The Mitsubishi Lancer has been around for a while now, and even though it didn’t start out being sold in the American market, it has always been the platform for Mitsubishi’s halo car; the Evolution. When I was in high school, I had a friend who owned a Mitsubishi Mirage, yeah remember those, that had a body kit to look like the Japanese only Evo. My first experience seeing a true Evo was also in high school. I knew this one was the real deal mostly because it was right-hand drive. Needless to say, even though we didn’t get the Evo in America, it was still a very popular car. So popular that Mitsubishi finally decided to bring the Lancer and the Evo to the United States in 2003. This was the eighth generation of the Evo, so you see that Mitsubishi took it’s time.
Ralliart was the high-performance and motorsports division of Mitsubishi. The Ralliart division was responsible for the company’s rally racing programs and also built high performance cars for the public market. It was Ralliart dealers across the world that started importing the Evolution into markets other than Japan. So, obviously, anything with a Ralliart badge on it is going to be great, right?
Not so fast, the first Ralliart Lancers to hit American streets were no more than a regular Lancer with some wheels and Ralliart badges. If you wanted the halo performance car, you still had to splurge for the Evo. Just like any other car, the Evo had gotten bigger, faster, more technologically advanced, and more expensive. Mitsubishi itself started seeing the gap between the Evo and the Lancer growing and needed something to fill it. In come the 2011 Ralliart.
This is no normal Lancer with some fancy wheels and badges. This is a detuned version of the Evo with a 237 hp 2.0 liter turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive. The Ralliart is a fun car that gives you some of the Evo fun for less money.
So the real question is how did it handle in our Texas torture testing?
Let’s start with the interior. The Lancer isn’t known for its great interior quality. As a matter of fact, the base Lancer’s interior is pretty poor when compared to others in its segment. This Ralliart had a nice interior. We had bolstered seats with nice quality leather, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and nice leather touch-points around the cabin. The dash and center stack were minimalist at best. No navigation system and not a ton of buttons to distract you. The most important buttons lay near the shifter. One was the traction button to let the electronics controlling the awd systems know what kind of conditions you are facing. Your options are tarmac, gravel, or snow. The other button to take note of is your shifting pattern. The Ralliart comes with a SST (Sport- or Sportronic Shift Transmission) and this button allows you to switch from normal shifts to sporty shifting. Most of the time, we would prefer a manual transmission over an automatic, but when you put this SST into Sport Mode and shift with the paddle shifters attached to the steering column, this car moves! One great aspect about the paddle shifters is that they are big and made of medal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven a sporty car with paddle shifters and wished they were as nice as these.
So knowing the most important parts of the interior have to do with traction and shifting, let’s see just how well this thing goes. As I mentioned before, this is a detuned Evo engine, but this car doesn’t like to be driven slow. It actually seems to taunt you into driving fast and aggressive. Every time you let off the gas as you’re cruising down the road, the nose seems to dip as if to give the feeling that it’s restraining all the power. As soon as you mash that gas pedal down, it seems to rear back and shoot like a rocket and finally feels as if the car is happy to be on the move. Mix in the paddle shifters and some loose gravel and this car really comes alive. Luckily we have plenty of dirt and gravel roads around Texas to really put the Ralliart in its natural environment. If you are looking for a quite, smooth ride though, this might not be the car for you.
So it’s time to run out and buy one, right? A cheaper version of the Evo that’s still fun to drive and works well when traction isn’t there, what’s not to want? Well when we say cheaper, we’re talking a little over $32k specked out as ours was. That’s not too bad when shopping for performance cars nowadays, but you also have to factor in fuel economy. The Ralliart did okay on the highway where we were able to push it up around 22mpg, but on the city streets you were lucky to keep it above 14mpg. Take in the fact that this car entices you to drive like a 12 year old playing Gran Turismo and you’re looking more at the 12mpg range. For some, the fun factor will outweigh the fuel cost. If you can justify having the space granted by the hatchback Ralliart, the traction abilities, and the fun factor over the fuel cost, then you’ll have one great ride!
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