The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is surprisingly compelling, recession priced

You could be forgiven for thinking that Mitsubishi’s enthusiast offerings begin and end with the Lancer Evolution. I certainly did. But that preconception, like most, turns out to have been overly simplistic. First of all, the Evolution itself is really two models: the Evo GSR (with a 5-speed manual) and the Evo MR (with a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual). OK, that I knew. But the car that had yet to penetrate my consciousness was the Lancer Ralliart.

The Ralliart name I vaguely remembered as a lame-o wannabe sport trim level on Lancers of yore. But it returned earlier this year as the junior varsity player on the Mitsubishi squad, not quite the all-star Evo but a far from the bench-warming Lancer GTS. It’s essentially the same position that the WRX plays for Subaru.

“I’m digging this Ralliart,” said Jamie Kitman, when I called him to arrange pick up of the car. The next day, when I hopped into the sharply drawn, metallic copper compact, I immediately began to see why. Here were the same aggressive Recaro as in the Evo; the same fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel; the same Rockford Fosgate sound system; the same paddle-shifted 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (as the Evo MR), with normal and sport (but not super sport) shift modes; the same all-wheel-drive system, with a button to select gravel, snow, or tarmac modes.

It turns out that the Recaros and the high-end audio are optional, bundled with navigation into a package that adds $2750 to the price. That pushed the test car’s bottom line to just over $30,000. The base price (with destination) is a more palatable $27,385, which is a significant $5300 less than you’d pay for a stick-shift Evo and a hefty $11,600 less than an Evo with the dual-clutch gearbox. If Mitsubishi would offer a manual transmission in the Ralliart, a move that would almost certain be greeted enthusiastically by the car’s intended audience, it might bring the price down by another $1000 or so, which would align it much closer to the Subaru Impreza WRX. So far, though, the Lancer Ralliart is dual-clutch only.

You could see the Ralliart as a not-quite Evo for the thin-wallet crowd, but it’s actually a bit more of its own car. Yes, it’s powered by a detuned version of the Evo’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four, with 237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque (to the Evo’s 291 hp and 300 lb-ft), but you don’t have to rev the engine quite to hard to access its peak output—and while the Ralliart isn’t explosive like the Evo, it’s still satisfyingly quick. The Ralliart’s slower steering isn’t nearly as nervous as the Evo’s nor is the ride anywhere near as brutal. All of which makes the Ralliart a less intense and frankly more livable daily driver, while the standard all-wheel-drive, eighteen-inch wheels, and Yokohama ADVAN summer tires impart a seriousness of purpose. The Ralliart is not an Evo, but it’s not half bad.

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