A Junior Version of the Evo
I’ll never forget the last Lancer Ralliart that I drove—it got me a speeding ticket. Of course, I can’t really blame the Ralliart, but it did bring out the boy-racer in me. The latest Ralliart will do the same, and I have to admit to some difficulty curbing my enthusiasm while driving it.
The easiest way to describe the Ralliart is that it’s like a detuned and more civilized version of the Lancer Evolution. The Ralliart uses the same 2.0 liter turbocharged engine as the Evolution, only it pumps out 237 hp, rather than 300. Like the Evo, it is also equipped with all-wheel drive, but comes with a different transmission—a twin-clutch automated-manual.
I can’t warm up to the current Ralliart’s body styling. Its nose appears to have been sheared off with a chain saw. However, that does create the desired street-fighter look. The interior, in my view, is better executed. The gauges and controls are well laid out, and there are nice touches, like carbon-fiber-like trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with satellite controls.
The Ralliart is offered as a sedan and a five-door hatchback, which Mitsubishi calls the Sportback. The hatchback configuration makes the Ralliart more versatile by increasing storage space. With the rear seats folded down, it can hold up to 57.6 cu.-ft. of cargo. That translates into a lot of vacation gear.
The Ralliart is roomy enough for four adults. My test car came equipped with the optional Recaro sport seats up front. These turned out to be a mixed blessing. They hold you in place well during vigorous driving, but they will feel very confining to some people. Additionally, they lack the height adjust feature that comes with the standard sport seat.
However, the driving experience is what the Ralliart is all about, and this car doesn’t disappoint. The turbo engine, while not as potent as the Evo’s, has a lot of punch. It should still race you up to 60 in about six and a half seconds. But the twin-clutch automated manual gearbox is the star of the power train. It offers “Normal” and “Sport” modes. Driver’s can let it shift by itself, or they can change gears manually, via paddle shifters. The shifts are lightening quick, and the system even blips the accelerator on downshifts.
The Ralliart’s handling nicely complements the power train. The steering is quick and precise. The sport suspension gives the Ralliart a feeling of nimbleness, and the all-wheel-drive system insures that power goes to the wheels with the most grip. When you get behind the wheel of a Ralliart, you quickly realize that this car is made for twisty back roads. Yet, the ride is not punishing, in fact, it is much more compliant than that of the Evolution.
Pricing for the Lancer Sportback Ralliart starts at $28,310. My test car, equipped with the optional navigation system and the Recaro seat package, which included a Rockford-Fosgate sound system and Sirius satellite radio, had a bottom line of $33,059.
Added Cargo space