The Truth About Cars » Lancer The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:48:48 +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 » Lancer 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: 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: 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

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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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