Test Drive: 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

One automotive marketing technique is to develop a halo car that will produce a great deal of brand excitement and interest, generally because of its high performance.  Sometimes it is done by racing and other times simply because the car is fast, expensive and it gets a lot of coverage by the automotive press.  The halo effect then has people being drawn to the brand because of that special car, but buying something more affordable or practical.  Examples of halo cars are the Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Cadillac CTS-V and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

The superfast Mitsubishi Evolution (EVO) and Subaru WRX STI are both halo cars developed from the rally racecars.  Boasting highly modified four-cylinder engines producing around 300 hp each, and sophisticated all-wheel drive systems these street legal racers are outfitted from the factory with powerful brakes, lightweight suspension components, racing seats and other racing accoutrements.  In stock form, these cars accelerate from 0 to 60 in about 5 seconds, have top speed of 150 mph and range in price from $36,000 to $42,000.  Because this market has a strong appeal to younger buyers, who generally have lower income levels, many potential buyers end up buying something with a lower performance factor and price.

Mitsubishi has developed a junior version of the EVO with many of same performance elements but with a little less power.  The Lancer Ralliart is powered by a 253-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (that is 16 hp more than the 2009 version).  It is also equipped with a similar version of the six-speed twin clutch transmission and all-wheel drive system as the EVO.  The EPA rates the fuel economy at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, my actual average was 19.5 mpg.

The Twin Clutch Sportmatic Shift Transmission (TC-SST) transmission can be switched from a normal mode to sport mode with a more aggressive shift program.  In either setting, the upshifts and downshifts are quicker and more forceful than possible with a manual transmission.

The Ralliart’s All-Wheel Control (AWC) system is the same one used in the previous-generation EVO.  The driver sets traction parameters switching from a “Tarmac, Gravel, or Snow” selector and the highly sophisticated system adjusts to provide the best traction based on the setting and actual conditions.

The Ralliart trim level is available as a sedan or the Sportback, which is a new five-door hatchback.  What the Ralliart provides is outstanding handling and acceleration.  Zero to 60 takes only 5.5 seconds.  The ride is rough, but not as harsh as the EVO.

The new Sportback trim is also available as a GTS, with a 168-hp non-turbo engine.  The sedan is available in seven trim levels including DE, ES, GTS, Ralliart, Evolution GSR, Evolution MR and Evolution MR Touring, with horsepower ranging from 152 up to 291, and prices from $19,910 to $41,710.

The Ralliart Sportback I drove had a base price of $28,310 including the destination charge.  The Recaro® Sport Package ($2,750) added Recaro front seats, HID headlights, 710-Watt Rockford-Fosgate audio, Sirius radio and 6 disc CD changer.

The Mitsubishi Sportback Ralliart is a good practical performance car that that provides most of the rally car sensation with some degree of comfort and easier price.  For a driver looking for a good go-fast street car, it’s a great choice.

[Rating: 8.5/10]

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