2003 Lancer New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a strong compact sedan that offers a good value. But the big news for 2003 is the Evolution, a four-wheel-drive turbocharged homologation special. It's even faster than it sounds.
The Lancer was introduced to North America as an all-new car for 2002. The Lancer replaces the old Mirage, but it's bigger and more powerful. Lancer comes with a substantial unibody structure and sophisticated mechanical gear. Lancer features a comfortable, well-equipped cabin, even on the base ES model.
For 2003, North America gets the high-performance Lancer Evolution, based on the car Mitsubishi used to rack up victories in World Rally Championship events. Evolution boasts a 271-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive.
Mitsubishi casts Lancer in four editions: ES, LS, OZ Rally, and Evolution.
All draw from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. In the ES, LS and OZ Rally, that engine produces 120 horsepower and drives the vehicle's front wheels.
In the Evolution, Mitsubishi uses turbocharging to boost the engine's output to 271 horsepower, which is distributed through a four-wheel-drive setup.
ES ($14,017) is the most popular model due to its competitive pricing and generous amount of standard equipment. It comes with air conditioning, a tachometer in the instrument cluster, an in-dash CD player, and power windows, mirrors and door locks. ES comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, but a four-speed automatic is available ($14,817).
LS ($16,047) is a luxury model that adds cruise control, a remote keyless entry system, a 60/40 split rear seatback, a fold-out armrest with cupholders, carpeted mats on the floor, more speakers for the audio system, and variable intermittent windshield wipers. Exterior enhancements to the LS include body-colored door handles and mirrors, and larger, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 195/60R15 tires. LS comes standard with the automatic.
O-Z Rally ($15,747) takes its name from OZ Racing wheels (pronounced oh-zee), an Italian company that makes top-quality competition wheels for Formula 1, CART, and World Rally Championship race cars. Lancer OZ Rally wears sporty body work inspired by the rally cars, including bumper extensions front and rear, and side skirts. It comes only with a five-speed manual gearbox. White-faced gauges and a cockpit trimmed in black with plastic panels that resemble brushed aluminum give the interior a racy look. A five-speed manual is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional ($16,547).
Options include the ES Convenience Package ($520), which makes some of the LS features available to the ES, such as remote keyless entry, the split/folding rear seatback with armrest, floor mats, and color-keyed door handles. The LS Preferred Equipment Package ($800) adds ABS and dual side-impact airbags, and we highly recommend these safety features. A power glass sunroof ($750) is available.
Lancer Evolution ($28,987) is a car that has gone through extensive evolution from top to bottom. Changes from the basic Lancer include engine, differentials, suspension, wheels and tires. The body structure has been stiffened. The body gets a special wing, fascia, and even a rear-window wiper (useful for those 70-mph creek crossings). The car also gets special seats and other interior features. Mitsubishi's first Evo model was produced in Japan in 1992. The U.S.-market Evolution is essentially an Evo VIII.