2004 Lancer New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a broad range of compact cars. The four-door sedans are roomy and comfortable, well-equipped with sporty, supportive seats. The new Sportback wagons offer functionality and fun at affordable prices.
The best value is the Lancer ES, a very pleasant sedan with a smooth ride, good handling, and a nice interior. The Lancer O-Z Rally looks cool and adds sports appeal without blowing the budget. The Ralliart package turns the Lancer into a true sport compact car with its more powerful 2.4-liter MIVEC engine and sports suspension.
The related but deviant black sheep of the family is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, which joins the Subaru WRX in an exclusive class of street-legal cars that appeal to extreme enthusiasts.
The Lancer ES ($13,597) 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 ($14,397) is available.
The Lancer LS is a more luxurious 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. The LS ($15,997) comes standard with the automatic. The LS Preferred Package enhances safety with antilock brakes (ABS), side airbags and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The O-Z Rally ($15,797) takes its name from O-Z Racing wheels (pronounced oh-zee), an Italian company that makes top-quality wheels for Formula 1, CART, and World Rally Championship race cars. The O-Z Rally Lancer wears sporty body work inspired by the rally cars, including bumper extensions front and rear, and side skirts. 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 ($16,597) is optional. The only other option is a sunroof ($750).
The Ralliart sedan ($17,997) is powered by a 2.4-liter engine with MIVEC variable valve timing. The Ralliart comes standard with a five-speed manual with a short-throw shifter identical to the one used in the Lancer Evolution. However, it can also can be equipped with a four-speed automatic ($18,797). The Ralliart setup includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, a sport-tuned suspension with stiffer shocks to reduce body roll in corners, a more responsive steering gear, freer-flowing exhaust and 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season performance tires. The car takes its name from Mitsubishi's Ralliart rally team and features an exterior appearance package that includes front and side air dams, fog lights, a rear spoiler and Evolution GT-A bucket seats. Side airbags, sunroof, and a 315-watt Infinity CD/audio system are available as a package ($1,500).
Sportback wagons come in LS ($16,597) and Ralliart ($19,197) versions, both with the 2.4-liter engine and automatic. The Preferred Equipment Package ($990) includes roof rails, color-keyed mirrors, 15-inch wheels, cruise control, and a cargo cover.
The Lancer Evolution ($28,987) is a homologation special for the World Rally Championship. On the street, it's a serious hot rod with a 271-horsepower turbocharged engine, four-wheel drive and a sports suspension. Practically ready to race, it gets high-performance differentials and a stiffened body structure. It's fitted with a special front fascia, a big rear wing, and a rear-window wiper (useful after charging down muddy, snow-covered special stages at 100 mph). The car also gets sports seats and special interior features.