June 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 13 December 2012 11:45
The Lancer nameplate dates back to the 1950s and ’60s, when it graced Dodge sedans and compact cars. These were mainly mild-mannered, midpriced family cars, many of them powered by Chrysler Corp.’s legendary Slant Six engine. Under Mitsubishi, the Lancer label has come to mean something different — youth, excitement, speed. The Lancer Evolution, affectionately known as the Evo, compares favorably with Subaru’s Impreza STi among pocket rockets.
Adding its own unique flavor to the Lancer line is the Ralliart, a fast, high-tech, well-appointed version of this compact four-door sedan. Also available as a hatchback, it’s powered by a 237-horsepower turbocharged Four, via a double-clutch automated manual transmission. The all-wheel-drive Ralliart handles crisply yet rides comfortably. Its body panels look as if they were sculpted with a sharp razor. The Ralliart deserves every admiring glance it gets.
Some of the interior materials have an inexpensive feel about them, and that poses a problem for this model, which competes with European and premium Japanese sport sedans that surround drivers and passengers with higher-quality plastics and fabrics. Lancers also can get pricey at the high end. Our test car, a Wicked White 2013 Lancer Ralliart, had a sticker price of $34,240. That’s just $2,000 short of the base price of a BMW 3 Series, and more than double the price of a base Lancer. The latter gets the job done just as well as the Ralliart if basic transportation is your thing — a British reliability survey recently found the Lancer is the most reliable car in the world, going back 15 years — but it lacks the Ralliart’s style, performance and panache.
Of course, the high price reflects a commensurate level of equipment. The Ralliart, which starts at $28,095, comes with the aforementioned turbocharged engine and twin-clutch transmission, plus paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, automatic climate control, Sirius satellite radio, Fuse hands-free link system with USB port, aluminum hood with heat extractor vent, and rear spoiler. The $3,350 Ralliart touring package on our test car added leather upholstery, audio upgrade, power glass sunroof, rear camera system and other features. The navigation system, for $2,000, also included a rear camera upgrade.
As we’ve noticed in other models with dual-clutch automanuals, the Ralliart favors the aggressive driver. Those who wield a light foot make the car buck and bog down, while emphatic application of the accelerator — combined with liberal use of the paddles — makes for an invigorating driving experience. Despite adjusting our driving habits to the Ralliart’s clear preferences, we got 25 to 27 mpg in mostly highway driving.
The Ralliart and other Lancers have earned high marks for safety, with a four-star (out of five) overall score in government crash tests. The base Lancer won Top Safety Pick status with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the designation does not apply to the Ralliart and Evo because of their “Acceptable” (as opposed to “Good”) roof-strength evaluation results.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 237 horsepower, 253 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed twin-clutch automated manual
Weight: 3,461 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18x7.5-inch alloy
Tires: 215/45R18 89W performance
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 10 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium
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