It was hard to tell myself that Mitsubishi's new Lancer Ralliart isn't a junior version of the Evo MR or even "almost an Evo X"-after all, it looks like it could pass for either one, especially if you stare at it head on. Frankly, it's not as fast, but also not far off the mark, and you'd be surprised by how aggressive it actually is. One could easily mistake Ralliart for being a detuned version of the two, given the "automatic" manual transmission configuration that is also found on the MR (it's not the same exact transmission, but the way it operates is similar) and its engine, the same B411 that comes in the Evo X, although it is tuned for more low-end and mid-range torque. One other obvious clue: you get the primo Ralliart badge on the rear end.
However, the Ralliart's B411's similarities to the Evo X end there. It relies on a smaller, single-scroll TD04HL turbo and an intercooler that differs so much in design, it would be cost-prohibitive, not to mention extremely inefficient, to swap the parts from a X over to create a poorman's GSR; in which case, Mitsubishi actually insists that you buy the Evo X instead. But given its differences, the Ralliart engine is impressive considering it's the next step up from the base-level Lancer GTS. You get 237 hp and 253 lb-ft-so in actuality, this is a spec'd up GTS, not a detuned GSR.
Ralliart's drivetrain, like the Evo MR, is ultimately very trick and uses a Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST) to make driving as easy as any other automatic, except that this really is a full-on manual gearbox, even though the computer's smart enough to do the shifting for you. But say you like to do it yourself-use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel to work the magic through your fingertips. TC-SST gives you two modes of driving fun: Normal and Sport, our favorite and the more aggressive driving mode of the two, which shifts at higher rpm and downshifts while matching revs, if you're in automatic mode. Ralliart lacks the S-Sport mode the MR comes equipped with, but then again, Ralliart doesn't come close to the power output of the MR either. But all's not lost: you do get higher fifth- and sixth-gear ratios than MR does and it will give you better fuel economy and reduced highway-driving engine speed. Another stellar feature is the Active Center Differential AWD, which is based off the Evo IX and uses the All-Wheel Control (AWC) computer to distribute drive torque between the front and rear wheels based upon driving conditions through a series of engine/wheel speed sensors and steering angle sensor data.
While it's clear that all of the Lancer siblings share a distinct look, Ralliart gets a few goodies that the others don't, like its own unique front grille and bumper, rear bumper and blacked-out taillight housings. The aluminum hood is vented and has a functional intake for the turbo. It gets a trunk-mounted wing that unfortunately blocks some of your rear view, just like the MR, but so goes the price you pay for functioning aero.
It's impressive inside as well, with the standard audio/cruise control switches on the steering wheel, Ralliart gauges, Bluetooth (r) connectivity and a 140-Watt CD/MP3 audio system. Go large with the Recaro Sport Package and you get the Recaro buckets and 650-Watt Rockford Fosgate Premium sound system with PUNCH control, a 10" sub, a six-disc in-dash CD changer and SIRIUS (r) satellite radio. There's also an optional 40g 7.5" LCD navi that can handle all of your digital music needs and can also give real-time traffic information through Mitsubishi's Diamond Lane Guidance system.
So, can Ralliart step up to the performance challenge its older brothers are currently facing? The signs are good, says Mitsubishi execs, if the transmission can handle the power, which is currently being figured on the Ralliart and MR because of the specific drivetrain each relies on. But if AMS' experiment on the MR we tested last month is any indication (see "Car Jacked" in the August issue), Ralliart has a fighting chance of making enough power to beat the Evo X for less money. And we can't imagine why it wouldn't. It's about time Mitsubishi finally develops a Lancer that doesn't suck.
That New Car Smell
'09 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
The Sticker Tbd
Under The Hood 2.0L DOHC MIVEC turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder 4B11
The Power 237 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 253 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Scale Tipping 3,462 lb.
Layout Front engine, AWD
Gearbox Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST) with Normal and Sport modes and magnesium steering column mounted paddle shifters
Stiff Stuff MacPherson strut Ralliart-tuned front suspension with strut tower brace, higher spring and damper rates and thicker front stabilizer bar; Multi-link, Ralliart-tuned rear suspension with specific cast trailing arms
Rollers 18x7.5 10-spoke alloy wheels; 215/45R18 Yokohama ADVAN summer tires
Stoppers Ventilated front disc with 2-piston calipers and 11.6" rotors; Solid rear disc with larger-diameter single-piston calipers and 11.9" rotors
At The Pump 25 mpg (highway), 17 mpg (city)
The Pack Subaru WRX, VW R32, Mazda Speed3
Deep Thoughts Mitsubishi's on a great roll here-first with the Evo X, Evo MR and now a Lancer that finally makes sense. We're predicting this could be the next big tuner car for all that you get and what's projected to be a smoking deal (think sub-$30K for sure).
Get In Where You Fit In
Mitsubishi ranks the Lancer Ralliart just after the GTS and a step below the Evo X, which makes it a fine balance of economy and performance. If you can't be bothered with the price tag of a Evo X or MR, the Ralliart is the perfect alternative.