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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

by Ali Arsham
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

If you are a performance car enthusiast, you have probably heard of the Lancer Evolution and know that it is one of the hottest affordable performance cars on the market.  When introduced in 2003 to the US market, the Lancer Evo was a huge hit but there was a big gap between the performance of the Evo with 271hp and the other performance Lancers with only 120hp.  A mid level car was needed and the new Ralliart is just that.  But as it turns out, the new Ralliart could be an even better performance bargain than the Evo.

What makes the Evo such a hot car is the turbocharged engine and the fantastic all wheel drive system.  The great thing about the Ralliart is that you still get both the turbocharged engine and the all wheel drive in the Ralliart.  The Ralliart gets the same turbocharged engine as its big brother but comes with a smaller turbocharger and intercooler that produces less ultimate power at 237 hp compared with the Evo’s 291 hp.  The upside of the smaller turbo is that there is less turbo lag and better throttle response compared to the Evo. Add in the fact that the Ralliart is lighter than the Evo and the performance gap shrinks.

The Evo gets a wide body chassis with forged aluminum components that the Ralliart does not get but you would not notice those unless you are racing against the clock.  The lack of the fender bulges on the Evo is actually a bonus on the street as this car is a total sleeper.  Everyone knows the Evo and unfortunately that list includes those driving black and white Crown Victorias.  The Ralliart looks like a plain Lancer that looks very innocent and can be a great secret weapon.

The only transmission available on the Ralliart is the trick Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (SST).  Unfortunately, there is no clutch pedal but as semi-automatic transmissions go, this is one of the best.  It absolutely listens to the driver and performs like a real racing manual transmission.  Manual shifts are quick but the Sport mode works so well that you don’t even need to bother with the manual mode most of the time.

The best part about the Ralliart is the tremendous usable power that the AWD affords.  You can floor the gas and just hang on and you don’t have to worry about the tires breaking traction.  The Ralliart's All-Wheel Control (AWC) system is based on a competition-derived, computer-controlled Active Center Differential (ACD) unit that distributes drive torque between the front and rear wheels in response to driving conditions. The driver can set system response parameters using a "Tarmac, Gravel, Snow" selector. A helical limited-slip front differential and a mechanical limited-slip rear differential help optimize side-to-side torque distribution.

The turbo and 237hp
The tach gets to the 6,500 rpm redline so quickly that you have to be ready to shift.  This is where the SST really helps with super quick shifts and close ratios that can keep you in the powerband.  Those close ratios keep you busy shifting when you are going fast but if you are just cruising around town, you can just leave it in automatic.  If you floor the gas from a standing start, you will notice that the transmission has a delay that feels like a high stall torque converter.  The way to combat this is to do a power brake by raising the rpm and building boost prior to launch.  Once boost is built up, drop the brake and floor the gas.  With the SST in Sport mode, the Mitsubishi just clicks of quick shifts at redline and you can feel the blood rushing to the back of your head.

The Ralliart is no slouch when it comes to the twisties either with tremendous grip being provided by the 215/45-18 Yokohama performance tires.  The standard Active Stability Control (ASC) kicks in abruptly if you work the car hard so if you like to slide the car, make sure you have the switch turned to the off position.

The drivers view
Mitsubishi has done an excellent job at making a serious sports sedan.  The Ralliart comes with some expensive standard features such as aluminum hood, automatic climate control, keyless start, 140-watt stereo, Bluetooth hands free cellular phone interface (which, by the way, is a pain to set up since you have to use the voice recognition to get to the menu) and some others.  However, there are areas where the Ralliart looks cheap and it is centered mostly around the interior.  But that’s fine because the rest of the car is fantastic and this is a serious machine.  Just keep telling yourself how much money you are saving. 

Speaking of price this is where things really look up.  The base price of the Ralliart is $26,690.  There are only two options, navigation system or Recaro Sport package.  The navigation package will cost you $2000 and the Recaro package will set you back $2750 for the Evo’s Recaro seats, HID lights and a 650 watt sound system.  The Ralliart is a huge bargain for just over $26,000.  Stay away from the options and get yourself a serious sports sedan that can do six second 0-60 runs for the price of most economy cars.

It is not very hard to make a great performance car.  There are many companies out there doing it.  It is much harder to make a great performance car for very little money.  The list gets really short.  And factor in the fact that the Ralliart has a usable trunk, seats five and you can use it as an everyday car that is as reliable as your neighbor’s econobox and you have a great achievement by Mitsubishi.

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