2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart / Lancer Sportback Ralliart - Sneak Preview 2008

Here's one hot car you won't have to wait long for - the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart should hit dealerships by the end of this summer. The hatchback version known as the Sportback (pictured) will arrive next year. In either form, the Ralliart will be the first Mitsubishi to directly compete with Subaru's legendary Impreza WRX.

The Ralliart's four-wheel-drive system is last-generation Evo goods, but its engine comes from the current Evo. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes less power here (237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque) due to milder cams and a single-scroll turbo, but the rest of its internals are identical to those of the Evo. Happily, this means that upgrades likely will be readily available from aftermarket tuners. Pricing should be in the mid-$20,000 range.

Although both Ralliart models will debut with a version of Mitsubishi's paddleshifted dual-clutch transmission - the same basic gearbox found in the Evo MR - we're keeping our fingers crossed for a proper five-speed manual. With three pedals, the last Evo's all-wheel-drive system, and the current Lancer's fantastic looks, the Ralliart would blow the WRX into the weeds.

SAME GREAT TASTE, NOW LESS COSTLY: The Ralliart offers 90 percent of the Evo's fun factor at roughly three-quarters the price. That adds up to a winner in our book.

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