Short Take Road Test: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
By Aaron Robinson of Car and Driver
Mitsubishi knows the name Ralliart isn't spoken with much reverence among American gasoline punks. That should change. Mitsubishi has watched Subaru ring up healthy sales with the mid-grade WRX, which neatly slots between the 87-octane Impreza and the high-test STI.
Now the Lancer Ralliart is being sent in to bridge the same wide chasm separating the $18,915, 168-hp Lancer GTS from the $33,615, 291-hp Evolution GSR. This time it's not just a paint-and-trim poseur. Lancer Ralliart retail prices should start at $27,000, which buys a 237-hp turbo 2.0-liter, all-wheel drive, and a twin-clutch automated manual six-speed, the only transmission available.
It trucks to 60 mph in a spirited 5.5 seconds, quicker by 0.3 than our last WRX wagon. The Ralliart also carves a road pleasantly with well-weighted steering, stout brakes, and a paddle-shifted transmission with quick, snag-free gear changes. The Ralliart's main limitations are body roll, a trade-off for tolerable ride, and overwhelmed 215/45 Yokohama rubber mounted on 18-inch rims. They squeal early and often, and the grip too quickly melts into understeer. Note the unspectacular 0.80-g skidpad performance and 184-foot stopping distance.
Is the Ralliart a cut-price Evo? Actually, it's more of a Lancer in lipstick. Instead of forged aluminum arms, the Ralliart has an all-steel suspension, same as the Lancer's, though with Ralliart-tuned shocks. The Ralliart also lacks the bulging fenders that make the Evolution a wide-body special. There's no stiffening X-brace behind the rear seats — as there is in the Evo — so the Ralliart's rear seats split 60/40 and fold, as they do in the Lancer.
The "4B11" turbo 2.0-liter four has a smaller single-scroll turbo compared with the Evo's twin-scroll windmill, and the all-wheel-drive system is simpler. Instead of the computer controlled "Super All-Wheel Control" on the Evo, which includes the "Active Yaw Control" rear differential, the Ralliart has "All Wheel Control," a hand-me-down from the 2005-07 Evolution IX with a computer-operated center clutch pack and mechanical limited-slip differentials front and rear.
With the WRX, you get options: sedan or wagon, manual or auto. In the Ralliart, you just get one pretty good car.