The Truth About Cars » Mitsubishi The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mitsubishi Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:55:52 +0000  

Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Mitsubishi’s website claims the Mirage is a “small car for a big life.” Possible: while I haven’t done a TTAC review in over a year, know that even the rare automotive sampling of a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult possesses a modicum of engineering /styling/marketing prowess. Good cars exist everywhere, which is worthy of someone’s “big life.”

And contrary to the rash of negative press, the Mirage is an honest machine worthy of a closer look.

DSCN5986The Made in Thailand DNA is unmistakable: the Mirage feels like an aspirational vehicle for a growing middle class in an emerging market. Living outside of the American design bubble has its perks: peep that demure, wind cheating nose bearing no pretense to corporate branding (cough, Aston Martin grilles) for starters. The low-ish DLO provides excellent visibility without resorting to the artificially large/dorky greenhouses of yesteryear’s subcompacts. The top-line ES sports cheerful 14” alloys while color-keyed fog lights add modest flair to the base model’s surprisingly subtle and cool rear spoiler. You know, for a 5-door econobox.

DSCN5990So pop inside the Mirage’s surprisingly inviting cabin: headroom galore, not uncomfortable bucket seats, dressy black lacquer center stack sporting Rothko-worthy HVAC vents, leather(ish) wrapped wheel, power everything, keyless ignition (on the left like a 911) and admirable ergonomics encased in richly grained, tightly constructed plastics that look more expensive than their fossilized demeanor suggests. That infamous road test mentioned airbag flash casting, which my test Mirage had instead on the E-brake handle. To see such cheapness on a new car under 13 grand ($15,195 as-tested) was horrifying I tell you!

DSCN6006Genuine gripes for a car this cheap? No center armrest, and the small cargo area means the (comfortable) rear seats must fold down for modest amounts of luggage. No biggie, except getting them back up without snagging the shoulder belts in the latch mechanism is a challenge. But the inability to stream audio (SoundCloud) from an iPhone 4 via the glovebox’s USB plug got on my nerves. It defaulted to iTunes, which I rarely use. And forget music when Google Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation is on: since I was denied the best Mirage-related song on the face of the earth, here it is.

Click here to view the embedded video.

DSCN6017And while bright colors add necessary excitement to a bottom rung hatchback, my Radioactive Blue Mirage fought its purple-flecked seat fabrics to no end. Cheap cars rightly show their exterior paint around interior window frames, a colorblind seat fabric is necessary. Feng Shui aside, color coding on the (power) door locks wouldn’t hurt: the lever needs a red decal to warn of threats from potential carjackers from an unlocked portal.

DSCN5997Fire up the Mirage and a pleasant (if you appreciate any mechanical sound) bellow from the three-banger mill makes it clear: this is an honest machine from another era. Even with electronics behind the 7 airbags, ABS, electric steering and active handling nanny in tow, the Mirage provides an unhindered driving joy coming from a suspension managing a mere 2051 lbs. Driving dynamics occasionally delight with its flat powerband, even with the CVT in lieu of a proper 5-speed. Bargain basement fun was a simple trick away. Check it:

Dial into the 1-ton Mirage’s occasionally communicative steering and toss it a corner (off-throttle) and the low-rolling resistance, tall profile rubber holds on with modest body roll. Now mash the throttle a good 2 seconds before hitting your intended apex. Do it right and you’ll fling out the corner with all 74 horses’ howling in passionate protest. Try to stop smiling as traffic becomes a dot in the rear-view.

DSCN5984And on the remote chance you built enough steam for a rapid stop, the vented disc/drum combination is more than adequate for the street. Even the twist-beam axle plays well on bumpy roads, further testament to the joy of a lightweight car.

DSCN6007Forcing the Mirage’s CVT into submission is moderately more infuriating than today’s auto-erratic transaxles. Yet, considering the efficiency boost, the autobox is done: the EPA’s 37/44MPG were matched and quickly surpassed. Light traffic (40-50mph) rewarded with a stunning 50.2 MPG from my house to the local Tesla gallery. And that’s with this featherweight’s (surprisingly robust and standard) automatic temperature control HVAC cranked!

As the 3-pot Mirage burbled buzzed idled next to the Tesla, I pondered if these radical electronic wonders are $85,000-ish better than a 50+ MPG hatchback. Is anything really that much better?

10372084_10152226017973269_3590992957388189892_nQuirky shit-can vibe aside, the Mirage cruises like a larger car, spanking the Smart ForTwo in both speed and stability. While acceleration is never rapid, the CVT keeps the Mirage in its powerband, hovering around 5000 revs. Mash the throttle around 70mph and the CVT revs to 6000, netting acceleration no slower than lower speeds. (In Houston, near sea level.) It’s still molasses slow with a loud engine, but with insane aerodynamics (small frontal area, 0.28 cd) it works. Witness this Easter Egg in the owner’s manual: a Highway Patrol speed warning for another journalist.

10452467_10152230027413269_1482059042706384612_nAnd upon the realization that running the Mirage at 10/10ths is a fool’s errand, one’s rewarded with a ride that soaks up both huge potholes and small pavement imperfections with precision. Impact harshness, so prevalent in modern cars with 18+ inch wheels, is literally smothered by Low Carb Panther Love.

Should you buy the Mirage over its sub-15k competition, or any “superior” used car? Maybe, but given the combo of a low asking price, $1000 rebate with 1.9% APR (this month), robust 10-year warranty and new car smell unavailable in used cars, you’d be forgiven for heading straight to a Mitsubishi dealer, using the extra monthly cash for food, gas, shelter, children, baby momma/daddy drama, medical bills, credit card debt, college debt…see where I’m going with this?

The similarly priced Chevy Spark could excel, depending on incentives. A larger, safer used car gives a fighting chance against wayward SUVs threatening a harsh lesson in the Laws of Physics. But Mitsubishi claims the Mirage meets their (modest) sales goals for good reason: it’s kinda fun and gets the job done with mad respect for your wallet.  And I appreciate that.

DSCN5995Your opinion of our society’s demand for easy credit and “need” for new car smell aside, the Mirage is a valid transportation opportunity for many Americans. If a Mitsubishi dealer is within easy reach, a cost-benefit analysis is certainly on the table.

(Mitsubishi provided the test vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas for this review.)


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Mitsubishi: U.S.-Bound 2016 Outlander PHEV “Will Be Completely Different” Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:00:36 +0000 03-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-fd

Perhaps as a result of what Mitsubishi had learned thus far since the introduction of the Outlander PHEV in Europe, Japan and Australia — as well as a MY 2016 redesign — the United States-bound PHEV “will be completely different,” according to both Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President Don Swearingen and U.S. PR boss Alex Fedorak.

Autoblog reports the SUV — now set to arrive in November 2015 — will have an interior with materials that look and feel “less value-oriented,” while its battery monitor can look each cell along with the overall pack. It will also likely take its styling cues from the GC-PHEV and XR-PHEV concepts, both debuting at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show last November.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Outlander Sport may soon possess a 2.4-liter I4 to go with its 2-liter variant as Fedorak and his employer’s dealer network discuss what needs to be done to make the bigger engine a better sell; early results point to stronger highway overtaking ability.

Finally, although Mitsubishi’s long-term goal is to evolve into “an SUV/crossover-type company,” cars will still have a role in the near-term, especially the Mirage compact. Despite most publications giving the Mirage a good thrashing — though our rising superstar managing editor had a different sort of thrashing in mind — Fedorak claims the compact is outselling both the Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris; the latter is ahead of the Mitsubishi by 265 units through the end of June.

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Nissan: 633 CHAdeMO Fast Chargers Available For Use Today, More Coming Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:57 +0000 nissan-leaf-using-chademo-fast-charger_100457004_l

Just in time for the Fourth of July travel weekend, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MIEV owners will have access to 633 CHAdeMO fast chargers, up from 160 stations in January 2013.

Green Car Reports says back then, the majority of those chargers were along the West Coast and Texas, with Nissan promising to triple that number within 18 months. Nissan North America senior manager of corporate communications Brian Brockman announced last week that his employer had gone above and beyond by bringing online nearly 500 units in the time period, with all listed on PlugShare.

As for the rest of FY 2014, Nissan will push forward to bring more CHAdeMO stations online, from its network of dealerships, to top Leaf markets such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston. Meanwhile, another vehicle will be able to make use of the chargers when the 2015 Kia Soul EV goes on sale later on this summer.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Big In The UK Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:00:49 +0000 03-2013-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-paris

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV may not be coming to the United States until sometime between the autumn of 2015 and early 2016, but United Kingdom customers are already lining up at their local dealerships for a test drive of the SUV that can be had for the same price as its diesel sibling.

Cambridge News reports one particular dealership, Duxford Motor Group, had conducted 23 test drives during the two-day launch of the PHEV earlier this month, with 40 to 50 parties rebooked for test drives due to its fiscal popularity. According to sales executive Alex Dunn, the Outlander PHEV retails for £28,250 ($48,150 USD) — which includes a government tax credit of £5,000 ($8,522 USD) — the same price as the 2.2-liter diesel variant, and comes with other benefits, as well:

100 per cent write-down in first year, which is a first for employers, and if you’re an employee it’s 5 per cent Benefit in Kind which is astonishing. This is one of very few vehicles which is congestion-charge free and it’s not a little car, it’s a five-seater four-wheel drive vehicle, so it ticks so many boxes fotr [sic] people who perhaps wouldn’t have come to our door before – fans of all the big brands are coming to see us. It’s a tough car too – rock-solid and super-reliable.

The PHEV has an all-electric range of 32 imperial miles before the 2-liter gasoline engine takes over, and delivers 148 mpg between the engine and two electric motors.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Fri, 30 May 2014 17:40:14 +0000 ???????????????????????????????

Deep within the comments of a recent luxury vehicle review, a familiar, satirical exchange takes place:

Googleplex:                       The pixel-density on the new touch system is passable, but LCD screens in cars in 2014 are laughable. Have these people even heard of AMOLED?

MauraudStar:                    Panther Love knows no touchscreens, my friend.

MoparMalaise:                 Panther Love knows no rich Corinthian leather, either.

VivaVega:                           We lost the war against fuel injection in the 1980’s, and I’m not about to give up the rest of my control to electronic nannies. Spare me your all-wheel drive, your dual-clutch transmissions and the 30 years of weight gain! Why can’t someone build a simple, functional car anymore?

Will any manufacturer answer VivaVega’s question? Enter the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage.

This isn’t the first time Mitsubishi has sold a subcompact with the Mirage nameplate. The first generation Mirage debuted in 1978. (You might be more familiar with it as the fourth gen Dodge Colt or Plymouth Champ). Mitsubishi’s fortunes waxed and waned over the next three decades, and the Mirage was eventually discontinued in 2003. The name was revived in 2012, and North American exports started for model year 2014.

So how far have we come since 1978? Generation one was notable mostly for its fuel efficiency and price. Braking was handled by vented discs in the front and drums in the back. Seventy horses were corralled in a 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine. Overall weight ranged from just 1,700 to 1,984 pounds.

Generation six, represented by today’s 2014 specimen, is notable for fuel efficiency and price. Braking is handled by vented discs in the front and drums in the back. Seventy-four horses are corralled up in a 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine. Overall weight is just 1,973 manufacturer-stated pounds.

Wait… what?

Yup. 1,973 pounds in a street-legal 2014 with seven airbags, five seats, four wheels and a compact spare tire. A modern Mirage’s weight and power may be indistinguishable from its groovy forefathers, but the equipment list certainly isn’t – standard features include keyless entry, air conditioning, a 140 watt stereo, and powered windows, locks and mirrors. Not too shabby for $13,805 (DE trim with 5-speed manual at MSRP plus destination).

Most sales volume is expected to come from the ES trim with a CVT. Parting with $16,005 adds fog lights, 14” alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, passive entry and a push-start button that curiously resides to the left of the steering wheel.


How are these prices accomplished? The manufacturing location certainly plays a role. Much hay has been made on TTAC about the viability of Chinese-manufactured cars in North America. Open the Mirage’s hatch (or eventual trunk in the Canadian market) and take a whiff. That ain’t wasabi, but it ain’t dim sum either. Hope you like Thai!

Most likely, the Mirage is a small start to a large trend. While just 7,200 Mirage’s are forecasted for the US market this year, Thailand is already a major regional automotive exporter. Automotive News pegged Thai automotive production at 2.45 million vehicles in 2012, and over a million were exported. Other nameplates, most notably the Ford Fiesta, will also exported to North American from Thailand over the next few years.


Small export volume certainly helps account for the Mirage’s nondescript, global looks. Styling a vehicle 148.8 inches long and 59 inches tall is tough, but Mitsubishi could have done worse (the i-Miev comes to mind). The scant grill looks a bit odd, but it does help the Mirage achieve an impressive coefficient of drag – just 0.28. The spectrum of available colors – bright green, blue, red, even a noxious purple – is a welcome change from the white, black and grey Mitsubishi could have certainly made a business case for.


So the exterior is cheap and maybe even a bit cheerful. Does the interior continue the theme? Unfortunately, no. Plastics are hard and drab as expected, but they are also severely straightforward. Unlike the Fiat 500, there is no playfulness or fashion in the design. The experience is aesthetically similar to Korean vehicles designed in the early 2000s. Fit and finish is similar too – a few trim pieces didn’t line up well, and exposed fasteners are easy to find.

Functionality isn’t following form, but it still isn’t flawless. Driver controls are simple, but only one cupholder is available in the rear. The roofline enables decent cargo capacity in the hatch, but the only dome light is up front near the driver. Rear leg room is surprisingly good, but the contourless rear bench forces passengers in back to brace themselves during routine urban maneuvers.


The suspension’s constant body roll can be blamed for some of that. Ride quality was better than anticipated though, and the brakes felt decent. Still, understeer is high, tire grip is low and the electric power steering is poorly implemented. Enthusiasm just isn’t welcome here. Count me out of Derek’s spec-Mirage racing series.

The powertrain never promised fun though, just efficiency. The 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine manages 34 city/42 highway/37 combined with the five-speed manual and 37 city/44 highway/40 combined with the CVT. Mitsubishi claims the Mirage has the best combined non-hybrid efficiency in the US (Ford’s three-cylinder Fiesta scores 32/45/37). The CVT gets clunky around complete stops, but it is mostly helpful on the road. The car is never fast, but it did feel wholly adequate for use around town with occasional interstate jaunts.

Considering the physical dimensions, budget and powertrain, Mitsubishi succeeded in crafting a very efficient, mostly normal driving experience. They deserve applause for that. Unfortunately, they won’t hear it due to the Mirage’s abnormally high noise levels.

I’ll be frank – the Mirage is the loudest passenger car I can remember driving in the last five years. Only jackhammer operators and cross-country motorcycle riders could describe it as “not too bad.” At idle, the engine note varies somewhere between a warble and an unsteady growl. Rumble up to highways speeds, and the turn signals are nearly inaudible. My wife, a decidedly mainstream consumer, felt the noise levels let down the rest of the car.

Vibration will also be problematic for the average Joe. The passenger seat shook at idle, and a constant tingle could be felt through the steering wheel. The three-holer doesn’t generate Peterbilt-grade rumble, but buzz is always present. Like the 2014 Outlander I recently drove, the brand-new Mirage also had a constant interior squeak.

So where does the Mirage stand? The Chevy Spark’s fuel efficiency falls short, but the design is more upbeat. A Nissan Versa is larger and can be configured cheaper, but its warranty is bested by the Mirage’s 10-year guarantee. The used market offers myriad possibilities, but buying new is a point of pride for many consumers.

Many people say they just want something cheap that runs. Consider the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage their litmus test.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Arrives In UK Showrooms Minus Premium Price Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:04:34 +0000 03-2013-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-paris

Already available throughout Europe, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is now just arriving in United Kingdom showrooms at a post-credit price tag of £28,249 ($47,000 USD).

Autoblog Green reports the plug-in hybrid SUV without the £5,000 credit would start at £33,249 ($55,000 USD), but with the credit, the starting price is around the same level as its diesel-powered sibling, thus allowing UK consumers to pick the SUV they want without worrying too much about affordability.

As for what they will get out of their Outlander PHEV, the hybrid has a range of 32 miles in all-electric at a limited speed of 75 mph, and can tow over 3,000 lbs.

On sale now, the first SUVs will arrive in May, with the PHEV arriving in the United States in 2015, which will share a facelift with its U.S.-based gasoline-powered twin. No word on how the PHEV will be priced in the U.S.

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Mitsubishi Buys Laguna Ford Assembly Plant Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:06:25 +0000 Mitsubishi_L300_front_20081009

In a push to expand Southeast Asia sales, Mitsubishi has purchased a Ford assembly plant in Laguna, Philippines for an undisclosed amount.

Automotive News reports the plant, which last saw production in 2012, will start back up in 2015 with an initial capacity of 50,000 units per year, expanding to 100,000 annually. The plant will produce both the Adventure and L300 vans.

The second plant in the automaker’s Philippine portfolio, Laguna is key to underpinning Mitsubishi’s strength in the Southeast Asia market, especially in the emerging local auto market where the automaker is second to Toyota in annual sales.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE FWD Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:55:56 +0000 2014-Mitsubishi-Outlander-2

A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in:

  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Planned Parenthood gift certificate
  • Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Anything except a Dodge Caravan

Several readers submitted well-formulated responses, but the volume of possibilities was dizzying. Mitsubishi may have had a similar problem when redesigning the 2014 Outlander.

At most automakers, product planning is a tough job. Keep things too similar between generations and you risk falling behind. Stray too far from a successful formula and you end up with the second generation Scion xB. Every mistake is an expensive one.

But what about Mitsubishi? The previous generation Outlander was one of the cheaper, sportier rides in the segment and featured unique touches like magnesium shift paddles, a trick two-piece tailgate and an aluminum roof. Per data from TTAC contributor Timothy Cain on Good Car Bad Car, Mitsubishi’s best year for the Outlander was in 2003, with just over 34,000 sold. Crossover sales grew exponentially over the ensuing years, but only 7,750 Outlanders found homes in 2012.

With so few customers to alienate, almost any change would boost sales. So did Mitsubishi double down on sportiness or some other niche? Not really – at least not yet. A PHEV is coming, but for now we are left with a page borrowed from the 2012 Civic’s playbook – decreased MSRPs and a still-cheap interior.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due. Prospective buyers can make their own value propositions, but the Outlander is undeniably affordable. A base-trim ES, which includes a 166 hp 2.4 liter SOHC four-cylinder, a CVT, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and auto-off headlights, costs $23,820 including destination ($200 less than last year). For $24,620, the SE adds in 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity entry, push-button start, heated front seats, a 6.1 inch touchscreen display with a rear camera and the FUSE hands-free system. Super All-Wheel Control, better known as “all-wheel drive” to everyone outside Diamond Star forums, is optional on the mid-level SE and standard on the top-shelf GT ($28,620).

Choosing the GT also yields a 224 hp 3.0 V6, a “Sportronic” six-speed automatic transmission and enables the privilege of ordering the $6,100 Touring package. For over 25% of the base price, this package includes radar-based cruise control, leather seats, a lane departure system and other gadgets.  Apparently, no amount of money can improve the integration of these toys though. Cheap touches like a slap-dash ignition-hole cover on push-start models, left a poor impression.

Regardless of trim level, the Outlander did well in NHSTA and IIHS crash testing. The “good” score on the IIHS small overlap front test, a rarity right now, should be very marketable compared to competing 2014 models.  Fuel economy is also competitive – 25 EPA city, 31 highway, 27 combined for units with FWD, the inline four and a CVT. This efficiency is certainly aided by a curb weight as low as 3,274 pounds in the FWD ES trim.

An increased use of high-strength steel in the crash structure gets some credit for the lithe curb weight, but where did the rest of the savings come from? The recently-reviewed Cherokee weighs about 700 pounds more with just FWD, and even a Dodge Dart weighs 3,348 pounds with the 2.4 and an automatic. Both the Cherokee and Dart are lauded for being relatively quiet vehicles though. Can the Outlander make this claim?

NO. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY DECIBELS WE EXPERIENCED WHEN CRUISNG AT 70 MPH, BUT MY WIFE AND I HAD TO TALK LIKE THIS. Road noise is pervasive, but the inline four will likely be the bigger issue for most drivers.

Show me a raucous, performance-tuned engine, and I’ll smile.  Show me another Outlander with the 2.4, and I’ll groan – like the MIVEC. From the parking lot to the freeway, the engine constantly made itself known. More sound-deadening is a must.

Interior fit and finish also need another round of polishing. It may have just been an issue with the dealer’s specimen I drove, but a constant dash rattle was a disappointment. My wife’s car has 86,000 miles and rattles. My car has 145,000 miles and rattles. This car had 21 miles and rattled. That isn’t progress.

As expected, the 2.4 and CVT provide a driving experience best described as “imitation vanilla”. While not inappropriate for a crossover, most competitors offer more polished, anodyne experiences. Acceleration around town was acceptable, but highway passing required planning. Good visibility in all directions was a positive, and maneuverability in and out of tight spaces was good. Still, I don’t disagree with TTAC alum Michael Karesh describing the suspension as “under-damped”. I also found the electric steering to require constant adjustments on-center, even at city speeds.

Driving dynamics may not be a big deal in this segment, but aesthetics can be. I’ll leave the critical analysis to our in-house styling expert, but a schnoz this unique needs to be mentioned. The shark-nosed Outlander (2010-2013) drew neutral-to-positive responses from everyone I spoke to. The 2014 generally left those same people puzzled. Mitsubishi needs to stand out from the herd to survive, but this may not be the best way to attract attention.

The seventh inning stretch of the review has been reserved for the most important part of the car – its interior space. Don’t stretch too far though or you’ll likely strike a passenger. With 183.3 inches of length, the seven-seat Outlander is shorter than all other seven-seaters save the 2014 Nissan Rogue (182.3’’). For a point of comparison, the five-seat Chevy Equinox (187.8’’) is longer than either.

I had no issues with front seat space, though seat padding was thin and my back disagreed with the contours. I have a trim build and average height, so larger individuals might have more issues.

Tumbling the second row isn’t as smooth as some competitors, but it does slide fore and aft easily. That’s good, because you’ll need to slide those seats forward for even children to fit into the third row. A photo of me stuffed in the third row exists but did not come out well. Picture a grown man in a Cozy Coupe and you’ll get the idea.

Comparing manufacturer-calculated interior space is tricky business, but the 2014 Outlander loses space even compared to its predecessor.  Folding the second and third rows yield a flat floor with 63.3 cubes of space, but the 2013 featured 72.6. The ’14 can only hold 10.3 cubes with the seats up, so this isn’t likely to be the right car for livery duty in a large family.

For some buyers, all of these warts will be covered by the generous warranty – 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. Will Mitsubishi will be here to replace recalcitrant CVTs over the coming decade? Maybe. Most companies would have already left the market rather than launching a new crossover and compact car. Perhaps the risk-averse should look elsewhere, but they likely already have.

If you want a cheap, safe crossover with a long warranty, the Outlander should be on your list. How much are you willing to overlook for as little as $23,820 though? Maybe the PHEV will quell the noise and improve interior finish, but current buyers have a lot of provisos to consider.

Mitsubishi is probably drowning in possibilities though, so what is my advice worth? In my debut article, several commenters advised to just let my wife pick whatever she wants. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t that crossover.

When first published, this article incorrectly described the 4-cylinder engine as being a carryover from 2013. Commenter Mitsu_fan straightened me out. Displacement is unchanged, but the 2014 Outlander features a newer SOHC design relative to last year’s DOHC. My apologies for the mistake.


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Mitsubishi Publishing Real-World MPG Sign Of Openness With Customers Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:30:36 +0000 outlander-phev-snow

In a sign of openness toward its customers, Mitsubishi will begin publishing real-world MPG figures for their entire lineup, beginning with the Outlander PHEV.

Auto Express reports Mitsubishi UK marketing director Lance Bradley stated the plug-in SUV was chosen because his customers, expecting the 148-mpg claimed in official tests, found the vehicle returned 90 mpg instead:

It’s crazy that people think that’s bad, but it’s all relative to the official figure. We’d like to do a graph, maybe just a figure, starting with the PHEV but then rolling it out to other cars. It would come from customer information.

The move comes as the automaker plans to have an PHEV variant for every one of their models within five years’ time. With more buyers reporting what their vehicle averages in fuel economy, future owners could compare the official test results with those found in real-world driving.

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Japanese Size Queens: Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear & Toyota Hi-Ace Vans Tue, 13 Aug 2013 13:00:22 +0000 Mitsubishi_Delica_Spacegear_L400_top

There are several vans that will not be among the finalists to replace the Kreutzer family’s ailing Ford Freestar and among them are the size and utility queens of the Japanese Domestic Market, the Toyota HI-Ace and the Mitsubishi Delica. Of course you already know that neither of these vans are sold here in the Land of the Free, so my attempt at including them in an article about my current search may seem a bit facetious but, the truth is, I know these vans well and they come up enough in the comments that I thought they might be worth discussing in more detail. Since I have become the resident “van guy” for the time being, let’s avail ourselves of the opportunity, shall we?

Believe it or not, there is a huge difference between Kansai and Kansas. The roads in Japan are usually narrow and impossibly crowded. In most neighborhoods there are no sidewalks and buildings come right out to the edge of the street. Rows of bicycles and scooters are lined up in front of most stores, their back wheels often protruding out into the roadway, and their presence blocks pedestrians who must then compete for space with the cars in the street. Some streets are one way but have exceptions for anything on two or three wheels, so you may even find yourself avoiding oncoming scooters who are themselves maneuvering to avoid all the aforementioned obstacles as well. At night, add in flashing lights and the scene becomes a sort of twisted, impossible game where the possibility of an accident increases a million fold.


Like all manner of creatures, the form of Japanese vans has evolved – or for those of you who live in the deep South, has been created by God – to perform well in the world in which they exist. They tend to be tall and narrow, generally have good all around visibility and usually have any number of mirrors or back-up cameras to help them settle into the small spaces in which they must park. Fuel efficiency is a must and some are diesels, but with increasing regulations forbidding oil burners in many major urban areas most vehicles these days tend to have smallish gasoline engines. Since speeds are usually low, large engines are generally not needed anyhow.


Wikipedia tells me that the Mitsubishi Delica hit the market way back in 1968 as a light cab-over pickup truck. It evolved into a van that stayed in production with only minor changes until 1979 when it got a its first redesign. Another redesign came in 1986 with the introduction of the “Starwagon” and yet another came in 1994 when Mitusbishi introduced the larger “Space Gear.” In 2007, Mitsubishi introduced the 5th Generation Delica, the D-5. Although the current D-5 is a good looking van with its square, upright lines, the real high points in Delcia history ar the “Starwagon” and the “Space Gear” both of which look like lunar rovers when outfitted with the available four wheel drive and all the various nerf bars and ladders available. They are unique, funky and flamboyant. They are, however, the Rolling Stones of minivans; if you are in the right mood they rock the house but are otherwise overshadowed by the sheer excellence of their contemporaries.


I drove a late ‘90s fourth generation “Space Gear” to and from work for two years when I lived in Osaka in ‘04 and ‘05. Because most of the people I worked with lived some distance from our job, my employer graciously provided us with a shuttle to and from work that we paid for ourselves through ticket purchases. Naturally, yours truly quickly became the designated driver and I got a lot of seat time behind the wheel. Our usual route involved a combination of major thoroughfares, small side streets, alleyways and even a dozen miles of high speed elevated expressway that soared high above the clogged city streets below so I had the opportunity to see it at its best, and worst, in every environment.

There is a lot of variety in the Delica line and I should note here that our van was not one of the heavily optioned four wheel drive models that naturally come to mind when someone outside of Japan thinks of the Delica. It was instead a simple, basic passenger van, the kind of van that plies its trade without fanfare all across the world everyday. It was cheap, rubbery and had a cloth interior that featured a second row bench with a collapsible jump seat on the end to allow access to the rather cramped third row at the back.

delic interior

Even without the four wheel drive option, our Delica was a tall, ponderous beast. On the plus side, the driver’s seat sat me up high and lots of windows ensured I had good all around visibility. It was most at home at low speeds on surface streets and least at home on the expressway where, quite frankly, it struggled. At higher speeds, the van could be downright frightening and even the slightest cross wind caused it to heave around like a ship on the ocean. Fully loaded with 8 adults in the cabin and beating into a headwind the sound of the wind tearing by the windows made you feel like the vehicle was going to fly apart at any moment and I often noted the concerned looks on the faces of my colleagues.

Despite its performance flaws, I can’t really pan the Space Gear. When looking back on an older vehicle a good reviewer needs to consider a number of things, the state of the art at the time and the actual purpose for which a vehicle was intended. The Space Gear is, I think, a product of its time and place and in that light it was probably an OK ride. In fact, I briefly toyed with the idea of finding a four wheel drive version when it looked like I might be assigned to Central Asia. Ultimately, however, I ended up with a Stateside assignment and my flirtation with the Space Gear ended there but I still wonder what my experience would have been like with the fully optioned four wheel drive Delica in a land with no expressways. I suspect that it may have been good. In a “right tool for the job” sort of way, I think I would have really enjoyed it.

If it were sold today in the United States I think the Space Gear’s good looking design and four wheel drive system would still attract a lot of interest. However, without an improved powerplant and chassis I think the Space Gear would be a dismal failure. Knowing what I know, I’d probably even pass on a used one unless someone could convince me that its shortcomings could be sorted out with a few aftermarket additions. If that were the case, the possibilities are titillating…


The Toyota HI-Ace is another child of the sixties. Introduced in 1967 it has evolved steadily over the years into any number of job specific forms and includes cargo vans, ordinary and stretched passenger vans for tour and airport shuttles use, and even fairly luxurious family offerings like the Granvia which was sold in both Asia and Europe. The current boxy looking Hi-Ace is the 5th generation and I think it looks especially good for a vehicle that places sheer utility ahead of style and comfort.

The van I regularly drove was a general utility vehicle used on my job to run errands and to carry cargo, mail or supplies as needed. Like the Delica, the Hi-Ace was good around town and gives a clear, 360 degree view from the driver’s seat and enough mirrors to let you know your exact position on the road at any given moment. As is normal for my employer, ours was the least optioned model available and it was filled with hard plastics and rubberized mats. Given the vehicle’s primary role, however, these things are really a given and I can’t find fault in it just because it was built to a specific purpose.


Opening the driver’s door and slipping into the seat atop the right front wheel was always odd experience for me. I drove a cab over Isuzu delivery truck for several months when I was in college and the Hi-Ace took be right back to those days except this time I was more or less seated at the same height as most other traffic instead of above it. With the controls so far forward, the current Hi-Ace is long and because you are ahead of the front wheels you need to watch yourself on turns, going a little further into the intersection before swinging the wheel sharply towards your new direction. That, in combination with the bouncing that naturally comes from being out at the end of the vehicle, always gave me that same odd sense of both joy and fear that I always get from a ride on the carnival.

On the highway the Hi-Ace was generally well mannered and while not a power machine by any stretch of the imagination did not seem to struggle to keep up with traffic. Like the Delica, the Hi-Ace’s high profile made it sensitive to gusts and it would move around on you, but it never felt as tippy the Mitsubishi. One peculiar trait I noticed was the tendency for the van to buck over freeway joints and expansion joints and at certain speeds the van would just settle back onto is suspension before hitting the next joint would send it skyward again. I suspect this is part and parcel with sitting out ahead of the wheels and it was more of an odd characteristic than it was a real annoyance.


Between the two vans, I think the Hi-Ace would be more at home on American streets but not as a family van or intercity transport. They would do well, I think, as cargo vans where their competition would be either much larger cargo vans that use more fuel or the much smaller Transit Connect. Although the roads in Kansas and Kansai are indeed half a world apart, the economy and utility that JDM market vans offer in an urban environment is so finely attuned that they could be a great success here and I am sure that many people would appreciate their addition to the market. I may not buy one, but I am sure there are those people who would jump at the chance.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Mitsubishi To Launch Mirage In USA But Not India Wed, 10 Apr 2013 22:11:04 +0000

Mitsubishi showcased the Mirage hatchback at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The Japanese car maker will put the vehicle on sale in America, but not India – a more natural market for a subcompact hatchback.

The Mirage is powered by a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder gasoline engine which produces 74 HP and 100 Nm, mated to a 5-speed manual or CVT transmission. The 5-door hatchback uses re-enforced impact safety evolution body structure and comes with a host of features including 7 airbags, traction control, active stability control and a 140-watt sound system.

People in the USA don’t like to buy hatchbacks while it’s the exact opposite in India. In the Indian market, more than 70 percent cars sold are small cars. However Mitsubishi doesn’t sell the Mirage hatchback in India, where it sells only SUVs like the Pajero, Montero and Outlander. The company is struggling in India and it is surprising to see them not offer volume products in the Indian market, even after knowing there is demand for it. Do you think Mitsubishi has messed up its product planning in the past few years?

Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of, a website covering the automobile industry of India.a

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Review: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Wed, 30 Jan 2013 14:00:37 +0000 I review fairly few new cars, but when I head to the American Irony 24 Hours of LeMons race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, I feel like I need to take on a country club sort of approach. That means I need the appropriate press car for an official at the race that feels like Caddy Day at the Bushwood Country Club pool. In 2011, I tried to get Chrysler to get me an Avenger R/T, because who wouldn’t want the fallback rental-car Dodge with 283 front-drive horsepower? Instead, I got the Challenger SRT8 392, which was fun but certainly no Avenger R/T. For the 2012 American Irony race, I decided that what I needed was the nice version of Mitsubishi’s contribution to the current rental-car gene pool: the Galant SE. What I got, thanks to Mitsubishi axing the Galant (though not cold blasting it) and generally acknowledging that the Evo is the only big Mitsubishi blip left on Americans’ car-awareness radar, was this white ’13 Evolution MR. Hey, that’s what I’ve got, that’s what I’ll review.
Actually, what ended up happening was that a helpful LeMons team gave me the use of a very nice Piaggio Ape 50 pickup for the race weekend, and of course I ended up parking the Evo and reviewing the Ape instead. That’s understandable, because who wouldn’t prefer the three-wheeled Italian truck built by a scooter manufacturer? However, I did drive the Lancer from the airport to the track, and then back and forth to the hot-sheet flophouse of a crackhouse hotel that my cheapskate, press-car-destroyin’ boss chose for the LeMons staff, so I was able to get an idea of what this car is about.
What you get with the ’13 Lancer Evolution MR is a 3,517-pound commuter sedan that has been hit with a batshit-crazy 291-horse engine huffing huge boost, all-wheel-drive, lots of scoops and flares and maws straight out of Manny, Moe, and Jack’s most fevered dress-up-accessory dreams, Recaro crypto-race seats, and a couple of decades of race-winning heritage.
The package feels more like a machine put together by crazed hot-rodders in a little shop behind an Osaka noodle house than a production vehicle built by a major automaker. That’s both good and bad.
The Evolution’s ability to deal with a given driving situation can always be determined by asking one simple question: How much does this task resemble screaming balls-to-wall down some Scandinavian dirt while dodging rally spectators?
Driving around the 25-MPH-limit streets of Joliet in a bouncy, noisy, paddle-shift-automatic-equipped, cramped-yet-large car isn’t much like a rally stage, and therefore the Evo falls somewhere between the Dodge Nitro and the Misery Edition Toyota Corolla for this slice of the driving experience.
However, drag-racing a brand-new VW GTI out of the tollbooths on a rain-soaked Chicago highway is something like a maniacal dirt-eating race, and for that situation the Evolution MR becomes the best possible choice of vehicle (yes, the GTI got stomped so bad that I felt vaguely guilty for the rest of the evening). They say this car is good for high-13-second quarter-mile times, which is a bit slower than my ’65 Impala, but the madness of the engine in this car makes it feel much quicker.
As further evidence that we are currently living in The Golden Age of Engines, I present the MIVEC (Mitubishi’s catchy acronym for variable valve timing) 2.0 liter four. If Mitsubishi had been able to build something one-third this good for the Cordia, Things Would Have Been Different for Mitsubishi USA. Every time I felt like laughing at this silly, expensive ($38,960 as tested), flimsy-feeling car, the incredible competence of this powertrain changed my mind.
The numbers of die-hard Mitsubishi fans in America have been dwindling since the heyday of the Starion and Eclipse as mainstream sporty-car options, but I did meet this young Evo VIII owner and her “Live Fast” Santa Cruz License Plate tatt in a LeMons paddock. Perhaps the berserkitude of the Lancer Evolution will keep the Mitubishi brand in our minds long enough for the company to come up with a new line of vehicles that will— finally— make significant quantities of American car shoppers say, “Yes! I must own that!” On that subject, has anyone seen a regular Lancer on the road lately?
The ride is race-car rough and bouncy, of course, and the interior falls somewhere between “rental car” and “sporty.” The Recaro seats are covered with the same type of sweat-proof petroleum-based fabric that faux-Aeron office chairs get, and they’re made for drivers with way narrower shoulders— e.g., wiry Finnish rally drivers— than I have.
The baseball-style stitches on the “Sportronic” automatic shifter add a bit of Nippon Ham Fighters flavor to the interior, but the overall impression feels more Detroit than Tokyo, something like the world’s nicest 1998 Chrysler Sebring.
I couldn’t find anything in the owner’s manual about the “AWC” button (as a former technical writer, I know exactly how this stuff gets left out of manuals: the writers’ eyes glaze over during the 114th slide of a 4,358-slide PowerPoint presentation and they miss some features), but I suspect it unlocks the center differential. When driving on wet roads, I decided I wasn’t going to be The Writer Who Stuffed a Press Car Into a Concrete Abutment and opted to keep the hoonage to a minimum. It grips hard on wet asphalt, and I’ll bet it lets go real sudden-like.
Anyway, the button made some change to the way the all-wheel drive system took care of business.
Overall, the ’13 Lancer Evolution MR is sort of annoying to live with, except for the moments when it’s the greatest car ever built. Were I to own one, I think I’d spend about 95% of my Evo driving time being mildly annoyed and the rest of the time laughing maniacally. Worth nearly forty grand? Strangely, yes.

01 - 2008 Piaggo Ape 50 Europe - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 34 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 35 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 36 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 37 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 38 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 39 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 39 - Mitsubishi Live Fast Tattoo - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 55
Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Fri, 07 Sep 2012 17:14:45 +0000

Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport

Reviewing a car a week, and dispatching the great majority as boring (if not in so few words), I begin to wonder whether I’m pursuing some fantastical ideal. Perhaps the concepts of communicative steering, a connection with the car, and a visceral driving experience are just something I have in my head? Can they actually exist in the real world? As the weeks roll on, one begins to have doubts. Then fate places a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR in the driveway.

I hadn’t requested the Evo because the car hasn’t changed since I last reviewed one (with a little help from RF) over four years ago. Moreover, Brendan brilliantly reviewed a GSR last fall. But the car I was scheduled to have was pulled, and the fleet company asked if I’d be up for an Evo MR as a replacement. Would !? I already knew how it would drive, but who turns down a week with an Evo?

Warning: not an ordinary car

Well, my wife would. As she put it, “I have had quieter, more relaxing rides in the back seat of an airplane.” And she hates flying. Judging from the Evo’s firm Recaro seats, firmer ride, ever-present exhaust boom, and 1990s econo-car interior, one might think Mitsubishi did nothing to make the car suitable for daily driving. Those of us who’ve driven a previous generation Evo know better. Compared to earlier Evos, this one’s actually livable, at least for people who value the things the car does well. (Especially since it doesn’t have a ridiculous wing on the back.)

Almost elegant from this angle

The Evo X does do some things very well. Last time around I drove the Evo GSR, which has a five-speed manual transmission. This time it was the MR, with a six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (“SST” in Mitsubishi parlance—we badly need a single, concise, widely recognized term for these things). In the two-pedal car, the powertrain feels even more aggressive. It’s always ready to jump into attack mode. There’s some lag from a dead stop, but once rolling, you’re apt to get a stronger response than you were seeking. In these economy- and-refinement-minded times, this is not a common occurrence. I’ve driven plenty of cars that didn’t feel as strong as their specs suggested they should have. Though the Evo pairs a no-longer-so-impressive 291 horsepower with a 3,600-pound curb weight, it’s not one of those cars. The heated driving experience exceeds the cold, hard numbers. It’s not just the quickness. It’s the immediacy.

The SST doesn’t snap off shifts quite as quickly as VW’s DSG, with a brief pause to let the engine relax instead of yanking it down, but it reacts instantaneously to your right foot, perhaps even to your brain waves. Decelerate for a turn, and it automatically steps down through the gears, so the right one will be there the instant you need it. If you feel the need to employ the lovely column-mounted magnesium paddles, you’re just not thinking clearly enough. Choose from normal, sport, and super sport modes to vary the height of the boil at which the transmission keeps the angry hair dryer under the hood.

291 horsepower from 2.0 liters

Of course, you can get far more bang for your buck in a Mustang. The Evo isn’t primarily about going fast in a straight line. It’s about handling. Not the sort of light, balanced, intuitive handling you’ll find in the best sports cars. The car is too hefty and nose-heavy for that, and the Evo even feels more than a little out of sorts in casual driving. But get jiggy with wheel and pedals, and the Evo’s hyper-sophisticated electronically-modulated all-wheel-drive system comes into play, tweaking the car into a seemingly perfect line. Wondering what car reviewers are looking for when they criticize the steering in, well, everything? This is it, firm, direct, quick, and communicative.

Much better than an Evo IX!

The harder you drive the Evo, the better it feels, and the better you feel…as long as you ignore the fuel economy readout. Economy isn’t one of the SST’s modes. The EPA rates the Evo MR at 17 MPG in city driving, and 22 on the highway. You can moderately exceed these numbers if you drive the Evo like you would a Prius. But why would you do that? Drive the Evo in the suburbs without a concern for gas mileage and mid-teens happen. Drive it like you stole it and the digits become singular.

Common sight

I hadn’t driven a Subaru WRX since that car was tweaked in response to widespread complaints for the 2009 model year. While the STI is a more direct competitor to the Evo, the Mitsubishi’s $38,490 price tag ($40,785 as tested with nav) raises the question of how much you’d really be giving up with a sub-$30,000 Subaru.

Eye of the beholder

Well, you’d be giving up nearly everything that makes the Evo an Evo. The WRX is about as quick, but even with the 2009 tweaks, it remains a far softer, less immediately responsive, less communicative, considerably less visceral car. The Subaru doesn’t beg to be flogged the way the Evo does. It’s happy to relax and go with the (traffic) flow. It’s cushier, roomier, and has a rear seat that folds to expand a larger trunk. If Subaru offered one with an automatic, my wife could drive it without complaint—and even without realizing its performance potential. For a reminder of what’s missing from nearly every car sold today, we still need the Evo.

Mitsubishi provided the Evo MR with insurance and a quickly depleted tank of gas.

Rory Williams of Dwyer and Sons Surbaru in West Bloomfield, MI, provided the slightly pre-owned WRX. He can be reached at 248-295-2082.

Michael Karesh operates, a provider of car reliability and pricing information.

Warning: not an ordinary car Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport For once, a big grille serves a purpose Almost elegant from this angle Much better than an Evo IX! Roomier than it looks here Not roomier than it looks here 291 horsepower from 2.0 liters Common sight Eye of the beholder Makes the Evo appear clean A better angle A Lexus compared to the Evo ]]> 73
Review: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Mon, 18 Jun 2012 12:59:51 +0000

A rear-wheel-drive four-door hatchback with staggered wheels and a mere 2,579 pounds distributed 45/55. From the folks who gave us the Evo. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (conversationally referred to as either the “i” OR the “meev”) isn’t that sort of car. Its focus is just as narrow as the Evo’s but could hardly be more different: the cheapest, most energy-efficient electric car you can buy in the United States. How cheap? The i-MiEV’s low-20s price (after a $7,500 tax credit) isn’t much higher than that of a Toyota Prius c, the cheapest, most energy-efficient hybrid.

The Prius succeeded in part because it looked like nothing else. Even the most car-ignorant person can readily identify one. The i-MiEV similarly won’t be confused with any other car. Even the wipers are radically different (the one on the right was bent upwards by engineers, not hooligans). But will Americans identify this ultra-compact egg-on-wheels as a car at all? The Prius c is nearly 20 inches less lengthy than the regular Prius. The i-MiEV (despite sharing a 100.4-inch wheelbase) is another foot shorter still (144.7 vs. 157.3 inches). The Mitsubishi is also over four inches narrower (62.4 vs. 66.7 inches) but nearly seven inches taller (63.6 vs. 56.9 inches). This is after being widened a couple of inches for North America. Road-legal cars with four doors don’t get any smaller in North America. Even SUVs are generally wider than they are tall.

Given the price range, it should come as no surprise that nearly every interior surface save the seats is hard plastic in both cars. The i-MiEV’s interior nevertheless manages to seem much more spartan than the Prius c’s.

Hybrids and electric vehicles often provide detailed feedback on your driving style and energy use. The i-MiEV’s instruments are conventionally-located and very basic, just a speedometer, a fuel gauge, a needle that instantaneously provides feedback on the heaviness of your foot when accelerating and braking (lighter is better), and an exterior temp / distance-to-empty readout. Unlike in the Prius c, Volt, or LEAF there’s no way to evaluate your driving style beyond the current moment or track your efficiency over time.

Due to the Mitsubishi’s tall, narrow body, you sit higher than in the typical car but with a bare minimum of shoulder room. The front seats are very close together. The width increase over the JDM car went into an extra inch between your outside shoulder and the B-pillar, and you’re still very close to the latter. The steering wheel neither tilts nor telescopes. The driver’s seat has a height adjuster, but hardly anyone will use it. Even with the seat in its lowest setting the windshield header intrudes on sightlines far more than the instrument panel does (for this driver of middling height). You’ll be well versed in the contents of the airbag warning label. And you’ll want to stop well short of the mark at traffic signals.

Sitting behind myself in the i-MiEV, my shins graze the front seatbacks. The seat is mounted high off the floor, so I’m reasonably comfortable aside from not having an inch of space to spare. Cargo space is similarly minimal, no surprise given the nearly nonexistent rear overhang. Even a B-Segment Prius c seems spacious compared to the A-segment i-MiEV.

Elsewhere you’ll find zero-to-sixty times for the i-MiEV in the 13-to-15 second range. But it doesn’t seem quite that slow because of the smooth, torquey delivery of the 66-horsepower electric motor. As with other hybrids and electrics, glacial acceleration with the digital speedometer incrementing about once a second just feels right. Those in your rear view mirror may not appreciate such leisurely acceleration, and even a Prius c, with its 11-second 0-60 time, would hand the i its rear in a thoroughly pointless drag race.

Ah, but the fuel economy. I wasn’t able to measure the i-MiEV’s efficiency. The EPA (which tends to be conservative on this metric) says it’ll go 62 miles on a charge while getting the gas equivalent of 126 miles-per-gallon city, 99 highway, and 112 combined. Only the upcoming Honda Fit EV does better, 118 combined, and it will be lease-only. The upcoming Focus EV checks in at 105, and the LEAF at 99. At the average electricity price of 12 cents per kWh, the i-MiEV costs about two dollars to recharge. In my driving the Prius c, with EPA ratings of 53 city, 46 highway, and 50 combined, averaged about 62 miles-per-gallon (additional details and photos here). It might be the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car, but in terms of fuel cost per mile it’s still about double the i-MiEV.

Refueling remains the largest weakness of EVs.  Using a standard outlet, it takes 22.5 hours to recharge the i-MiEV. Spend a grand or two to install a Level 2 (240v) home charger, and charge time drops to seven hours. A Level 3 (480v) charge port is a $700 option. You can’t get a Level 3 charger at home, at least not at a remotely reasonable price. But find a public Level 3 station and charging to 80 percent of capacity (the max with a fast charger) takes only about 30 minutes.

Yes, this is a slow car, but slow cars can be fun to drive, especially if they only weigh about 2,500 pounds (i.e. about 500 pounds less than the regular Prius and about 800 less than the Nissan LEAF). The i’s basic specs are promising. But the combination of an undersquare body with a rear-heavy weight distribution (the motor is in back) must have kept Mitsubishi’s engineers up at night. They didn’t stagger the wheels to enable more aggressive turn exits. Instead, they’ve designed the suspension and undersized the grip-resistant front tires (145/65R15 vs. relatively meaty 175/60R15s on the rear) to force the i-MiEV to start scrubbing towards the outside curb well before it might build up enough lateral force to spin out or roll over. In the 70s on the highway (it tops out at 81) the Mitsubishi feels tippy and skittish. It’s well out of its element (that element being the perpetual gridlock of metro Tokyo, where the i-MiEV compares favorably to minicars never offered in North America). A Prius c is a serene highway cruiser in comparison. Around town both cars actually ride fairly well; neither is remotely punishing or overly floaty.

The Prius c One lists for $19,710, the i-MiEV for $22,475 (after a $7,500 tax credit but before a Level 2 home charger). Even with both cars in their base trim, the Prius c has nearly $1,600 in additional content, as calculated by TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, for a feature-adjusted price difference that exceeds $5,000 once the cost of the home charger is factored in. On top of this, the Prius C performs and handles better, is roomier, and is simply much more like a regular car. You’re spending more and giving up a lot to save perhaps $500 in fuel costs per year.

A problem for both cars: they don’t just compete with each other. For another $4,065 ($2,935 after adjusting for feature differences), you can get the larger and more powerful but nearly as efficient (based on EPA tests) regular Prius instead of a Prius c. For another $6,075 (but only $2,065 after adjusting for feature differences) you can get a Nissan LEAF instead of an i-MiEV. An argument might be made for the Prius c over the regular Prius, as it gets considerably better fuel economy when driven with a feather-light foot and has a more conventional driving position. It’s much harder to justify the i-MiEV over a LEAF, as you must make major sacrifices in just about every area in return for the Mitsubishi’s lower price. If you can afford to spend the extra money, spend it. Or, if you enjoy driving, spend the extra money on gas and get a Ford Focus or Mazda3.

Pat Hennessey of Art Moran Mitsubishi in Southfield, MI, provided the i-MiEV. He can be reached at 248-353-0910.

Toyota provided the Prius c with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR Mon, 19 Sep 2011 21:54:34 +0000

Let me be frank: I’m not a very good driver. Now, I don’t mean that I careen from lamppost to lamppost like a drunken pinball, nor that I have to spend my afternoons picking teeth out of the bumper and pressure-washing old-ladies and kittens out of the undercarriage; no, I’m merely pointing out that I’m not a racecar driver in real life, only on the podium of my own imagination.

I’ve had some professional driver training, so I know how to position a seat, how to set my mirrors, how to use peripheral vision, how to look through the corners and so on, but the fact remains that my driving skills are fairly average. At best.

My fingers are of purest butter. When clenched, they form fists of finest Virginia ham. My right foot is composed of an amalgam of the entire bottom row of the periodic table of the elements, alloyed with lead for extra heft. All these appendages are fastened by spindly arms and legs to a buffoon with a block of wood for a head and a pea-sized amount of cotton wool for a brain.

Luckily, none of these considerable drawbacks matter, because I am currently the greatest driver in the history of the universe, better than Senna, better than Vittel, better than Zaphod Beeblebrox. Ladies and gentleman, the Mitsubishi EVO.

…and in the next breath, the Subaru STi. One cannot be mentioned without the other: they are as Yin-and-Yang intertwined in the pantheon of petrosexuality as Nissan would love you to think that the GTR and the Porsche 911 are. While both are all-wheel-drive, turbo-nutter rally cars that probably won’t see gravel until their second round of ownership, the similarity pretty much ends right there.

EVOs and STis are like cats and dogs. The Subaru has the feel of a big friendly golden retriever, always happy to see you and go out for a nice long muddy run, preferentially mostly sideways. The EVO, on the other hand, grips with catlike precision as though equipped with retractable claws, and has a not-quite-bred-out killer-instinct on the track. The metaphor extends to their owners as well: Subaru fans are always waving to each other and hanging around together in car parks, and Mitsubishi enthusiasts live by themselves and have no friends. Only joking.

Sort of. Forgetting which car I was in, I saluted a fellow Subaru owner (yes, I’ve got one myself), and received an icy staredown as though I’d flashed a rival gang sign, or perhaps the sign-language for, “I cordially invite you to have intimate relations with your maternal ancestors.” Oops.

Which is best? Don’t be ridiculous. One might as well ask which is better: the colour blue, or potato chips? Potato chips, obviously, but when we start discussing cars this capable, it’s all going to boil down to taste; which brings us, rather long-windedly, to the styling…
Vader drives a GNX, right? Well, if a Grand National shows up with a bunch of white EVOs in tow, better get ready to clutch your wrist-stump and leap down an airshaft: this thing’s pure stormtrooper helmet. Or actually, the grille looks like the facemask of one of those ornery sandpeople.

Either way, it’s a great-looking rig. I took it over to the in-laws to ensure that they disapproved (mission accomplished) and my mother-in-law remarked that it looked unfinished. I think it’s the best-looking thing Mitsubishi’s ever built. You wanna talk unfinished? Check out the interior.

I had a chance to drive a base Lancer immediately prior to snagging the keys to the EVO, and found it to be the biggest heap of crap since Hercules bunged out the Aegean stables. No small part of the excrescence was down to the feeble interior design and this thing’s the same plastic-fantastic wonderland of dodgy build quality. Mitsubishi might as well have left a post-it note on the dash that says, “We saved money here.”

Exception: the seats. Gott in Himmel, the seats! I haven’t been ensconced so comfortably and comprehensively since I was in utero. There’s no height adjustment, and certainly no power functions, but they are possibly the best thrones ever. Why? Because race car.

Oh yes, now it’s on to the good stuff. “Horse and rider as one,” that’s the Mazda credo, yes? Well, imagine if you somehow managed to get a saddle strapped on to a panther without having your head bitten off. A telepathic panther.

To an amateurish driver, the EVO is a revelation, and that’s compared to my own fully-fettled 330hp WRX (uh, long-term-tester) in the driveway. You don’t steer the EVO, you think it.

How the Hell they managed to build Rikki-Tikki-Tavi out of the wallowing dugong that is the base Lancer, I’ll never know. You can’t sow a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but apparently you can make a running shoe out of pigskin.

It’s not just mongoose reflexes either. The EVO pivots and shifts and rotates and generally flatters you into thinking you’re Stig Blomqvist. Or maybe even The Stig. Some say, it’s all electronic trickery, and that the chances of anyone actually needing to engage the “gravel” function on the Super-All Wheel Control are as slim as that of being able to talk your way out of a speeding ticket in a car with fender gills, three holes in the hood and a whacking great wing. All we know is: it’s a bloody good time.

Admittedly, the 2.5L flat-four in the STi has a bit more grunt down low, but the Mitsu has no problem spooling its big turbine. What’s more, the EVO’s big front-mount intercooler doesn’t get heat-soaked, meaning that playing in traffic is just as much fun as Mom told you it wouldn’t be.

There’s a certain amount of roughness to the surge of power and, apocryphally, I’ve heard that the factory tune on the car is pretty wonky on the air-fuel ratios. Still, it’s a fast, fast car, and like the Nissan GT-R, is even faster if you’re a bit of a Fisty Rocks.

Try haring around the Nürburgring in a Viper ACR and my lap time would be DNF: DOA. Inevitably, I’d become a four micron thick and forty meter long streak of reddish brown drying on the Armco. In an EVO, I’d be lapping some silly upper-class twit in a M3.

And here we come at last to our hero’s Achilles’ heel: cost. For the price of this entry-model GSR ($46,348CDN – that’s a lotta seal-pelts), I could be driving a a very nicely-equipped 3-series sedan. Upgrade to the MR and suddenly you’re talking 335i Coupe territory, even more so as the Bimmer’s bound to have cheap leasing options.

Show up for a date with a roundel on your bonnet, and you’re going to win points. Screech to a halt in a pearl-white EVO and she’s unlikely to be impressed, unless she has a complete collection of illegally dubbed Initial-D and plays a lot of Forza. In which case: MARRY THAT WOMAN.

More housekeeping items: the fuel economy is appallingly dismal; bad enough that you half-expect to receive a handwritten thank-you note from the leaders of OPEC. I also found it tricky to heel-and-toe downshift as the accelerator pedal is somewhat recessed. And when you turn down the (inevitably) thumping hippity-hop on the stereo, the tinny cabin of the EVO fills with the toneless, thrumming base of an full-volume amp with an unplugged patchcord.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I. Don’t. Care.

As for me, well, I’m as pale as the driven soap flakes and have a shock of ginger hair, so piloting a white EVO ’round China-town while blasting Canto-pop and sipping bubble tea was as immersive as backpacking through Tibet or whatever else we white people are supposed to like. I even gave my best Russell Peters to a guy who cut me off: “Go to jail badboy!”

This is the EVO’s best trick yet. Whenever I slid over the bolsters, settled myself in driving position and cranked the starter, a little frisson of excitement shivered up the driving column and out through the steering wheel into my fingertips. The most mundane and humdrum of driving errands are made interesting. It may be chock-full of driving aids, but you are never less than fully-engaged.

The EVO’s full-moon lunacy is on the wane: Mitsubishi turns towards the all-electric i-MiEV as a halo car, and away from inefficient speed machines. It’s a great car. Drive it while you can.

Mitsubishi provided the car and insurance for this review.

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Review: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander GT Wed, 27 Jul 2011 17:54:08 +0000

Platform shared with the Evo + three rows of seating = the ideal vehicle for an enthusiast with kids? This formula encapsulates the promise of the second-generation Mitsubishi Outlander. But back when it was introduced, for the 2007 model year, the reality fell short, with too many rough edges in both the chassis and the interior. Last year the Outlander was freshened with a more Evo-like nose, an upgraded interior, and a new GT trim that added an active front differential. More than ever Mitsubishi was pitching the Outlander as the family hauler for enthusiasts. But do the tweaks go deep enough?

The Outlander was already a handsome crossover when fitted with the 18-inch wheels standard on all but the base model (which gets 16s). Though the crisp sheetmetal dates back to 2007, it’s doesn’t appear dated. Flared wheel openings and a kinked beltline keep the exterior from appearing generic without taking it over the top or appearing tacked on. The new, more distinctive nose adds some aggressiveness and more clearly marks the vehicle as a Mitsubishi.

Inside, Mitsubishi has done an admirable job of upgrading the interior for pocket change. Most of the plastic castings remain the same, but padded vinyl surfaces have been added to the instrument binnacle, instrument panel fascia, and upper doors. Though the vinyl has a budget look and feel to it—no one will mistake it for leather—it’s a big step up from hard plastic. That said, plenty of cheap bits remain, and door handles evince a tinny clang when the portals are opened, so the overall effect isn’t convincing. The Outlander was short on refinement even by 2007 standards, and the revisions aren’t thorough enough to keep up with competition that has lept forward.

The view forward from the driver’s seat is about ideal for a crossover: not too far from the windshield, and also not too upright. Simply a good car raised a few inches. The view rearward is good, and enhanced by large mirrors and (with the optional nav) a rearview camera. The front seats will work better for some people than others, as the non-adjustable lumbar bulge is prominent. Thankfully the active headrests don’t jut uncomfortably far forward. More of a problem: the steering wheel does not telescope and is positioned a little too far away for those of us without long arms.

Though Mitusbishi has stuffed three rows into the body of a compact crossover (183 x 71 x 66 inches), the second row is roomy enough for adults even when slid all the way forward. Slide it back, and there’s large car legroom. The second row is also high enough off the floor to provide decent thigh support and an open sitelines. The third row, which is more difficult than most to set up and stow, could not be more rudimentary. The bottom isn’t even a cushion. Instead, cloth that doesn’t attempt to match the other seats is stretched over a perimeter frame, hammock-style. Okay for kids, less okay for larger, heavier people. Even with kids back there the second row must be slid forward to make room for legs. Bottom line: if you’re just looking for occasional space for two kids, it’ll do. For full-time or adult use, perhaps not.

Even with the third row up there’s enough space behind it for a few large duffels or a major grocery run. There’s almost as much room behind the third row as in a Honda Pilot, a much larger vehicle, and far more than you’ll find behind the third row in a Kia Sorento or Toyota Highlander (much less the RAV4, which dealers rarely stock with the third row). It helps that the well behind the seat is very deep. And, to access this deep well, the bumper folds own tailgate style. You won’t find a lower liftover. The third row collapses flat into the floor—with little in the way of padding, it takes up very little space when stowed. The second row doesn’t fold to form a flat floor, but this is to be expected given how extremely low the rear floor is. The front passenger seat does not fold, a shame as this would take a highly versatile interior to the next level. A rigid cargo shelf as see in the PT Cruiser to form a flat floor with the second row would also be a nice touch, but the optional cargo cover is the window shade type.

While Mitsubishi’s 230-horsepower 3.0-liter DOHC V6 can’t deal out thrust the way Toyota’s or Kia’s stronger, smoother 3.5s can, with the throttle open wide it’s certainly more energetic than the fours Honda and Nissan rely on in their compact SUVs. Even with all-wheel-drive, torque steer is occasionally in evidence. At part throttle the six leaves more to be desired, with both the throttle mapping and the six-speed automatic transmission’s programming oriented towards economy rather than behavior worthy of the GT label. So in casual driving the 3,780-pound Outlander GT feels weaker than its specs suggest. The GT model includes some outstanding fixed position magnesium paddles alongside the steering wheel, but this powertrain is not worthy of them.

And the economy? The EPA numbers of 19/25 miles per gallon (city/highway) and the numbers I observed about the burbs (18 to 20) are little better than those of larger crossovers. Then again, the Kia Sorento does even worse (18/24) while the Toyota RAV4 does just a touch better (19/26). In this segment, if you want excellent fuel economy you want a four-cylinder engine.

My hopes were highest for the Outlander GT’s chassis. With the GT label and the active front differential, I figured this could be the three-row vehicle enthusiasts who’d been overly lax with birth control have been looking for. But it’s not. While the Outlander GT steers and handles better than the related base Outlander Sport I also reviewed recently, and about as well as other compact crossovers, it’s still not good enough. Even with the fancy differential, the effect of which was never evident, there’s too much understeer even in moderately aggressive turns. Also too much roll and not quite enough body control. Not a bad chassis for casual drivers, but not a willing, competent, confidence-inspiring partner for those of us looking to do more than get from one point to another. The Goodyear Eagle LS tires, an oddly casual specification for a “GT,” give up the fight early, and the nose then plows for the outside curb.The moderately heavy steering feels like it would communicate well if only the rest of the chassis and the tires would do their parts, but it cannot carry the entire team.

Ride quality is similarly passable, but lacking in polish. Bumps are absorbed well, but the engine noise, road noise, and sensations through the seat of one’s pants are those of an inexpensive, somewhat dated vehicle. Ford dropped off a new Focus the last day I had the Outlander GT, and the difference in refinement was night and day. Ford’s latest feels like it should cost twice as much as the Mitsubishi, boding well for the upcoming Escape replacement and not reflecting well on the Outlander. A decade ago the Outlander’s materials and refinement would have been competitive, but in recent years industry norms have been advancing rapidly. The tight, slick, smooth, and hushed sound and feel that used to only be obtainable in expensive European machinery is now available in a $20,000 Ford. Mitsubishi has a lot of catching up to do if it hopes to survive.

Is the Mitsubishi as inexpensive as it feels? While the tested vehicle’s $33,290 sticker might not seem low, a Kia Sorento SX runs nearly $3,000 higher when similarly outfitted with leather, sunroof, and nav. TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool suggests that about $1,150 of the gap is due to the Kia’s additional features, leaving an adjusted price difference of about $1,800. Don’t need these three big ticket features? Then the Outlander GT’s list price falls to $28,590. A similarly-equipped base trim Toyota RAV4 is priced only a few hundred dollars higher, but adjusting for remain feature differences opens up a nearly $3,000 advantage for the Mitsibishi. Bottom line: once you consider the Outlander’s features, every other three-row crossover costs considerably more. A Hyundai-like 5/60 bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus 10/100 powertrain warranty for the first owner, further sweetens the deal.

So the Outlander GT isn’t a driver’s crossover. Marketing rather than engineering appears to have pushed the GT label. For now, you must spend real money to obtain such a beast. And, even with the very welcome interior upgrades, the Mitsubishi’s materials and refinement remain at least five years behind the industry norm. But the Outlander’s exterior remains attractive and its interior is a triumph of packaging, with an excellent driving position, three rows of seating, and good cargo space inside a compact body. Add in a relatively low sticker price and long warranty, the Outlander likely deserves more attention than it has been receiving. Just not from enthusiasts.

Mitsubishi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Outlander cargo Outlander side Outlander vs. Pilot rear Outlander front quarter Outlander second row Outlander front Outlander third row Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Outlander rear quarter Outlander instrument panel Outlander engine Outlander cargo 2 Outlander cargo 3 Outlander interior Outlander front seats Outlander audio controls ]]> 36
Review: 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS Sun, 17 Jul 2011 16:00:05 +0000

By all accounts, the original Mitsubishi A6M Reisen, also known as “Zeke” or “Zero”, was a pretty decent little warplane. For a year or so, it had the edge on the porky old Brewster Buffalos and Grumman Wildcats operating, which is to say retreating, in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The Wildcat was replaced by the Hellcat, and by the time the fabulous P-47 Thunderbolt arrived it was game over for the Zero. The “Jug” was virtually indestructible, while the Zero offered virtually no protection to either its pilot or its fuel tanks. It was apparently quite profitable for Thunderbolt pilots to fly head-on at the Zeros and just shoot at them until the Mitsubishi fell out of the sky, its return fire completely ineffective. (P-47 info edited — JB)

Still, the Zero was a decent little plane.

Every Mitsubishi built since then, of every type, shape, variety, and description, has been a complete piece of crap.

Whew! Sorry about that! I was channeling our dear departed founder for a moment. I mean, not every Mitusbishi ever built has been junk. There was the Sapporo, which was, um, junk. And the Starion, but that was junk, too. The 3000GT? Impossible to fix and heavier empty than the aforementioned Mitsubishi Zero or a Corvette carrying the two fattest people from your local Wal-Mart. The DiamondStar cars? My friend Mark Mitias famously christened them “DSM-Disposable Speed Machines”. The Lancer Evolution? Nice to drive, satisfying to use on a racetrack, but made from tin and cardboard.

Maybe every Mitsubishi ever built has been junk. Still, I’m sympathetic towards them, and it makes me sad to see that the webpage for the Eclipse Spyder looks like this:

Look at the people-and-mileage infographic in the upper right-hand corner. You know where you see infographics like that? Right. At the rental-car counter. Where Mitusbishis go, not to die, but to live their lives. That’s where I found my test Eclipse, fetchingly dressed in “Carbon” paint and carrying a sticker price of $26,495 post rebates. Hertz Los Angeles charged me almost $200 to rent it for a day and a half; although I was on a press trip, I had some personal business which required that I slip the PR leash and travel without restriction or oversight. Thus the Eclipse.

First impressions: it isn’t bad-looking in its own way. The chrome spoiler isn’t as offensive as it is on the Infiniti G-Spots and the swell of the hindquarters has a somewhat mesmerizing effect for me. Let’s check it out, top-down in Beverly Hills:

There’s one unintended consequence of the styling and the big cloth top: backing out becomes an exercise in sheer bloody courage. Fruitlessly attempting to manipulate the car around the parking lot next to Kat von D’s “High Voltage Tattoo” studio, I ended up just closing my eyes and doing a full-throttle reverse into the unknown. I had not previously informed my passenger that such a maneuver was forthcoming. They say you never hear the bullet that kills you. After that, I kept the complicated top down at all times for visibility and safety, even in light rain.

In many ways, the Eclipse Spyder is a little time capsule, a look back into What Them Japanese Cars Used To Be Like. Let’s see. Charmless four-cylinder, rough but short on power? Check. Four-speed automatic with somewhat leisurely shift times? Yup. Lowest-bidder plastic interior? Uh-huh.

The sound system, branded “Rockford Fosgate” to reach that critical retired-minitruckers-who-remember-the-Punch-45-amplifier demographic, wasn’t bad, although the subwoofer mounted between the negligible rear seats seemed inadequately protected and quite prone to being poked with pencils, pens, broken bongs, shivs, and the other accoutrements of the modern Mitsubishi buyer, who is primarily identifiable by his sub-600 credit rating and fondness for the music of “Sublime”.

Speaking of, let me tell you what else is a bad idea: driving a convertible top-down through LA with a passenger who is both drunk and fluent in Spanish. I know the language in print but couldn’t keep up with her enough to know what kind of trouble we were getting into. “Hey, (plural form of Spanish word for person who is unnaturally intimate with his mother)!” she yelled at four vatos in a LeSabre. “(Fornicate) (your) (sister, or possibly taco dressing) (with) (a goat, or airplane propeller, or small dog native to certain regions of Mexico).” Time to floor the Eclipse’s too-loud-pedal and get the hell out of there, with a brief visit to the next lane courtesy of some vintage-style throttle-steer.

“I want to see the Hollywood sign!” she then said in perfectly clear English. Cue the terrifying midnight climb up roads no wider than a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, complete with blind corners, huge potholes, and streets that turn out to be driveways or vice versa. At last, the sign appeared in the foggy sky, unaccountably ominous for its proximity and mute familiarity. We stopped at the widest available point in the road and stepped out to take a look.

“Hey, muchacho, you gonna leave the car running like that?” she inquired.

“Who’d steal it?” I replied.

We could close the review right there, really. Of all the cars for sale today, this is definitely one of them. That’s about it. I’m not going to pull a Scott Burgess here. By “pull a Scott Burgess,” I don’t mean “get lapped by Jack Baruth in a Grand Cherokee while I’m driving a Chally 392 on a racetrack,” although that may have happened recently. I mean, “get all weepy-eyed about a less-than-great car just because the top goes down.” If I want to write a nice article about a car that is fundamentally a piece of disposable junk with a very pleasant convertible option, I’ll take the Kaiser’s shilling and fluff the Boxster a little bit. I hear there are more trips to Germany available for those of us who are willing to get our e-knees dirty in that regard.

I cannot recommend the Eclipse Spyder to anyone. There are better choices available for the same money, including the distantly related Chrysler 200 convertible. For the same money, you get a six-speed automatic and a few more refinements. You lose the fabulous ass, but that can be sourced elsewhere. The Mustang convertible costs a bit more but has a far stronger engine and is likely to be worth real money in a few years compared to either the Eclipse or 200. A MINI Cooper convertible is slower but nicer inside and carries a lot more credibility with the fabulous-ass crowd themselves.

The Eclipse nameplate had its moments, back in the early days of the sport-compact battle, but those are long gone. Like its winged ancestor, this Mitsubishi falls short on refinement, power, protection, and capability. It’s not necessarily crap, but it’s very far from being good. I’m afraid that the Eclipse has lost the war.

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Review: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Fri, 27 May 2011 20:40:59 +0000

No one out-zombies Mitsubishi. Quite a few manufacturers have had brushes with death, only to bounce back strongly with competitive new cars. For Mitsubishi there’s been no bounce. Yet they’re still alive. Assuming Mitsubishi’s people aren’t actually brain dead, they must be in crisis mode. And cash must be short. So if they employ their scant resources to add a new model, the Outlander Sport, there must be something terribly compelling about it, right? Well, Mitsubishi didn’t exactly swing for the fences. The basic concept behind the Outlander Sport: remove a foot from the rear overhang of the Outlander CUV, cut $3,500 from the base price ($1,000 of it by making a CVT optional), make Bluetooth and USB connectivity standard, and hope the kids bite.

The Outlander Sport’s exterior styling is…different. Severely truncating the tail yields a hatchback profile, but with the ride height and chunkiness of an SUV. (The spirit of AMC lives!) Up front, the Outlander Sport wears the most aggressive grille to ever front a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four. Mitsubishi has teased about killing the Evo. Perhaps they want to milk any remaining equity before doing so?

Inside the Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi has made some effort to keep pace, with soft-touch surfaces sparingly deployed on the instrument panel and doors. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard. But too many parts of the unremittingly black interior seem sourced from the lowest bidder. Some can be excused as having an honest simplicity—they are what they are, with no pretense of being something else—but the large HVAC control knobs, while easy to use, look and feel dreadfully cheap.

Mitsubishis often have a frisky character, and Outlander Sport’s hatchback shape promises sportier driving dynamics than the typical CUV. Hop into the driver seat, and hope immediately starts to fade. The firm front seats are high, and the instrument panel is deep. Even at rest there’s a sense of bulk. The manual shift lever is very tall, effectively communicating that the Outlander Sport aspires to be a truck, not a sporty hatch. A dead pedal is positioned too close. The rear seat is very roomy and comfortably high off the floor, but roomy rear seats are the rule rather than the exception among compact crossovers, so no big win here. Despite the truncated tail there’s a little more cargo space than in the typical compact hatch.

With 148 horsepower motivating 3,000 pounds and the truck-style long throws of the manual shifter, the Outlander Sport isn’t designed for hustling. Around town it gets about plenty well enough, though, and never feels slow. A manual transmission can be worth 20-30 horsepower in perceived acceleration, and this is one such case. If the trip computer can be believed, fuel economy pushes and occasionally even tops 30 in suburban driving. The EPA, using different methodology, reports 24 city, 31 highway.

The major disappointment arrives upon turning the steering wheel. For a 3,000-pound, 169-inch-long vehicle, the Outlander Sport feels surprisingly large and heavy, even clumsy. The tires no doubt deserve a fair amount of the blame. The manual transmission is offered only in the base model, and this model is shod with 215/70HR16 Yokohama Geolander G033s. With a design that optimizes something other than handling (what I don’t know), these tires feel squishy and roll over onto their tall sidewalls with little provocation. The steering has a dead zone on-center, and feels slow and numb. Despite these handicaps, the handling retains a basic competence—there’s a good chassis somewhere in there. With credit due the tall sidewalls, the Outlander Sport usually rides smoothly and quietly, though the tires clomp a bit loudly and reactions to tar strips and expansion joints can be abrupt.

The base Outlander Sport ES lists for only $19,275, which is lower, even much lower, than any other Japanese CUV. Adjusting for standard features tends to widen the Mitsubishi’s advantage. The Outlander Sport’s Jeep cousin, the Compass, lists for $720 more and, according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool lacks about $900 in features, for a feature-adjusted difference of about $1,600. A base Sportage undercuts the Outlander Sport by a few hundred dollars, but adjust for features and the Mitsubishi emerges with a miniscule advantage at MSRP but a $450 advantage at invoice (the base Sportage has a very small dealer margin). Mitsubishi even matches the Koreans with its warranty, which is 5/60 bumper-to-bumper and 10/100 powertrain (for the original owner).

Unfortunately, there’s a good reason for the low price: the Outlander Sport does nothing particularly well, while falling far short in handling and interior materials. When developing this vehicle, Mitsubishi’s mind was clearly elsewhere—the MiEV perhaps? If you’re searching for a surprising amount of truck flavor in an inexpensive, compact, fairly economical package, the Outlander Sport might be worth a look. But there’s a reason competitors have become ever more car-like in both styling and handling: that’s what most buyers want.

Mitsubishi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Outlander Sport rear quarter Outlander Sport view forward Outlander Sport center stack Lost in the Outlands? Outlander Sport front quarter Outlander Sport front quarter 2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Outlander Sport rear seat Outlander Sport engine Outlander Sport instruments Outlander Sport cargo area Outlander Sport front seats Outlander-Sport-thumb Outlander Sport front ]]> 58
Review: 2010 Lancer GTS Fri, 29 Oct 2010 19:38:15 +0000

I say “Mitsubishi.” You think “Evo.” And not much else, except perhaps, “Are they still around?” The problem: not many people are willing and able to spend BMW money for a Mitsubishi, even if it does offer stellar performance. So Mitsubishi developed the Lancer Ralliart, with a detuned Evo engine, less sophisticated AWD system, and softer suspension. The TTAC conclusion: “save up for the Evo.” Want a manual transmission? Then the Ralliart isn’t an option anyway. And, with a starting price over $28,000, it’s still pricey. So, how about the Lancer GTS, with a standard manual transmission and a starting price just over $20,000?

The Lancer GTS shares the Ralliart’s and Evo’s convervative, mildly upscale styling, sans Audified grille but mit ricerific wing spoiler and 18-inch multi-spoke alloys. When introduced for the 2008 model year the Lancer was one of the more attractive cars in the segment, with more than a hint of Volvo S40. Today it looks either timeless or mildly dated, take your pick, while staking out the middle ground between the trendy, overstyled Mazda3 and the homely, understyled Subaru Impreza. Select the $150 “rotor glow” orange paint if you desire to attract eyeballs.

The Lancer’s budget-grade interior plastics and switchgear seem much more acceptable (if still behind the curve) when the window sticker is comfortably under $25,000 than when it’s over $35,000. As with the exterior, the cabin’s styling is restrained, with a hint of BMW in the instrument panel’s convex curve from door to door. Optional leather upholstery takes the interior ambiance up a notch, but no one will feel like they’re living large. The new Chevrolet Cruze demonstrates how much more is possible at this price point.

One bonus: the Sun and Sound Package’s 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system can rock the neighborhood, though sound clarity at “11” doesn’t seem to have been a top priority. “Punch” the large subwoofer in the trunk up to +6 to shake everything within a 100-yard radius. On the other hand, this package’s keyless access system proved finicky. I never did figure out how to make it work the first time, every time.

The driving position combines the good, the bad, and the ugly. Good: you sit a little lower than in most compact cars, so the Lancer feels sportier and less like the budget compact it is. Bad: the wing spoiler splits the rear view, and is thick enough to largely obscure following cars. (Solution: get the hatchback.) Ugly: the steering wheel (wrapped in overly slick leather) is too far away, and does not telescope. And indifferent: the front seats don’t feel substantial and provide modest lateral support. The rear seat is roomier than most in the segment, but is a little low to the floor.

With the Ralliart’s and Evo’s turbocharged engines kicking out 237 and 291 horsepower, respectively, the GTS’s 168-horsepower 2.4-liter normally aspirated four is clearly third best. But how much power do you need, really, especially when not saddled with the weight of all-wheel-drive? The 2.4 feels much more energetic than the 148-horsepower 2.0-liter in lesser Lancers, and is competitive with the 2.3 in the Mazda3 s and the 2.4 in the Kia Forte EX. There was a time not so long ago that a compact with this much power was considered quick. The 2.4 sounds a little raspy when pushed, almost as if there was a small leak in the intake, but otherwise sings a pleasantly mechanical song. Peak output nearer 200 horsepower might be nice, but as-is the engine’s powerband is usefully broad. Consequently, the five-speed manual’s relatively tall, widely spaced ratios aren’t an issue. Engine speed is about 3,500 at 80, not too bad. The 2.4 is smooth enough that around town I sometimes found myself cruising in third, and could have driven it at 5,000 rpm all day long. Shifting feels like pushing and pulling cables, but it’s easy to find the desired gear and effort is low. It’ll do, but a short throw kit is an obvious mod.

The EPA ratings of 20/28 (improved to 22/31 for 2011) are a little low for the segment. In the real world, I observed from 22 to 28 MPG depending on frequency of stops, and generally averaged 25. A very aggressive drive around a curvy test loop sunk it to 10.1, but this was more a testament to how I was driving the car.

Why bother pushing the Lancer hard enough to nearly sink MPG into the single digits? Because, despite the car’s middling specs and various shortcomings, it’s quite fun to drive. The light steering gets more communicative as it loads up. In hard turns you know exactly what’s going on at the contact patches. The steering is so quick just off center that the car initially felt unstable at highway speeds, but I soon got used to it. There’s a fair amount of roll—some will find the suspension too soft—but no untoward body motions. The Lancer doesn’t feel quite as precise and tied down as the Mazda3, but it’s close. The stability control cuts in a little too early to rein in understeer (which isn’t excessive). The system is unobtrusive—an idiot light is often the only obvious indication that it has intervened—but turning it off permits higher cornering speeds with little risk. The Lancer’s handling remains thoroughly progressive and predictable right up to the limit. The Dunlop SP Sport 5000Ms squeal quietly, so they won’t draw undue attention.

NVH is about average—for 2008. So there’s enough wind and road noise, especially at higher speeds, to make it evident that you’re not in a premium car. The ride is a little thumpy, mostly due to the low profile tires, but isn’t harsh. For maximizing handling short of killing the ride, the tuning is about right.

Ultimately, the Mitsubishi Lancer GTS is more than the sum of its parts. The specs aren’t impressive. The interior and NVH, even less so. And yet it vies with the Mazda3 as the segment’s most enjoyable car to drive. By the end of the week, it felt like a car I’d been driving forever—in a good way. The loaded-up price of $23,000 seems a bit steep, even if it does get you the sunroof, leather, Rockford audio, and various uplevel electronic features. But with generous sales incentives or as a not-much-sought-after used car, and with a 5/60 standard warranty (plus 10/10 on the powertrain for the first owner), the Lancer GTS could be a great buy for the enthusiast on a budget who doesn’t want to drive what everyone else is driving.

Mitsubishi provided the vehicles, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

Lancer-lot? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 100_9323 100_9289 100_9334 100_9324 100_9307 100_9335 100_9322 100_9315 ]]> 36
Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart Wed, 13 Jan 2010 17:23:22 +0000 lancer1
Forget car design awards. Forget internet polls. The perfect automotive barometer is the filling station. And if barometers could wet their pants, this one would need its jeans urgently back in the washing machine, as our oranger-than-orange Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart (that’s a handful) pulled into the fuel station. The second time this hour, actually. Faster than you could say ‘Premium Unleaded’, the fuel attendant stormed our tester with cries of joy and wonder, proceeding to proudly recite its technical specification better than we could. After failing to receive a positive answer for his honest attempt for a ‘short spin’, he documented this automotive phenomenon with enough photos to create a 3D rendering and proclaimed that we should fill ‘er up with Regular Unleaded.

lancer4Just three weeks before, our equally brightly-colored Golf GTi tester crept into a gloomy Tel Aviv filling station literally on its last fumes. No envious glaring this time round; not even a discrete acknowledging nod. We were lucky enough to get a nasty gaze when we asked for five dollars’ worth of fuel.

This goes to show you what the Lancer Sportback Ralliart – we’ll just call it Ralliart – is all about. There’s nothing remotely reminiscent of discretion about this car, what with its spoiler, giant gray rims and that huge intercooler sticking out with absolutely no shame at all. Get it in bright colors – we know you will – and you have a car that even the blind couldn’t ignore.

They won’t, because you’re more likely to hear it before you see it, with a vocal soundtrack accompanied by vigorous pops and the unmistakable whistle of a furious turbo. All of this is not without coincidence, of course. The Ralliart is supposed to remind its driver of its ancestral roots – that is, the Mitsubishi Evolution X. It uses most of the components that make the Evo tick – a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine (295 in its original guise; 241 here) and a six-speed dual clutch gearbox bearing the SST namesake. All of this means it comfortably fits right between the Evolution and the basic Lancer.

Unlike the mighty Evo, the Ralliart is available both in sedan and Sportback (Mitsubishi-speak for hatchback) guises. Our tester is the latter, apparently designed with European consumers and their oddities in mind. The added convenience of the Sportback allows for easier access to the boot if you’re into family hauling, but there’s something fundamentally wrong about a hatchback Ninja – even if it’s only a baby-Ninja.

Inside, the Ralliart’s resemblance to its outlaw siblinglancer3 is uncanny. It’s essentially the same cabin from the bone-stock Lancer, with added necessities such as imitation carbon trim, aluminum pedals, the obligatory SST shifter (as usual, clumsy and uncomfortable to use) and a Rockford Fosgate audio system. Thank the latter for the enticing array of vividly-colored woofers in the trunk.

Unfortunately, after you finish toying around with the few gadgets in the cockpit, you discover there’s not much more into it – the interior quality is mediocre at best. Low-rent plastics are scattered all around and the cabin’s layout leaves something to be desired. So do the ergonomics: the air conditioning unit is tough to reach unless you have mutant hands and the steering wheel is neither pleasing to look at nor to grip.

But the seats are good – both up front and back. They’re cushioning and fairly supportive and have that soft fake-suede upholstery that mutes any distant longings for leather. It’s also roomy: rear legroom is ample, but the passengers are treated to a fair dose of claustrophobia due to the massive front seats. Trunk space, at 12 cubic feet, is about average compared to rivals – and significantly smaller than the sedan’s. However, it’s a joy to use and much easier to load (and unload) than the four door. The back seats can be folded flat, and doing that will reveal a huge, 49 cubic feet trunk that can haul a huge amount of furniture come moving day.

lancer6With the practicality aside and the pedal to the metal, we pointed the Ralliart towards Israel’s finest roads. Despite its 240-plus-one horses, the Ralliart completes the sprint to 60 in a fairly disappointing 7.1 seconds, mostly due to its – gasp – 3,500-odd pound weight. That’s a smudge over the Evo’s weight, while the Big E has a much more impressive stable to carry around.

Specifications aside, the Ralliart feels faster than it is, mostly due to constant engine noise. It may be loud, but unless you measure an engine’s sound quality by the quantity of decibels it emits, it doesn’t stand a chance against the raspy boxer note of the Impreza WRX or the throaty over-engineered track of the Golf GTi. The constant drone of the engine becomes tiring – not to say annoying – almost instantly.

The gearbox works as advertised, meaning it shifts quickly and without any of that sequential-gearbox-feel. It feels like an automatic on steroids – as it should – but it doesn’t shift as smoothly as Volkswagen’s benchmark DSG gearbox. The shifting paddles are handy (pun unintended), but are uncomfortably mounted behind the wheel instead of on it, preventing gear changes in mid-turn. Fuel consumption was disappointing, with the trip computer indicating a likely optimistic 15 MPG for not-too-spirited cross-country driving – that’s Premium Unleaded, remember?

The ride, however, is excellent. In fact, almost too lancer5good for this kind of car, with the Ralliart cushioning even the harshest bumps and road imperfections. The reason for this civilized behavior bears a dual sword: the Ralliart carries the standard Lancer’s suspension, which is admittedly very good at absorbing bumps but pretty much useless when trying to tackle a twisty mountain road. It was disappointing to discover that Mitsubishi didn’t fit any electronic wizardry to the suspension – granted, there is a ‘Sport’ button but it does next to nothing and certainly doesn’t change the pampering nature of the car.

And indeed, already on the first hairpin it was apparent that the Ralliart wasn’t born to validate the limits of physics. Thanks to the soft, low-tech suspension, body roll is almost staggering and certainly doesn’t promote the driver’s confidence. Yes, it’s got an active central differential, limited slip diffs and four-wheel-drive, but you’d be hard pressed – literally – to get to the physical limits of the car chassis, in part because of the surprising understeer the diving nose provokes. You can get past it, but it’s not what you’d call a fun experience. Not that you’ll get anywhere close to these limits, thanks to the watchful eye of the electronic nannies – which cannot be fully disengaged.

Where the Evo breaks the laws of physics, amends them and proceeds to break them again, the Ralliart remains firmly within Newton’s grip.

lancer7The Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart is like the fruit of labor of two wacky Japanese engineers. One wanted a comfortable cruiser; the other a hot hatch capable of showing the Euros how to do it properly.

The result is a car which is neither; the Ralliart’s noisy manners and low-rent cabin prevent it from being a luxurious family hatch, and on the other hand its soft-sprung suspension prevents it from being a true Ninja. There’s no way of avoiding the thought that had Mitsubishi put in a little more effort, they could have had a real ace up their sleeves – but considering the existence of the Evo, would they really want to?

This test drive made possible by

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Review: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Take Two Mon, 27 Apr 2009 11:25:32 +0000

First impressions can be misleading. Maybe it's the new car smell. Or the hallucinatory effects of automotive anticipation. But there are times when a thrilling first date can turn into the marriage from hell. That's why I'm all in favor of pre-purchase rentals and. . . press cars. Yes, carmakers' fleetmobiles are often pampered ringers. But a week with a car is an excellent way to decide if it deserves a major portion of your/my hard-earned money and ongoing patronage. Quite often, I'll find that my initial perceptions weren't quite on target. After sojourning with a Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, I can report that first impressions last. ]]>

First impressions can be misleading. Maybe it’s the new car smell. Or the hallucinatory effects of automotive anticipation. But there are times when a thrilling first date can turn into the marriage from hell. That’s why I’m all in favor of pre-purchase rentals and . . . press cars. Yes, carmakers’ fleetmobiles are often pampered ringers. But a week with a car is an excellent way to decide if it deserves a major portion of your/my hard-earned money and ongoing patronage. Quite often, I’ll find that my initial perceptions weren’t quite on target. After sojourning with a Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, I can report that first impressions last.

The Ralliart is slotted into the Lancer’s lineup above the GTS and below the Evo. It’s made from parts of both. Outside, it’s a Lancer with the Evo’s snout, aluminum hood and wing. The front looks like one of those algae-eating tropical fish you see snuffling along the sides of aquariums, only angrier. In the middle, it’s standard Lancer. The overweight wing perched on top of the shallow truck doesn’t do anything but obstruct the lower half of the view through the rearview mirror.  Neither I, my twenty-something son, nor anyone else that I asked liked the overall look.

Inside, it’s worse. The black interior is a mosaic of plastics; I counted six different patterns, textures and finishes including the cheesy fake carbon fiber trim that spans the instrument panel.  The interior’s only classy touch: seats upholstered in a sturdy-looking faux suede.

At least the front seats are decent. They mimic lower-line Recaros (the real Recaros are part of a $2750 package). They’re firm, supportive and comfortable. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the comfort goes; the steering wheel feels like it’s in another time zone. This is the first car I’ve driven in a long time where I had to stretch to reach the steering wheel when the seat was far enough back to accommodate my long legs. I ended up driving with my knees splayed at an uncomfortable angle so I didn’t have to position the seatback bolt upright to reach the wheel.

Those with shorter arms will also find it a reach to the radio controls which are spread across the center of the dashboard (fortunately, there are redundant controls on the steering wheel). The AC’s rotary controls are hung beneath the dashboard like a cheap set of aftermarket gauges. At 10K miles, they were already loose in their housing (did I say “pampered”?). Combined with the rattle from the passenger side of the dashboard, I wasn’t getting a good feeling about the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart’s long-term durability.

The leather-covered steering wheel, shift knob and shifter boot have contrasting white stitching that looks like a summer camp craft project. Moving the shifter out of park involves lifting a collar that sits on top of that boot. Those without large hands or long fingers will find it cumbersome. Once you’re underway, the first couple of shifts from the six-speed Sportronic SST transmission are as abrupt as a 16-year-old . . . Anyway . . .

Thankfully, once the transmission warms up, the shifts smooth out. You can start to appreciate the dual-clutch action, which knows what gear you need better than you do. That’s good, as the shifter paddles don’t move with the steering wheel and when you’re busy threading through the twisties they’re often out of reach, unless you’re into shuffle steering.

The Ralliart’s goodness lies under the hood: a 2.0L four sporting a single-scroll turbocharger and intercooler pumping out 237hp and 253 lb·ft of torque. The power’s transmitted to all four wheels via an active center differential with limited slip axles front and rear. If that sounds Evo-ish, it is. Unfortunately the suspension holding it in place isn’t. That part is basic Lancer GTS with a bit of additional firmness.

So, in spite of your aspirations of being the next Andrew Comrie-Picard, you end up driving like Jean-Luc Picard: streaking forward at warp speed and then slowing drastically for maneuvering. Don’t get me wrong. It’s by no means a pig in the turns, but with the Evo DNA in the drivetrain, you’d think it would have some in the suspension too. Unfortunately that’s not the case. There’s plenty of grip but the body roll keeps you from wanting to take advantage of it.

I wasn’t impressed with the Ralliart’s boy-racer looks when I first saw it. After a week of driving it I was even less impressed with it overall. The inherent cheapness of the Lancer comes through too strongly for the Evo bits to overcome. If you’re looking for a hot Mitsu on the cheap, look at a used Evo. Or save your milk money until you can afford a new one. But if you buy a Ralliart, in the long run you’ll be looking to sign those divorce papers, STAT.

(Mitsubishi provided the car, gas and insurance for this review. Photos by the author.)

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Review: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Mon, 17 Nov 2008 14:48:39 +0000 “Factory rice” rides are always a conundrum. On the one hand, they’re rife with unabashed cheesiness: grotesque rims, offensive exhaust notes, a prominent wing and assorted cladding. Yet they’re too expensive for the teen tuners at which they seem targeted. So who’s buying these augmented econoboxes? Guys like me: 28-year-olds torn between adolescent rebellion and conformist careerism. So, can Mitsubishi’s entry in this semi-nihilist Nipponese niche, the Lancer Ralliart, fulfill the existentially-challenged man-child’s need for wheels?]]> “Factory rice” rides are always a conundrum. On the one hand, they’re rife with unabashed cheesiness: grotesque rims, offensive exhaust notes, a prominent wing and assorted cladding. Yet they’re too expensive for the teen tuners at which they seem targeted. So who’s buying these augmented econoboxes? Guys like me: 28-year-olds torn between adolescent rebellion and conformist careerism. So, can Mitsubishi’s entry in this semi-nihilist Nipponese niche, the Lancer Ralliart, fulfill the existentially-challenged man-child’s need for wheels?

Externally, there’s no mistaking this car’s appearance. A huge, gaping maw at the front kicks-off the theme of exaggeration continued in the hood vents, body skirt and (of course) rather large wing. So yes, it’s ugly. On the other hand, it’s ugly. The base Lancer, already designed with a pitched forward stance and frowning headlights, looks positively aggressive given the Ralliart treatment– a kind of Japanese answer to Chevrolet’s Cobalt SS. A bit too “2 Fast 2 Furious.” But that’s the point.

As a souped-up Lancer, the Ralliart’s interior reproduces many aspects of its donor’s design. Unfortunately, that isn’t a great thing. While there are welcome upgrades– paddle shifters and a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter– the rest of the Lancer’s pedestrian interior is left largely untouched. The radio (sans Nav) presents an ugly interface sprawled out over a convex dash, giving it an air of Trisomy-21. Meanwhile, the HVAC– nestled in a concave, silver strip below the radio– is split into three plain round knobs. It’s not a unified design. The dreariness is not limited to the center stack; the rest of the cabin is awash with hard, unrelenting, black plastics that have become the norm in these cost-conscious times.

Fortunately, my Ralliart tester came equipped with optional racing seats. The buckets offered great bolstering and moderate thigh support. Based on a back-to-back sitting in a Ralliart and an Evo, the Ralliart’s seats are more accommodating and roomy. In other words, Mitsubishi clearly intended the Ralliart as a great street car that’s adequate on the track, and not vice-verse. Still, if you’re dying to communicate the fact that you’re not quite ready for the plush, totally conformist thrones found in a Lexus, these seats are the ones for you.

Underneath all that skin, the Ralliart is a real hodge-podge of Mitsubishi bits (Mitsubitties?) from three other cars. It holsters the same 2.0-liter block and twin-clutch manumatic (with flappy paddles) as the Evo, but with a smaller turbo, detuned to 237hp (as opposed to the Evo’s 291). It borrows its all-wheel-drive system from the previous generation Evo IX. And most of its suspension parts come off the current generation Lancer GTS, the FWD Lancer variant right below the Ralliart. In theory, it sounds like a mongrel, butchered car. In practice, it’s actually surprisingly-well executed.

This current Ralliart is a marked improvement over the last, finally exhibiting the ability to actually rally somewhere quickly. The turbo-four is thrashy and punchy. Coupled with very fast throttle-tip in and a well-mated six-speed gearbox, the blown mill offers brisk performance and rapid shifts all the way to 6000 rpm. The Ralliart’s twin-clutch gearbox is easy to downshift and satisfying to upshift. That it comes with an automatic mode gives the Evo an edge in versatility over some of its traditional competitors (namely, the Mazda and Subaru offerings). On performance alone, the Ralliart’s get-up-and-go is enough to make you question the Evo’s price premium.

Until you hit a bend. By using a sport-tuned suspension from a lowly Lancer GTS, rather than the Evo suspension, the Ralliart reveals itself to be primarily a street car. Over your average neighborhood roads, the Ralliart offers a smooth, almost unexpectedly refined ride – much more Corolla than Evo. Punch it in the corner and the Ralliart rolls like an every-day Suzuki Aerio, despite a deceptive amount of grip augmented by an excellent AWD system. It’s enough to make you truly appreciate those sport seat bolsters. The Ralliart’s not as surgical as an RX-8 or any better than a Civic SI. Still, drivers with resolve to ignore the body roll will find a competent carver that handles with the predictability an AWD sport compact, where understeer only really appears at the very end of its driving limit.

On looks alone, it destroys the Subaru WRX, its perennial rival. The manumatic twin-clutch transmission makes it perfectly suited to the hillside jaunt or the commute. And by giving up about 20% of the Evo’s handling & performance of an, it gains about 100% in refinement. It’s got four doors for the family man, yet comes with a tacky wing for the inner delinquent. If you can live with some dodgy interior materials and/or despise the “girliness” of a hatch-back, the Ralliart is perhaps the most versatile man-child car for $30,000 on sale today.

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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Review Fri, 23 May 2008 12:34:41 +0000 09_evo_action_front.jpgAnyone who’s driven one of the first nine iterations of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (a.k.a. Evo) approaches the tenth fully expecting chest-flattening acceleration and spleen-rupturing cornering. Obviously, the Evo X’s engine and chassis are bound (and determined) to continue the model’s budget supercar-killer tradition. But there’s another less welcome Evo tradition: denture destroying suspension and a Gladware interior. Will the Evo X’s ride quality and interior materials once again conspire to kill the love for all but the masochists among us?  

09_evo_action_front.jpgAnyone who’s driven one of the first nine iterations of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (a.k.a. Evo) approaches the tenth fully expecting chest-flattening acceleration and spleen-rupturing cornering. Obviously, the Evo X’s engine and chassis are bound (and determined) to continue the model’s budget supercar-killer tradition. But there’s another less welcome Evo tradition: denture destroying suspension and a Gladware interior. Will the Evo X’s ride quality and interior materials once again conspire to kill the love for all but the masochists among us?  

The Evo’s new X-terior has moved Mitsubishi’s compact sedan from the bargain basement to the penthouse suite. The X’s profile now strongly resembles the Acura TSX and Volvo S40. The new Evo’s snout sports a huge black inverted trapezoid-grille, fender vents, a rear wing and body kit. Thanks to the car’s more svelte shape, the macho mods don’t scream “teenage toy.” Of course, it helps that Audi has made the world safe for gargantuan grilles, and that overpriced body kits are now common on overpriced German machinery.

lancerevo08_int1600.jpgThe old Evo’s interior was cheaper than a one-star Romanian hotel. The new Lancer’s interior is a bit more upmarket, but it’s still a third-rate romance, low rent [Buick] rendezvous. Mitsubishi would have been well-advised to replicate the Alcantara interior of the Prototype X concept. One nit an upholstery shop can’t fix: the semi-swoopy exterior yields a windshield base that stretches out like an African Savanna; it’s a bit alienating for a “driver’s car.” Well-bolstered Recaro seats compensate.

Like just about every car (and person) in recent years, the new Evo’s gained some weight. Yet unlike Subaru, Mitsubishi refused to forsake the World Rally Championship’s 2.0-liter rule in their rally car production variant. Two liters of displacement for a 3500lbs. car? That’s like playing croquet with a toothbrush, isn’t it?

lancerevo08_eng1600.jpgNope. The Evo’s four-pot may not deliver the Subaru STI’s seamless shove, but once the revs crest 4000 rpm, the Mitsu’s mini-mill pulls like an amphetamine-crazed tractor. We’re torquing 300 ft.-lbs. of twist. And the X’s engine revs so freely that getting into the pleasure zone is not a problem. And then, suddenly, 291 horsepower at 6500 rpm.

Thanks to premium-powered variable valve timing and turbo technology, boost lag is also not an issue– provided you keep the revs up. Otherwise, it’s a second of “what the?” followed by “Holy CRAP!” Missing–and missed: a sixth ratio in the GSR’s manual transmission. The Evo’s engine spins at nearly 3000 rpm at 60mph. An extra cog certainly would have helped boost the mpgs from a never-caned 16/22, in case anyone’s wondering.

evo29.jpgThe Evo’s strangely-hyphenated, driver-adjustable Super All Wheel-Control deploys a pair of trick, electronically-controlled differentials. Minus the jargon-laden physics lessons and references to the anti-HAL handling nanny (I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid you can’t not do that), the nose-heavy compact feels balanced, agile, controllable, poised, planted, secure, balletic and ballistic.

Like any great driver’s car, the Evo X makes you a better driver than you are without taking you out of the equation (in every sense of the phrase). Point the Evo where you want it to go, and it goes there confidently, smoothly and quickly. The Evo X’s steering isn’t as quick and sharp as before, but compared to just about any other sedan you can buy— including (especially?) BMW’s new M3— it offers a highly responsive, entirely intimate helm.

09_evo_static_fr_3_4.jpgThere’s only one flaw: a tug at the wheel when digging into the throttle on turn exits. Never mind. Whether going, turning, and stopping, the new Evo has an eager, playful nature that’s all-too-uncommon in the post-Lexus age. Mitsubishi’s supercar remains a blast to drive, even in typical suburban driving. At the same time, it feels much more polished and controllable than before. You don’t have to push it hard to enjoy it. And if you do push it hard, you’ll enjoy it even more.

With the old Evo, potential buyers who could see past the crap interior were put off by its rock-hard ride. Here, as elsewhere, the new Evo ups its game without losing its character. No doubt the new lightweight 18” wheels and improved rubber– plenty pricey and not anywhere near immortal asymmetrical Yokohama ADVANS– have helped matters. The Evo’s no more a Lexus than you are, but it’s not a go-kart, either. Some BMWs are worse (128i anyone?).

27_evo_static_rr_3_4.jpgThe new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X has eliminated the previous car’s faults without killing the joy. The punishment is gone; the fun remains. Unfortunately, there is a new and major downside: price. The Evo’s hardware is a steal for $35,600. That’s premium compact territory– without a premium compact interior or a premium compact brand. Those who can’t see themselves spending thirty-five large for a mainstream extreme machine, or simply don’t have a BMW-sized budget, might be happier in the upcoming Lancer Ralliart. Or not.

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Mitsubishi Lancer Review Wed, 20 Jun 2007 11:45:17 +0000 01_08lancergtsr.jpgIn “The Blue-Eyed Salaryman,” American author Niall Murtagh charts his fourteen year career inside Mitsubishi Japan. When Murtagh gets transferred to Osaka, he concludes that the Tokyo part of the company focuses on large visionary research projects, while Osaka demands practical applications. And there you have it: the dichotomy that accounts for Mitsubishi’s progress in the automotive arena. You have visionary products like the Evo with very little practical purpose, and dull products like the Outlander with very little vision. So where does the new Lancer fit?  

01_08lancergtsr.jpgIn “The Blue-Eyed Salaryman,” American author Niall Murtagh charts his fourteen-year career inside Mitsubishi Japan. When Murtagh gets transferred to Osaka, he concludes that the Tokyo part of the company focuses on large visionary research projects, while Osaka demands practical applications. And there you have it: the dichotomy that accounts for Mitsubishi’s progress in the automotive arena. You have visionary products like the Evo with very little practical purpose, and dull products like the Outlander with very little vision. So where does the new Lancer fit?  

Never mind the subtext, check out those lines! Designing a good-looking compact car ain’t easy nowadays. You’ve got to maximize interior space, accommodate an expanding complement of airbags and facilitate fuel efficiency (with aerodynamics that force sheetmetal shapes down the slippery slope towards suppository chic). Things can go horribly wrong; reference the Honda Civic sedan. Or the previous Lancer, which was as sexy as dental floss. This one the Mitsubishi design team nailed.

04_08lancergtsrpro.jpgThe Lancer’s proportions and details are spot on. The high beltline adds to the impression of size from the outside, yet allows occupants to feel surrounded and safe. The Lancer’s new front fascia copies Audi’s current pig snout and makes it work, flanking the orifice with a set of angry eyes headlights and bisecting the otherwise gaping maw with a suitably wide bumper. Mitsu ripped off the tail lamp design from the Alfa 156– a gorgeous machine that Americans never got the chance to ignore.

The new Lancer is not a stunning design per se– it’s more handsome than drop-dead gorgeous. But it is a stunning development for Mitsubishi. The Lancer is to Mitsubishi what the Altima was to Nissan five years ago: a radical reskin that instantly elevates a plain-Jane model from zero to hero. Unfortunately, the parallel continues inside. 

08_08lancergtsbl.jpgThanks to Mitsu’s PR paparazzi, the Lancer’s cabin looks decidedly avant-garde. The flacks focused on the steering wheel, perfect in both diameter and thickness (though littered with stereo buttons and Bluetooth phone controls). They highlighted the Lancer’s sport bike-inspired gauges. They flagged its slick stereo, neatly integrated into the dash with precise, Teutonic buttonology. 

Off camera, the new Lancer’s interior does the time-warp again. It’s a generic Japanese mishmash fabricated with some of the worst automotive plastics inflicted on U.S. consumers since A Flock of Seagulls first crapped on Top 40 radio, with bulbous switches that feel like they were attached with thumb tacks. The seats are nicely supportive, but why Mitsu decided to support the mouse fur industry by covering the Lancer's chairs and roof with rodent pelts is both an aesthetic and ethical conundrum.

Driving the base model Lancer is an eye-opening experience, especially when you realize that (1) the Evo X will obviously be celestial and (2) THIS is what they started with?

08_08lancergtsr.jpgThe Lancer is just an awful little car to pilot, for sportster and commuter alike. In the pursuit of a compliant ride, Mitsu has fitted the base car with a suspension made out of Twinkies. Potholes send the car bucking in a fit of confusion. And then there’s body roll. Lots and lots of body roll. Quick turns? Out of the question. (Fast corners make you their bitch.) Within minutes of assuming command, my need for speed did recede. I gave up trying to do anything more than get from Point A to Point B in the space of a single day.

Yes, I know: the Lancer’s an economy car. But it could be the only car sold in America that can make an entry level Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Elantra seem like a sports sedan. And the Lancer only achieves 21/29 mpg. How frugal is that? 

05_08lancergtsr.jpgThe Lancer’s all-new 2.0-liter engine is rated at 152 horses (at an unattainable 6000 rpm). I swear a quarter have bolted for greener pastures. A wide open throttle simply kicks the CVT's droning tone up a notch. This isn’t about being a boy-racer. It’s about needing a sign to apologize to drivers while attempting merges.

What really sucks the life out of the Lancer (and sucks in general): its continuously variable transmission. Unless you opt for the top-o-the-line GTS with fake shift points, the CVT is forever locked into penalty mode. It's no fun at all. 

The new Lancer is a research project gone horribly wrong. On paper, it’s a superb vehicle: 150 horsepower, loads of safety features (seven airbags, including the now popular driver's knee airbag), gadget options galore and racy good looks. But it’s all show and no go.

With Mitsubishi’s American operations just climbing out of sea of red ink, it’s too bad the company forgot to benchmark the competitions' driving dynamics. The forthcoming take-no-prisoners Evo version will no doubt sort that out, but after sampling the base Lancer, I highly doubt Mitsubishi’s ability to rescue its American ambitions from the dustbin of history.

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Mitsubishi Outlander Review Wed, 18 Apr 2007 11:06:07 +0000 2007_outlander_201.jpgCUV’s are nothing more than oversized station wagons on stilts. If you think about it-- and not many American motorists have-- CUV’s don’t work like a truck OR handle like a car. I wouldn't say they’re the worst of both worlds, but others have. In fact, the modern CUV may just be a marketing-driven gimmick designed to take one last shot at emigrating gas guzzlers before they get down from their perch and do something really sensible, like buy a car. No wonder Mitsubishi’s website says the Outlander doesn’t like labels any more than I do.

2007_outlander_201.jpgCUV’s are nothing more than oversized station wagons on stilts. If you think about it– and not many American motorists have– CUV’s don’t work like a truck OR handle like a car. I wouldn't say they’re the worst of both worlds, but others have. In fact, the modern CUV may just be a marketing-driven gimmick designed to take one last shot at emigrating gas guzzlers before they get down from their perch and do something really sensible, like buy a car. No wonder Mitsubishi’s website says the Outlander doesn’t like labels any more than I do.

“Stylish” certainly fits. The Outlander's sheetmetal is sports sedan crisp with just enough static lines and ground clearance to assure the macho-minded that “Outlander” isn't the ancient Scottish term for “mall rat.” The CUV’s front end translates the usual SUV design cues into a host of smooth textures, understated lighting pods and clean surface transitions. The rear follows suit with ample glass, logical lines and an integral diffuser in its snazzy rear valence. It’s all very chi-chi.

2007_outlander_urban_162.jpgThankfully, the Triple-Diamond Boys left the SUV genre’s hose-it-down heritage outside the doors. The Outlander offers a symphony of touchy-feely polymers, panel gap precision and Audi-esque minimalism. Clock the way the Outlander’s beat box integrates into the dashboard’s horizontal sweep. Seamless. Even the nasty stuff– like the imitation aluminum trim surrounding the motorcycle-chic gauge cluster– looks cool. 

Tick the right boxes and the Outlander’s got the right box of tricks. The optional 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo (named after the Firebird Esprit-driving TV detective) has more than enough power to make your dental fillings shake and shiver. It’s a Sirius piece of kit. The sat nav system can store 1200 songs, keep track of your Bluetooth and guide you to your dentist. And you can order a drop-down DVD system to keep the kids amused.

2007_outlander_58.jpgClearly, Mitsubishi decided to go down the high content route for their latest foray into Crossover County. Even the base Outlander’s luxurious velour-trimmed body huggers are a welcome surprise at this price point, providing all-over comfort for humans both large and small. While the second row slides forward, there’s only one failsafe way to avoid Amnesty International’s condemnation of the Outlander’s “compact jump seats”: opt for the cheaper two row model.

The Outlander’s trick flap-fold tailgate is its party piece. The gate’s flush-fitting lower half unfolds from the bumper for slide and schlep Home Despots and/or doubles as a picnic table for pee-wee football tailgaters. On paper, the Outlander has a class average cargo hole. In real life, the model’s chunky-hunky D-pillar makes it possible to fit big ass square pegs into a moderately sized square hole. 

2007_outlander_60.jpgMore proof of the Outlander’s value-oriented proposition lies underhood. The MIVEC-tuned 3.0-liter V6 puts out a respectable 220hp and 204 lb-feet of twist (albeit high atop its powerband). Hooked-up to a standard six-speed autobox, there’s plenty of poke and reasonable fuel efficiency for city commuting (20mpg) and highway cruising (27mpg).

Hang on. Peep the strut tower brace under the hood and [optional] magnesium shift paddles. Could the Outlander’s Lancer underpinnings and available full-time four-wheel drive indicate that we’ve rocked-up in a family-friendly EVO in crossover guise?

2007_outlander_215.jpgNope. The Outlander’s powerplant has less low-end grunt than your grandmother's vintage Osterizer, while the steering is completely vague about the whole torque steer issue. Push it hard into a bend and the softly sprung dynamics serve up a major slathering of understeer on a supersized body roll. The 3500lb Outlander is tuned for touring duty and nothing more.

Much like the omnipresent road noise at highway speeds, the Outlander’s dynamic bits get old in a hurry. While Mitsubishi touts "rally inspired control and fun unheard of in a family vehicle," the rally involved must have been political and the fun in question has a lot more to do with scaring kids than thrilling adults. Any off-roading more ambitious than an unplowed driveway is equally off limits.

2007_outlander_39.jpgThe Mitsubishi's ride strikes an ideal balance between road feel and comfort. As long as you drive responsibly, the chassis will iron out irregularities and crush potholes. Motorsport heritage aside, it’s obvious Mitsubishi put a strut brace under the hood to avoid family fatigue during your next road trip.

In fact, the Outlander is a modern day station wagon, with all the stylistic charms, family friendly gadgets and timeless comfort that implies (“Mommy! He hit me!”). Its dash of panache, impressive standard features, trick tailgate and under 25 large asking price make the Outlander an attractive value proposition. That is, after you buy into the need for a tall station wagon.   

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