New car reviews

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer R

Ralliart can get rowdy

Rob Douthit, Tue, 20 Jan 2009 08:00:00 PDT

A sporty, four-door sedan that offers great driving performance and aggressive styling.Must be a European brand, or maybe an offering from one of the leading Asian automakers, right?Not necessarily.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, new for 2009, is derived from the Lancer GTS, a model that has had somewhat of a cult following among tuner and performance enthusiasts.Mitsubishi is an Asian brand that has had its struggles over the past several years, but still has managed to hang in there, probably thanks to its ability to make products such as this one.Several months ago, we drove the Lancer Evolution (nicknamed Evo), and noted how it made such a big impression on guys in the 18-24 age bracket who loved its styling and were also familiar with its performance chops.

The Ralliart has much of the same driving ability, thanks to taking its powertrain and all-wheel-drive technology from the Evo.But it seems to be just a tad more mature.If the Evo is the unruly college frat boy, the Ralliart is the graduate who is married, or at least engaged, but still likes to hang out with the fellas every so often.For instance, even though the Ralliart's interior is similar to the Lancer GTS and Evo, we found the Ralliart's cabin to somehow be a bit more comfortable.

The front bucket sport seats feel pretty good, even if not quite like your favorite recliner.And the back seat is adequately roomy, considering this is not a large sedan.The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel comes with audio and cruise control switches.But it's performance that sets the Ralliart apart from so many other sedans.

Its engine is derived from the Evo's turbocharged 2.0-liter four banger and is linked to a Twin Clutch-Sportronic Shift Transmission, which is a six-speed automatic.There are paddle shifters if you want to manually control the tranny, as well as a console shifter that also lets you do it yourself.You can choose normal or sport shifting modes.That engine proves to be quite capable, kicking out 237 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque.Gas mileage is listed at 17 mpg city, 25 highway.

The all-wheel-drive system enhances the vehicle's handling using an active center differential unit that can respond to driving conditions.You can pick tarmac, gravel or snow mode, depending on which type of terrain you are riding.Mitsubishi says the Ralliart's chassis is engineered for performance, and you'll probably agree once you experience how effectively the suspension helps latch onto the road.

Handling also is aided by the active stability control and traction control, which is standard.Mitsubishi included a generous amount of standard safety features, including front seat-mounted side-impact air bags, advanced dual front air bag supplemental restraint system with occupant sensors, a driver's knee air bag and side curtain air bags.

For gadget fans, there's a Bluetooth system with voice recognition and an auxiliary MP3 input jack.Our tester had Sirius Satellite Radio.If you're going to drive a car that boasts this kind of performance, it has to look the part, and the Ralliart does.Start with the duct and vents on the hood, move down to the racing-inspired grille and cruise the sculpted body back to the rear spoiler, and this machine exudes sportiness.So what's not to like?

The materials, especially on the interior, aren't of poor quality by any account, but don't seem to be quite up to the price point the Ralliart occupies.The tester had a sticker price of $27,165.That's not bad considering the overall package, but Mitsubishi could make a stronger competitive value case by trimming a bit off of that figure.But for youthful fun with a dose of maturity, the Lancer Ralliart is a fine choice.



2009 Mitsubishi Lancer R front view

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer R interior shot

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer R center console

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer R rear shot

scroll up