2011 Mitsubishi Lancer
2011 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
Affordable compact to Evo, all of them good.
If it's a compact car you're looking for, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer will have your head spinning at nine enticing models. The Lancer is a clean and lovely car, even with its fish face. Some see a shark mouth, and say the Lancer is lovely because of it, not despite it. Its good looks give it distinction in its field. Its good engines give it value.
All 2011 Lancers have anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control standard, along with seven airbags, the latest being driver's knee.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup starts with the $14,995 Lancer DE, not quite bare bones because it's got power doors and windows, keyless entry and auto halogen headlamps, but lacks air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seat, and cruise control. But it's got the same good 2.0-liter engine with variable valve timing making 148 horsepower. Driving gets more civilized with the Lancer ES with air conditioning and better seats, front and rear.
New for 2011 is the Lancer ES Sportback, a smooth-looking 5-door that made its debut on the 2010 Lancer Ralliart. Fuel economy for the Lancer ES is an EPA-estimated 25/32 mpg City/Highway. We found the Lancer ES offers decent steering response and tracks well through corners, with no excessive body lean.
The Lancer GTS climbs the ladder with its 2.4-liter engine, a gem of a powerplant coupled with a sweet 5-speed gearbox or 6-step CVT with paddle shifters (23/30 mpg). We tested the Lancer GTS Sportback version complete with front air dam and rear spoiler, our test car with a 5-speed, looking sleek in Graphite Gray Pearl and beautiful 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels. The GTS is a compelling value for its good looks, enjoyable driving characteristics, affordable pricing, and fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 24/31 mpg City/Highway. If you don't need all-wheel drive or turbocharged acceleration, the GTS is the one, especially in the new Sportback body style with a great cargo area.
The all-wheel-drive Lancer Ralliart moves into high-performance land with an intercooled and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 237 horsepower, and showcasing Mitsubishi's racy 6-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission. Sedan or Sportback, flared fenders, hood scoop, vents like shark gills, optional Recaro seats. The fishface gets a chrome ring, like silver lipstick on a largemouth bass.
The Lancer Evolution, the Evo, pumps out 291 horsepower. Shapely sedan only, with 5-speed GSR model, or with 6-speed twin clutch MS, which adds Bilstein shocks and lighter brake rotors. Have fun at the track, your car is ready.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer DE ($14,995) comes with cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers, power doors and windows, halogen headlamps. Air conditioning is optional. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Lancer ES ($16,395) and ES Sportback ($16,795) come with a 5-speed gearbox or 6-step CVT with paddle shifters ($900). Standard equipment includes premium fabric upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, power door locks with keyless remote, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear stabilizer bar, 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, silver interior accents, body-color outside mirror housings and door handles, anti-theft security alarm and pre-wired Bluetooth. ES options include a power sunroof and 710-watt, nine-speaker, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system. The Sport Aero Package ($800) and Sport Accent ($295) give it an Evo look.
Lancer GTS ($19,295) and GTS Sportback ($19,695) feature a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 168 horsepower, rear disc brakes replacing the drums in the ES, a 5-speed manual gearbox or optional CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) using Sportronic manual shifting with steering-wheel paddles. A 140-watt 6-speaker sound system is standard, along with sport bucket seats. New for 2011 is a FUSE Handsfree Links system, which ties voice command into all your worldly desires in the car, starting with talking on the phone. The sport-tuned suspension is tied to lovely 18-inch alloy wheels.
Lancer Ralliart ($27,495) and Ralliart Sportback get a 237-hp 2.0-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, while its suspension and brakes are upgraded from the GTS. It uses a 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 a Navigation & Technology package with GPS-based navigation system storing mapping data on a 40GB hard disk drive, with 10GB set aside for personally recorded audio files, to be played on the optional 710-watt 9-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system with Sirius satellite radio.
Lancer Evolution comes in two models, the GSR ($33,995) with 5-speed gearbox or the MR ($37,195) with 6-speed twin-clutch, plus BBS forged alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs and big rear spoiler. Evo standard equipment includes automatic climate control, Recaro seats, 140-watt six-speaker audio system, power windows and locks and keyless entry, and Yokohama performance tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. Options include navigation, Bluetooth, 710-watt 9-speaker Rockford-Fosgate sound system, and HID headlamps.
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, along with Active Stability Control. Front seatbelts have pretensioners and force limiters to help position users for maximum protection from airbags in crashes. Rear seats incorporate child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH). Available all-wheel drive enhances safety in slippery conditions.
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. 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. 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 Sportback body style has a properly discreet spoiler over the liftgate. Of all the 5-doors, namely Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza, the Ralliart's main rivals, the Sportback has the best-looking lines. The Sportback pulls off not looking boxy. Its silhouette is sharp and tidy, and the overall lines are really nice, unlike the more edgy Impreza. 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. Although we like Phantom Black too, even for $250 extra.
As for the Evo, the nose 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, although the big rear wing on 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 dash design is graceful. The GTS interior is trimmed in faux carbon fiber, stylish and cleanly done. The gauges are tasteful, white-on-black with silver 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 twin-clutch transmission in the Ralliart.
Both the Ralliart and the CVT are shifted with butterfly paddles behind the steering wheel, which are big 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, relative to other cars this size. 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 710-watt 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system sounds terrific; it's been upgraded from last year's 650-watt and 8 speakers and we found it delivered incredibly crisp highs.
The Lancer DE and ES 2.0-liter engine with variable valve timing is a good one, and so is the 5-speed manual transmission, so it's a very fun car. Although with just 148 horsepower, you have to stay on top of it because ample acceleration isn't always there. The CVT seems to rob some punch, but with the magnesium-alloy paddles working the 6-step CVT in manual mode, it still feels lively enough.
We found the Lancer ES smooth, spirited and sporty. Around-town handling is nimble, and cornering is taut at speeds inside the box. The ride is comfortable. Although the Honda Civic feels smoother and the Mazda3 more challenging.
The Lancer GTS uses a 2.4-liter engine with 20 more horsepower, and it's a big difference. It revs to a sweet 6500 rpm. You can relax at the throttle a bit. Brakes are nicely sensitive, and the 5-speed gearbox is positive, easy to shift with solid clutch action. There's enough power that you can definitely feel the front-wheel torque steer under hard acceleration. It's 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. The eye-catching 10-spoke alloy wheels are shod with P215/45R18 Dunlop all-season tires.
The Ralliart brings all-wheel drive, and ups the performance ante. It uses the GTS suspension and brakes, upgraded a bit, with speed-rated Yokohama tires. It takes on an all-aluminum 2.0-liter intercooled turbocharged engine making 237 horsepower. There's only one transmission, the 6-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission. The TC-SST 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.
Surprisingly, the Ralliart's ride can sometimes feel too firm on the street and wear on you, especially when equipped with the optional Recaro seats.
The Ralliart's 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. The Ralliart also lacks the Evo's track-ready suspension. So it doesn't handle like an Evo. When driven hard in slower corners, the Ralliart will understeer and even lurch as its tires try to bite the asphalt. This happens before the electronic stability control kicks in. The difference is apparently in the simple All-Wheel Control versus Super All-Wheel control in the Evo, plus the softer GTS suspension.
On the road with the Ralliart in Washington's Cascade Mountains, we found the Sport Manual mode worked exceptionally well in the TC-SST, 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. So we preferred Sport Manual for sporty driving, Normal Drive for around town. We found that it takes a couple blocks on cold mornings for the transmission to shake off some sluggishness.
As for the 291-hp Evo, we think it's simply the best. The Evo X (as in 10) is heavier and has a bit less horsepower than its main rival, the Subaru WRX STI, but it feels more precise and nimble. You won't find a car that's more at home on the track than the Evo, especially not for less than $40,000. It's very easy to drive very hard.
More serious than the Ralliart, the Evo uses forged aluminum control arms, a quick steering ratio, and big brakes with four-piston front calipers, plus that higher level of stability control. The Super All-Wheel Control integrates all of the electronic dynamic controls, including Active Center Differential and Active Yaw Control in the rear differential.
Its TC-SST has an extra mode, called Sport Plus, for the track. You can turn the stability control entirely off, and it still feels balanced on the track, in this case Pacific Raceways near Seattle. 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. And repeatedly, without fading.
Mitsubishi has everyone covered in the compact class with the 148-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. For 2011, there's a Sportback 5-door hatchback body style. The GTS is a compelling value for its price of around $20,000, fuel mileage, enjoyable driving characteristics, and good looks. If you don't need all-wheel drive, turbocharged acceleration, or rigid cornering, the GTS has the style of the Evo for half as much.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses drove the Lancer GTS in the Pacific Northwest and the Ralliart and Evo at Pacific Raceways near Seattle; Tom Lankard 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 ($14,995), ES ($16,395), ES Sportback ($16,795P, GTS ($19,295), GTS Sportback ($19,695), Ralliart ($27,495), Ralliart Sportback ($27,895), Evolution GSR ($33,995), Evolution MS ($37,195).
Options As Tested
Mitsubishi Lancer GTS Sportback ($19,695).
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Information
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