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Ian Barrett with the 
Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

ROAD TEST:   Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

by Ian Barrett

4th June, 2009

Home > Road Tests > Mitsubishi

In the world of affordable high performance motoring, there is arguably no greater sporting icon than Mitsubishi's venerable "Lancer Evolution" series. The "Evo" as it's affectionately referred to, has consistently set the benchmark for uncompromising brute performance combined with outstanding braking, handling and safety, all the while packaged in a 4-door sedan which can theoretically be utilised for everyday family transport.

In fact, the evolution of this model series, now in its 10th version, perfectly illustrates the principles of intelligent design, with Mitsubishi's engineering team constantly incorporating new technological advances and incremental improvements to stay ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, ongoing research and development comes at a cost, and one thing that's also advanced in real terms has been the price tag for the "Evo" - now a hefty $72,190 excluding dealer delivery fees and the various statutory charges.

In order to maintain a competitive advantage against key rivals, Mitsubishi have released the Lancer Ralliart, for all practical purposes a detuned Evo. Next Car recently spent a delightful week behind the wheel of a "Lightning Blue" sedan (unlike the Evolution, the Ralliart is also available as a 5-door hatch), in which we clocked up 1,050 km of city and highway driving, including a weekend trip to Bathurst (NSW).

With almost all of the Evo styling cues, including the vented and scooped aluminium bonnet, this car certainly has the right look. Missing are the forged aluminium BBS wheels, and red painted Brembo brake callipers, along with sundry other smaller detail changes, which few but hardened enthusiasts will notice. Despite these omissions, it's a style leader whose aggressive 'shark nose' front end, and double-deck rear spoiler shout performance!

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart (copyright image)

The basic mechanical configuration is essentially the same, with the all-alloy 2.0 litre DOHC MIVEC engine, hooked up to the Evo's all-wheel-drive system. Gone is the twin-scroll turbocharger, replaced by a single-scroll device. This still allows for a very robust 177 kW @ 6,000 rpm, and some 343 Nm of torque @ 4,750 rpm. By comparison, the Evo can muster 217 kW and 366 Nm, albeit at higher revs.

All this is hooked up to Mitsubishi's brilliant new dual-clutch DC-SST 6-speed transmission, which in this model is standard fare. Left in 'Drive' the Lancer Ralliart is perfectly at home anywhere from the drag-strip to the most painful city crawl. In all situations, driveability is excellent, with the engine flexible enough to cruise in 6th as low as 60 km/h on a light throttle. However, many drivers will be keen to utilise 'Manual' mode via the wheel-mounted paddles, to make the most of the lightning-fast gear changes possible with these transmissions.

So to what extent is performance compromised? Well, the Ralliart can still manage the 0-100 km/h sprint in a scant 6.3 seconds, about a second slower than its racier stable mate. And we do feel that the reputed 240 km/h top speed should also be more than adequate in most situations! And if anyone cares, fuel economy is excellent for such performance potential. Mitsubishi claims a combined 10.0 L/100 km on PULP fuel. Driven normally, we managed low 8's on highway cruising, and a creditable 9.0 L/100 km on our round trip from Sydney to Bathurst - via Mount Panorama naturally!

And that's just in a straight line! Grip, handling and braking are absolutely first class, as we expected, despite the absence of the Bilstein adjustable shocks, bigger Brembo brakes, additional electronic trickery (such as active yaw control), and even stickier rubber which put the Evo still a notch or two ahead. The Ralliart incorporates the Evolution's tried and tested all-wheel-drive system, which utilises a computer-controlled Active Centre Differential to distribute torque between front and rear to suit every situation. The driver is offered the choice of three modes - tarmac, gravel and snow - via a console switch, to suit almost every condition.

Safety is a big ticket item with all high performance vehicles. As with most such cars, a Ralliart in the hands of a competent driver is actually one of the safest vehicles on our roads. Apart from the primary safety features already mentioned, there is a full complement of secondaries including full side and curtain airbags and ESP, to preserve driver and passengers in case the unthinkable does happen. There's even a warning chime when reverse is engaged - perhaps just as well, because that spoiler greatly restricts rear vision. We do feel that rear parking sensors would be a wiser inclusion in this case.

Step inside, and occupants are well catered for with plenty of room in a well laid out cabin, tailored in all-black monochrome with nice carbon-fibre highlights. All the creature comforts are there including 6-CD audio system, climate control, wheel mounted cruise and audio controls, and plenty of storage space. Available options include a Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, electric sunroof, and integrated satellite navigation. Missing altogether at this price point are the Evo's Recaros, but the Ralliart sports seats offer plenty of adjustment and support for driver and front passenger.

Rear seats include a centre armrest with cup holders, and are well-shaped for two, although passengers did find them a little firm over longer distances, compounded by the sporty ride. Rear seats fold down in the usual 60/40 split configuration, increasing versatility. Under the boot floor hides the well-nigh ubiquitous space-saver - so beware! On the whole, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is reasonably practical transport for the family man (or woman) who appreciates the finer things in motoring, and likes to enjoy not just the final destination, but the journey itself. Isn't that what life's about?

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart can be yours for a surprising low $42,990 excluding dealer delivery fees and the various statutory charges. In our ever-changing automotive environment, the Lancer Ralliart will be a natural selection for many buyers looking for a bargain-basement performance package which can double as family transport.


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