2006 Lancer New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Lancer represents a broad range of compact four-door sedans, starting with the affordable Lancer ES and progressing to something just short of a full-blown rally car, with models in between that are both affordable and sporty at the same time.
All Lancers are roomy, four-door sedans with seats that are comfortable and sporty.
The best value, most sensible and most popular model is the Lancer ES, a pleasant sedan with a smooth ride, good handling, and a comfortable, nicely trimmed interior. The Lancer O-Z Rally adds sports appeal to this basic package while still remaining sensible. The Ralliart package turns the Lancer into a true sport compact with its more powerful 2.4-liter MIVEC engine and sports suspension. It's a lot of fun to drive.
The Lancer Evolution is another animal, a four-wheel-drive turbocharged homologation special based on Mitsubishi's successful World Rally Championship cars. It's one of the hottest cars on the street, particularly on bumpy surfaces or anything that offers less than ideal traction. New for 2005 is an Evo MR named after the home-market club racing sedan Mitsubishi introduced in 1970.
The Lancer ES ($14,299) 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 ($15,199) is available. An option package ($800) adds a remote keyless entry system, a 60/40 split rear seatback, a fold-out armrest with cupholders, carpeted mats on the floor, and variable intermittent windshield wipers.
The Lancer O-Z Rally ($16,599) 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 Lancer WRC race 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 ($17,499) is optional. Other options include a sunroof and front side airbags ($1500), and a cargo net and chrome exhaust pipe tip ($131).
The Ralliart sedan ($18,499) 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 ($19,399). 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).
Three models of the Lancer Evolution are available, the Evo RS ($28,499), Evo VIII ($30,699), and Evo MR ($35,699). All come with a 271-horsepower turbocharged engine, four-wheel drive and a sports suspension. Practically ready to race, the Evos benefit from stiffened body structures. All are 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), plus sports seats and special interior features. The Evo RS comes with 17-inch Enkei wheels and high-grip P235/45WR17 Yokohama Advan tires. In addition to the features on the Evo RS, the Evo VIII gets an active center differential switch and Brembo brakes with sport ABS and EBD, plus more convenience features. The MR Edition adds a six-speed close-ratio gearbox, 17-inch BBS forged wheels and other features.
Safety features include frontal airbags and three-point safety belts for all five positions. Front seatbelts have pretensioners with force limiters plus height-adjustable anchors, all of which can help reduce belt injuries in an accident. They're good seatbelts. Wear them. The Lancer was named a 'best pick' by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crash testing program. It rated four stars out of five in frontal impact testing by NHTSA, but only two stars in the government front side-impact test.