently in the simple All-Wheel Control versus Super All-Wheel control. When driven hard through the corners on back roads, the Ralliart will understeer and even lurch as its tires try to bite the asphalt. This happens before the stability control kicks in.
The Ralliart comes with a choice of five-speed manual transmission or six-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission. The TC-SST as it's called is essentially a manual transmission without a clutch pedal. This twin clutch design now prevails as the method for shifting manual transmissions without a clutch pedal, either automatically or with paddles. Many are built by the German company Getrag, but Mitsubishi builds its own.
On the road with the Ralliart in Washington's Cascade Mountains, we found the Sport Manual mode worked exceptionally well, providing sharper downshifts and quicker upshifts; and Normal Drive works so smoothly you can scarcely feel the relaxed upshifts. But Sport Drive confuses the transmission; it upshifts and downshifts at inconvenient times, inconsistently. The fourth possible mode, Normal Manual, is pretty much a contradiction, unless you just like to play with the paddles. Which, by the way, are about the best in the business. They're graceful magnesium, and long enough that you can reach them with your fingers while your hands remain on the steering wheel at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. We preferred Sport Manual for sporty driving, Normal Drive for around town. We found that it takes couple blocks on cold mornings for the transmission to shake off some sluggishness.
As for the Evo, we think it's simply the best. You won't find a car that's more at home on the track than the Evo X, especially not for less than $40,000.
The Evo X is about 320 pounds heavier and has 14 less horsepower than its main rival, the Subaru WRX STi, but it feels more precise and more nimble, thanks to its 13:1 steering ratio compared to the STi's 15:1. The Super All-Wheel Control integrates all of the electronic dynamic controls, including Active Center Differential and Active Yaw Control in the rear differential. The TC-SST transmission has a third mode, called Sport Plus, for the track. You can turn the stability control entirely off, and it still feels balanced on the track. We found the SST Auto mode best for consistently quick runs through an autocross circuit.
We drove three models of Evo at Pacific Races. The Evo GSR, with the five-speed manual gearbox, was great. The Evo MR, with the paddle-shifting sequential manual six-speed, along with Bilstein shocks and lighter rotors ($5000 more), was greater; and the super Evo was the greatest. For another $2500 you get 70 more horsepower, a total of 360, thanks to a freer intake, exhaust, and chip. We hit 140 on the sweeping bend on the front straight, and the Evo tracked steady where a lot of race cars do a scary twitch.
The four-piston Brembos slowed it down to 70 for the turn at the end of the straight, quickly and without drama. A lot of laps were driving on the Evos that day, and the brakes never got soft or faded. Only three laps at a time, but that's more than could be said of most high-performance sedans.
Turbo lag is almost non-existent. Power delivery from the turbocharged 2.0-liter Evo engine is linear, more like a V6.
Mitsubishi has everyone covered in the compact class with the 152-hp Lancer ES for those with their minds on economy; the 168-hp Lancer GTS for those with spirit and an eye for value; the 237-hp Ralliart for those with a sense of adventure; and the 291-hp Evo for those with a need for speed. The best news is that these four look enough alike that maybe you can split your personalities.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses drove the Lancer Ralliart at Pacific Raceway near Seattle; Tom Lankard test drove the Lancer ES in Santa Monica and Evo in Phoenix; editor Mitch McCullough drove the Evo at Firebird Raceway near Phoenix.
Mitsubishi Lancer DE ($14,190), ES ($16,390), GTS ($18,440), Ralliart ($26,490), Evolution ($32,990).
Options As Tested
Recaro Sport Package ($2750) including Recaro front seats, HID headlamps, 650-watt 9-speaker sound system with 10-inch subwoofer and 6CD/MP3.
Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart ($26,490).
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