Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart inspired by turbo-charged ‘Evo’

2009, Mitsubishi, Lancer Ralliart

AUBURN, Wash. -- A long chute plunges downhill for a speed trial on the closed-loop course at Pacific Raceway near Auburn, Wash.

Yet all momentum generated on the straight stretch quickly switches to a significant brake check because of the too-tight S-curve at the end of the straight as it curls down to the circuit's lowest point.

It's a tricky cataract on an otherwise tame sequence of sweeps and bends bound by swift long shots and it's further complicated by the physics of inertial mass and gravity.

However, it's not too tricky for the latest rendition of a sporty compact-class four-door sedan in the 2009 line of Mitsubishi from Japan.

Posed on a stiff platform which counterbalances the pumped-up turbo muscle with sure-stick all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction and forceful brakes, a slick new Lancer Ralliart sedan scoots through the snaky section in a flat stance with sticky Yokohama summer tires clawing the tarmac.

The track course reveals that this new Ralliart rendition of the Lancer can perform hard-wrought maneuvers like a racy performance car.

It looks downright racy, too.

On a rippled body the style seems aggressive, with wheels pinned at corners of the package to balance the stance. Body parts extend only briefly over front and back edges in the manner of racers as the prow and windshield tip rearward to suggest swift movement.

Inspiration for that angular chin, wide-mouth trapezoidal grille gape and angry-eye headlamps stem from the menacing muzzle of a shark.

But it also resembles an 'Evo' -- nickname of Mitsubishi's World Rally Championship (WRC) race cars under the badge of Evolution.

To be precise, the full name of the Evo is Lancer Evolution, as its platform begins with a Lancer.

The Lancer name traces back to 1973 on Mitsubishi compacts marketed in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Since 1974, Lancer has also been the name applied to Mitsubishi's raucous rally race car.

Tucked below the aluminum ducted hood of new Lancer Ralliart is Mitsubishi's 4B11 engine block, the same also used by Evo.

This is a high-performance 2.0-liter turbo-charged and inter-cooled in-line-four with MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control) equipment which maximizes the power boost across every nuance of the rev band.

In Lancer Ralliart the plant tunes to 235 hp at 6000 rpm with strong torque of 253 lb-ft at 3000 rpm.

It's teamed with Mitsubishi's six-speed TC-SST (Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission), which is an automated manual shifter with a console-mounted shifter stick as well as magnesium shifter paddles at your fingertips on the steering wheel's crossbar.

You can drive it like an automatic, without a thought devoted to shifting gears, or you can switch to hands-on for shifting chores to maximize driver control.

The front-wheel-drive (FWD) platform which underpins Lancer Ralliart features a long 103.7-inch wheelbase and a wide 60-inch wheel track, which enhance stability for the vehicle when it's set in motion.

Ralliart has an independent front suspension system biased toward a low longitudinal roll center for predictable stability with an anti-roll bar that's 22 mm thick.

The independent multi-link rear suspension holds back wheels in line while also damping vertical movement prompted by pavement bumps.

Further, the car exhibits awesome stick-to-the-road ability because of the all-time AWD device with a front helical limited slip differential and mechanical rear limited-slip, plus Mitsubishi's ACD (Active Center Differential), which employs an electronically controlled hydraulic multi-plate clutch to split engine torque between front and rear wheels.

A punch switch allows the driver to manually manage the torque split for performance handling.

There are three ACD modes -- Tarmac, Gravel or Snow.

Select Tarmac and you'll get more torque applied to the rear wheels for quick accelerations on dry pavement; use the Snow mode to move more torque to front wheels and get a better grip in slippery stuff, or punch up Gravel for even torque distribution front to rear when running on shifty surfaces.

Other electronic hardware for safety aboard the Ralliart ranges from Active Stability Control (ASC) with Traction Control (TCL) to a sport anti-lock brake system (S-ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

The cabin of Lancer Ralliart is an expansive space in a layout which shows two buckets up front and a back bench with room for three.

Lancer's dash is clean and uncluttered with the instrument panel tucked below a double-bubble cowl and binnacles housing the analog tachometer and speedometer.

Passengers are surrounded by air bags, including multi-stage frontal air bags and side air bags for front seats along with curtain-style air bags tucked in the ceiling for all outboard seats. There's even an inflatable air bag ahead of the driver's knees.

Front seatbelts employ load-limited and pretensioning apparatus, while backseat restraints include upper and lower anchors to mount a child's safety seat.

Lancer Ralliart lists a lot of preferred equipment.

Standards include air conditioning, power door locks, power to operate all windows, cruise control and a keyless remote entry device, auto-off headlamps with daytime running lights, a Bluetooth hands-free telephone interface, and 18-inch alloy wheels capped by 215/45R18 Yokohamas.

The optional Recaro Sport Package installs bolstered Recaro buckets up front, and a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate premium audio kit with nine speakers and a CD changer in the dash for six discs, Sirius satellite radio service and HID (high intensity discharge) headlamps.

A Navigation Package, also optional, brings a 30-GB hard disk linked to a navigation system with carpool-lane guidance and updated NAVTEQ mapping.

Mitsubishi establishes a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $26,490 for the Lancer Ralliart.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2009, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart front view
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart front view
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart interior
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart interior
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart center console
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart center console
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart rear shot
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart rear shot