Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sportback HD Video Review

To describe Mitsubishi’s Lancer line think of the classic tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  The legendary Evolution, the performance variant that’s great fun to pitch around a race track is too hot for most people.  The standard Lancer sedan that competes with Civic and Corolla is too tepid for those looking for any kind of fun.  Then there’s Ralliart.  It’s a shame to compare this car to a bowl of porridge but I’m looking for a clever way of saying this version is just right.  I’ll drop the fairy tail theme now…

12_11sportbackralliart

Evo and Lancer are the brother and sister that don’t act like they’re related.  Meet Ralliart though and you can see where the two extremes get their DNA from.    Compromise is not always good but Ralliart, which leans toward the Evolution side of the family, turns out to be a gifted athlete that doesn’t have A-Rod type baggage.

Speaking of Baggage

Ralliart is available in two versions, sedan and the Sportback that I’m driving.  I’ve sung the praises of the useful hatchback design before and Sportback has been mighty handy this week.  While the cargo space is fairly equal (both score a 5 in the TP Trunk Test), the hatchback has swallowed a bike, a very large box from IKEA and a substantial Costco run that the sedan won’t tolerate.

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart

Starting at $28,335 (before incentives), Mitsubishi packs a lot of performance into a uniquely styled package. The visual impression Ralliart makes is dominated by the jet fighter grille. Generally people seem to like it, surprising in these conservative times.  Good of Mitsubishi to try something different.   A bonus?   Lancer is a rare site and Ralliart buyers certainly won’t see their car coming and going 30 times a day.  Hood vents and a rear spoiler complete the high performance look.

Hatchbacks Are Good.  So is Power.

Ralliart rallies from 0-60 in just under 6 seconds. Darn quick. Score keeping enthusiasts know Subaru’s WRX is faster but sometimes it’s about balance.  The scoot comes from a turbocharged 2 liter 4-cylinder pumping out 237 horsepower.  Unlike the Evo (rated at 291 HP), Ralliart’s turbo design uses a single scroll.  There’s 253 lb-ft of torque at 2500 RPMs (vs. 300 for Evo).  The powerplant with just a touch of turbo lag is fun to squirt through stop and go city traffic.  Easy and satisfying.

26_11sportbackralliart

Fuel economy is EPA rated at 17 city / 25 highway on specified premium and when pushed this rig will not come close to those numbers.  That’s to be expected though and  fun hogs will be willing to pay extra for a good time.  I’m happy to run any kind of errand my lovely wife asks of me in order to zip around in this Mitsu.  The chassis dynamics make Ralliart a great tool to work a twisty road with.  The firm but not harsh suspension keeps spirits up and body roll down.  Road noise is about average.

This car just feels right when pushed hard in corners, due in part to all-wheel drive that shifts power to the axel that needs it.  Tailor its response to 3 different road surfaces (tarmac, gravel and snow).  Also adjustable is the standard 6-speed Twin Clutch SST transmission with rapid fire shifts (much like VWs DSG).  Slide it into D and it’s just like an automatic, manual gear changes can be executed on the console or wide steering wheel paddles.  Sport mode keeps the engine RPMs higher, ready for hard performance maneuvers.  It does a good job of reading an enthusiast mind, holding onto gears while accelerating through curves.  Overall Ralliart’s drivetrain isn’t quite as sophisticated as Evos but it’s all most drivers will need, or in reality use on a regular basis.

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart

Best Seat in the House

The very black cockpit is dark and spartan with no sunroof option to brighten it up.  Plastics are hard, there’s not a lot of contrasting trim here except for a sweep of tech patterned plastic that runs across the instrument panel.  The steering wheel tilts and feels very good in hand but doesn’t telescope.  Need a hug?  Optional Recaro sport seats with deep bolsters keep driver and passenger securely planted though larger drivers might find them too snug.   They are very much like the baby bear’s bed in the Goldilocks story.  Yeah, promised I wouldn’t use that angle.

Cell phones get Bluetooth handsfree, MP3 players can be hooked up via RCA jacks in the center console.  Go with the Recaros and HID headlamps and a 710 watt Rockford Fosgate sound system comes with them.  It’s display is hard to read in the sun.  Personally I’d spring the $2,750 for the package, it completes the mission of this car.  A $1,999 navigation is available if not a bit pricey.

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart

Quickly Keep the Peace

The beauty of the Ralliart is that while it’s fun to drive, you can sell it to your spouse as practical, especially the Sportback.  2 average adults will be fine in the back seat, 3 a little snug.  Foot room is decent but there is no power port to charge cell phones or iPods and the Recaro seats do not have map pockets on their backs.

The Ralliart Sportback goes up against Subaru WRX, MAZDASPEED3, Volkswagen GTI and perhaps the Honda Civic Si.  The Mitsubishi dealer network is smaller than most but Ralliart’s big performance is a reason to search for a test drive.  Remember, if for some reason you’re not crazy about hatchbacks there’s also the sedan style (and therapy).  But as the Sportback it hauls cargo as well as arse.  Versatility and velocity are a winning combination.  This Mitsubishi deserves to be more popular.

4 Comments

  1. shyman says:

    I bought a 2009 Ralliart in Ohio. I’d never seen one in California. Drove it home and have enjoyed every minute of the past two years that I have been behind the wheel. I’ve owned a lot of cars but this one is my favorite…

  2. TV says:

    Thing is, the AWD and turbo motor make this car more fun than the Focus (at least until the high performance version comes out). Also the Recaro seats feel terrific. Small pieces of the puzzle but it will lure a few buyers in.

  3. crash says:

    I just don’t understand why hatches are more popular w/ my American friends. That said – I still think I’d take a new Focus over this…the interior is much more appealing to me, the looks are fantastic and from what I’ve read (and seen here) the handling is pretty slick as well. For those wanting the omph – you gotta guess that Mullay and Co are going to bring a much more performance orientated version coming.

    Great review as always Tom!