2006 Lancer New Car Test Drive
Crisp styling sets the Mitsubishi Lancer apart from other compact sedans. If not beautiful, it looks aggressive. The wheels are pushed to the corners, giving it a stable stance. Short front and rear overhangs improve weight distribution. The windshield is steeply raked rearward to cheat the wind.
The Lancer has a strong prow with a bold horizontal grille ringed in chrome. Oversized multi-lens headlamps cluster at the corners, while a thick front bumper and air dam thrust forward like a boxer's chin. The hood has stepped cut-lines that add shape and depth. The flanks look sleek and flat with slight fender flares around the wheels. At the squared-off trunk, the Lancer borrows lines from European touring sedans with a blunt tail highlighted by bold, triangular taillamps.
The ES model looks tame and respectable. The O-Z Rally edition looks anything but tame and respectable with its bumper extensions, shapely side skirts, and loud colors. The Ralliart versions look downright racy.
The Evolution looks like a rally car. First, there's the big rear wing. Then there's the aggressive front end, a big front air dam filled with an intercooler for the turbo and a hood with screened air vents. Blistered, squarish fenders made of lightweight aluminum look like competition hardware. The Evo MR has vortex generators, eight little inch-high longitudinal fins on the back of the roof that generate downforce, similar to those seen on airplanes. For 2005, both the MR and the RS get a high-strength steel roof panel that saves as much weight as would chopping three inches off the top of the car. Getting weight off the top, high above the center of gravity, is a good thing. Add a roll cage, a big light pod, mambo mud flaps and a bunch of decals, and the Evolution would look ready to tackle the Pikes Peak Hill Climb or the Rim of the World rally in California. (Of course, more preparation would be required to build a successful rally car.).
The Mitsubishi Lancer has a surprisingly nice interior. For starters, Lancers come with good seats. The cloth seats in the Lancer ES are supportive, with good side bolstering. The O-Z Rally seats are covered in premium cloth fabric with silky embroidery stitching on the center inserts in a matching color. Side bolsters on the front buckets have contours for a comfortable fit. The driver's seat moves easily in eight directions, and we had no trouble adjusting it to fit long legs and a tall torso. The Evolution GT-A seats that come in the Ralliart models are highly supportive with aggressive side bolsters; they're comfortable for cruising yet offer offer enough support for driving on a race track, and are tastefully trimmed in black with orange highlights.
The uncluttered design of the dashboard impressed us, as did the look and tone of materials used to dress the cabin. A band of plastic trim stretches across the upper part of the dashboard and divides it into top and bottom sections. The O-Z Rally uses a brushed aluminum color for the plastic trim panel, which blends nicely with the cabin's black color scheme.
The Lancer ES has a surprisingly nice interior. Our ES came trimmed in light tones. A broad piece of handsome woodgrain plastic trim across the dash warms the cabin and looks richer than what we've seen in some of the newest luxury SUVs. The pebbled material used on the top of the dash is nice and the satin finish trim on the center stack, center console, and shifter surround looks good. Lancer ES models have a two-tone dash; the upper dash is a dark color, with a lighter tone below. The mouse fur around the door handle and armrest feels nice, but doesn't quite live up to the other materials.
The steering column adjusts vertically. We liked the feel of the thick wheel in the O-Z Rally, which is padded and covered by stitched leatherette. The steering wheels in the ES and Ralliart models we tested felt good but looked uninspiring in an otherwise handsome interior. Big, bold analog gauges are clustered beneath the arching cowl. Black gauges with white lettering are used in ES models, while the O-Z Rally gets white-faced gauges. The Ralliart has an all-black interior with carbon-style accents and white-faced gauges with orange lettering at night.
The Lancer's dash design features scooped sections in front of each seat for roominess with a center panel of audio and climate controls that bulges out for easy reach by driver and passenger. Three rotary dials for the ventilation system are large and easy to use. Above the HVAC controls is the audio system, which suffers from tiny dials. The cup holders are big and solid, but there's only a small amount of center console storage.
The Lancer has comfortable and roomy rear seats. The rear seats in the Ralliart are highly supportive, and quite comfortable, and feature sporty headrests.
The trunk in the Lancer sedans offers 11.3 cubic feet of space, a bit less than Civic and Corolla.
The Lancer Evolution comes with Recaro racing seats in blue and black cloth designed to accommodate a six-point racing harness. The three-spoke Momo steering wheel looks racy with its small airbag pack. The center console includes a special button for spraying water onto the turbocharger's intercooler for maximum horsepower, useful when racing through hot, mountainous terrain.