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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Evo Light Or Lancer GTS On Steroids?

E.K.Cozzene
Jan 1, 2009 SHARE

The most important aspect to have when looking at the Lancer Ralliart is perspective. If you perceive the car as a detuned, deboosted Evo X you are setting the table for disappointment. If you look at it as a Lancer GTS with a 4B11 powertrain swap you will better appreciate the car on its own merits. When looking at it as a jigsaw puzzle, most of the pieces are GTS derived, which is how we'll approach the car. Of course, Evo X comparisons are unavoidable, especially since Mitsubishi had a fleet of GSR- and MR-spec Xs in attendance at a press introduction at Pacific Raceway in the Seattle area. It is also wise to remember the Ralliart's target is not its own brethren but the Subaru WRX, Mazdaspeed3, and VW R32. The Mitsubishi is rated at 237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, and will drop with a $26,490 pricetag.

Evo DNAMitsubishi raided the most opulentEvolution parts bins when creating the latest and first turbocharged Ralliart model. It sports an aluminum Evo X hood, and, better still, cracking the aggressively vented hood open reveals an Evo X 4B11 engine. The short-block is a straight swap right down to the internals. The head is the same but fitted with milder cams.

The Ralliart is more deboosted than detuned, relying on a TD04HL-15T-7 compared to the Evo X's TD05H-152G6-12T, which is one family bigger. The TD04 is a single scroll compared to the twin-scroll design of the Evo X system, and the TD04's footprint is considerably different, so a custom exhaust manifold will be required if you're wanting to upgrade to turbos outside of the TD04-flanged family. Ultimately, the proof is in the boost because the Ralliart runs a mild 13.3 psi, while the X uses 22.4 peak psi to generate its 291 hp.

The rest of the turbo system includes a plastic bypass valve whereas the Evo uses a metal piece and a substantially smaller front-mount intercooler. The Ralliart specs in at 460x70x170mm while the X has a 500x70x290 chiller. This could become a restriction when cranking up the boost. Eyeing some schematics, the Evo X unit should swap right in, with only some piping elongation needed. At second glance there may be some issues behind the bodywork, but let's keep the faith--it should fit.

Mitsubishi reports that both cars share the same exhaust. Not just the same diameter but the same routing pattern. We asked a number of different Mitsubishi representatives and they all stuck to the story. This means it will be a slam dunk for exhaust manufacturers because one system will cover both the Ralliart and the Evo.

Things don't look so rosy, however, for the intake guys. The Ralliart's battery is underhood instead of in the trunk like the Evo X, so the pathway the intake system takes to the turbo inlet is vastly different than its placement of the airbox and air-metering device, which are also hurdles that need to be addressed.

The Ralliart gets the Evo X MR's top-of-the-line gearbox, the Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST), allowing gear selection through paddles or the stick. This is a double-edged sword on many fronts. The TC-SST, is capable of executing lightning-quick upshifts with no drop-off in engine power, quicker than a clutch pedal manual gearbox, but three pedals have always been the trademark of true sports cars.

In the Lancer Ralliart, the TC-SST provides two operation modes, normal and sport, but not the S-Sport mode provided in the Lancer Evolution MR model for extreme performance driving. Also, Fifth- and Sixth-gear ratios are slightly higher in the Lancer Ralliart than in the Evolution MR to reduce engine speed during highway cruising and to help enhance fuel economy.

One downside to this gearbox is its close relationship to the engine ECU. The transmission has its own TCU computer controller that dictates shifting through a multitude of shift maps. Some Mitsubishi peeps said tuners can't swap to a conventional standalone engine management regime because the ECU and TCU communicate, sharing data the TCU needs to provide proper auto mode shifts. HKS is putting the finishing touches on its Evo X MR F-CON V-Pro engine management system, which should work on the Ralliart. AMS has also developed ECUTEK reflashes for the MR, so it seems this hurdle will be cleared. The aftermarket always prevails.

The Ralliart's all-wheel-drive system is based on the Mitsubishi Active Center Differential, which uses an electronically controlled multiplate clutch center differential to distribute drive torque between the front and rear wheels in response to driving conditions. This setup is basically an Evo IX drivetrain complete with helical limited-slip front and mechanical limited-slip rear differentials

GTS MutationsThe suspension is where Evo X comparisons falter the most. The Ralliart has 2 inches of less track width and gets its suspension geometry and components from the GTS--so where the Evo flexes lightweight aluminum components, the Ralliart uses stamped steel parts. The dampers, springs, and a few other pieces are tuned specifically for the Ralliart. The rear multilink setup has been reworked to accommodate all-wheel drive.

Contact patch envy is the best way to describe the Ralliart's feelings when it comes to rolling stock. Both flex 18s, but the Ralliart has wimpy 215s while the Evo throws down with 245s.

The Ralliart's brakes are neither Brembos nor GTS but come from the Outlander parts bin. This upgrades (compared to the GTS) the front calipers to two-piston units and adds bigger-than-GTS rotors all around.

The interior in the Lancer family is pretty consistent from model to model. The stock seats are quite good but fashion-conscious Lancer Ralliart buyers can opt for the Recaro Sport package that costs $2,750. The package adds Xenon HID headlamps, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate, Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription, and the same Recaro front-sport seats found on the Evo X GSR. A new 40GB HDD navigation system is also available as either a port-installed option or as a dealer accessory.

Driving ImpressionsThe press event consisted of an autocross with Ralliart, Evo X, and GTS models on hand, a street drive, and road circuit driving in Evo Xs only. The autocross was the most telling. It was pure precision, a scalpel in the hands of a gifted surgeon. Its ability to rotate aggressively right where aimed, yet quickly recover its composure, was amazing. The Ralliart just didn't have the reflex speed, but its drivetrain allowed it to hold the line with tenacity. Like the X it was forgiving and predictable at its outer limits. The GTS was an entirely different dynamic, a commuter that felt out of place among all the autocross cones.

On the street the differences between the Ralliart and Evo were apparent before we got out of the parking lot. The Ralliart is much more compliant in the ride department. The Evo is not obtrusive but you certainly feel more of the road.

The Ralliart is an enthusiastic performer, remember it has 90-more horsepower than the GTS, so in this light it's a hot-rod. Using the paddles to keep the 4B11 in its sweet spot, you can really feel the whole car come alive. Away from the cones, the Ralliart suspension is certainly sporty with good lateral grip.

Tuning PotentialThe Lancer Ralliart has loads of aftermarket potential. The 4B11 is a turbo swap away from super stardom, however, it's the suspension that really needs to play catch-up here. Can a set of coilovers, stiffer sway bars, and some fat rubber close the agility gap? At $26,490, will you spend enough in upgrades to have afforded an Evo? Better still, how does the Ralliart stack up to the new 265hp WRX that retails for under $25,000? Right now it has some catching up to do because the Subaru hits harder under full throttle and is more agile, but the Ralliart is certainly one jigsaw puzzle that's worth putting together.

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By E.K.Cozzene
7 Articles

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