2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

David Gluckman

As the rally-bred Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution continues to evolve, with escalating levels of power and technology (not to mention base price), it leaves its economy-car origins in the dirt. As the Evo moved up in performance and price, it created a hole in the Lancer lineup, one filled nicely by Subaru's Impreza WRX. In the interest of gaining back lost ground, Mitsubishi recently introduced the Lancer Ralliart, a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sedan that bridges the gap between the Lancer GTS and Evolution X models.

That gap is rather large both in terms of performance and price. Consider that two-wheel-drive Lancers start at $14,665 for a DE model, with the sportier GTS topping the lower portion of the range at a base price of $18,915. With high-performance Evolution starting at $33,665 for a manual-equipped GSR (a fully optioned MR model costs nearly 50 grand!), it's easy to see why Mitsubishi chose to inject some affordable performance into the middle of the Lancer range.

How'd they do it? With some careful corporate parts-bin shopping. The Ralliart takes only what it needs from its fellow Lancers.

Looks Like an Evo on the Outside

Style-wise, the Ralliart does a decent job of aping big brother Evolution. The hood is lifted directly from that car, while the front end gets an Evo-inspired fascia with the familiar gaping trapezoidal grille opening. There's another unique fascia in the rear, and the taillights get black bezels for a more sporty look.

Looks Like an Evo on the Inside

Sitting in the Ralliart, you'd be hard pressed to tell it apart from an Evolution. The small-diameter steering wheel with paddle shifters is right out of the Evo MR, as is the console-mounted shift lever. The optional Recaro Sport Package includes a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate stereo with Sirius satellite radio, HID headlamps, and, of course, supportive Recaro front bucket seats. The available navigation system is billed as the only one in the U.S. with carpool-lane guidance, though we were unable to test this feature in suburban Detroit.

A note about the Recaro seats: while they're very comfortable and effectively keep drivers and front passengers in place, they lack height adjustment, making it difficult for many people - short and tall - to find an appropriate driving position. We've heard the same complaint around the office about our new Four Seasons Evolution MR. Mitsubishi says it might add vertical adjustments to the seats.

There's one key practical advantage that is derived from the Ralliart's GTS roots: cargo room. Whereas the Evo X cars have their battery and windshield washer fluid bottle in the trunk up against the seatback, the Ralliart has those items in more conventional underhood locations. This means increased trunk room and the ability to fold down the seats.

It Even Has an Evo Engine

Continuing the parts-bin plundering, Mitsubishi gave the Ralliart the 4B11 engine block from an Evo X, but with different intake plumbing, turbocharger (single-scroll as opposed to the Evo's twin-scroll unit), and intercooler. This is nothing an afternoon's worth of work and some Evo parts from eBay can't fix, right? Not so fast; Mitsubishi points out that the engine and transmission computers, as well as differing underhood packaging, will make the job of Evo-izing a Ralliart very difficult. But the laptop-toting tuner crowd will no doubt attempt it anyway.

The resulting not-quite-Evo four-cylinder engine displaces a familiar 2.0 liters and puts out a respectable 237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, exhaling through a dual-exhaust setup that's nearly identical to the Evo's. Peak power arrives at 6000 rpm and max torque is available from 3000 rpm - both peaks occur at lower engine speeds than in the Evolution engine. The Ralliart is not as high revving, with a 6500-rpm redline versus the Evo's at 7000 rpm.

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