2009 Lancer New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Lancer lineup features a full range of sporty compact sedans. The Lancer ES and bare bones DE are oriented around economy. The Lancer GTS kicks it up a notch with a bigger engine. Enthusiasts will spring for the Ralliart for its sporty performance, while would-be racers will go for the Evo with its racecar levels of performance. The Lancers use four different four-cylinder engines, ranging from 152 to 291 horsepower.
The Lancer models were completely re-engineered and redesigned for the 2008 model year. They feature an aggressive front fascia and a wedgy profile. The GTS, Ralliart, and Evolution boast rally-inspired bodywork. The new Ralliart model joined the lineup for 2009.
All are four-door compact sedans. Inside, there's roomy seating for five. Instruments and dash are pleasing to the eye, and control knobs and switches for the various functions are easy to use.
The Lancer ES is a well-built and good-looking 2.0-liter economy car that gets a EPA combined fuel economy of 25 or 26 miles per gallon (30 mpg Highway with 2.0-liter engine and manual five-speed). The base Lancer ES lacks the visual flair of the others, but choose the optional Sport package and the ES offers much of the eye-catching appeal of the Evo at half the cost. A stripped-down model is available called the DE, but it's primarily intended as a fleet model with air conditioning optional.
The Lancer GTS features a new engine, slightly larger at 2.4 liters, and might be the best bang for the buck if you don't need the all-wheel-drive offered by the Ralliart.
The Lancer Ralliart is an all-new model for 2009. It's meant to provide a taste of the Evo's performance while making more compromises for the street. But since the Evo's comfort is fine on the street (easier on the bones than the Subaru WRX STi), the real compromise the Ralliart makes is handling and power, for the price, which may be more what it's about. It's not meant to be at home on the track like the Evo. If you don't do track days, and your ego or image doesn't need to be wrapped in an Evo on the street, you can save money with the Ralliart. The Ralliart is a showcase for a new six-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission called the TC-SST, with Normal and Sport modes.
The legendary Evolution has evolved to a higher level with the Evo X, the 10th-generation in 16 years of Evolution models. We found the Evo X very easy to drive very hard. We were able to drive it right to the limit on the second lap of an unfamiliar racing circuit, this more a credit to the Evo's predictable handling than our driving prowess. It always seems to do exactly what the driver wants, a benefit of its all-wheel-drive system. It may be the best car on the track for under $40,000, and a solid track entry at any price.
Evolution X uses a racy suspension with forged aluminum control arms, and big brakes with four-piston front calipers. Its engine is a powerfully tuned version of that 2.0-liter intercooled turbo, and makes 291 horsepower. Its all-wheel-drive system is more sophisticated and capable than that in the Ralliart, and the SST transmission has a third mode called Sport Plus, for the track. A six-speed manual gearbox is also available.
The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup spans five models of Lancer, spread over four levels of performance, and if you count the two models of the Evo for each transmission, it becomes six.
Lancer DE and ES use a 2.0-liter engine making 152 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment on the DE ($14,190) is slim, including a 140-watt, four-speaker MP3 sound system and steel wheels with wheel covers; air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, power locks, and remote entry are optional.
Lancer ES ($16,390) comes standard with air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, power door locks with keyless remote, six-way adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatback with folding center armrest, front map lights, floor mats, the auto-up driver-side window, premium fabric upholstery, silver interior accents, body-color outside mirror housings and door handles, second power point, anti-theft security alarm and steering wheel-mounted redundant audio controls and pre-wired Bluetooth switch. Aluminum alloy wheels come standard, and the rear suspension gets a stabilizer bar. The Sun & Sound package includes a 650-watt, nine-speaker, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system; a six-month, pre-paid Sirius satellite radio subscription; a six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 changer; an auxiliary audio input jack; and a power, tilt-and-slide, glass sunroof. Fog lights are sold by dealers. A Sport package is optional ($800).
Lancer GTS ($18,440) features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 168 horsepower. It's mated to either the 5-speed manual gearbox or an optional new CVT automatic (Continuously Variable Transmission) using Sportronic manual shifting with steering-wheel paddles. The six-speaker sound system is standard, along with sport bucket seats. The sport-tuned suspension is tied to pretty 18-inch alloy wheels.
Lancer Ralliart ($26,490) makes 237 horsepower from a 2.0-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, while its suspension and brakes are upgraded from the GTS. It uses just one transmission, a new six-speed twin-clutch automated manual called the TC-SST, with Normal and Sport modes. Automatic climate control is standard, along with sport bucket seats with unique fabric surfaces, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Also standard: six-speaker audio, aero package with front air dam, lower side air dams and rear spoiler, factory-installed fog lights, P215/45R18 tires on alloy wheels. Options include the Sun & Sound package. The Navigation & Technology package includes a GPS-based navigation system storing mapping data on a 30GB hard disk drive (with 6GB set aside for personally recorded audio files). Integrated into the navigation system is the driver information center plus screens displaying, among other things, ambient temperature, barometric pressure and altimeter; vehicle maintenance reminder and calendar; controls for the underlying Rockford-Fosgate audio system and Sirius satellite radio; and customization settings for the Lancer's various interior electronics. Also in this package is Fast-Key, a keyless, proximity-activated, auto-unlock system.
Lancer Evolution comes in two versions, the GSR ($32,990) and the MR. The GSR comes with a five-speed manual transmission. The MR features a computer-shifted, six-speed manual, BBS forged alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs, two-piece brake rotors (steel disc on aluminum hub for weight savings).
The GSR comes with automatic climate control, 140-watt, six-speaker, multi-media stereo, Recaro bucket seats with manual fore-aft and back angle adjustments, power windows, power door locks, keyless remote entry, floor mats and front map lights, Yokohama ASVAN asymmetrical-tread performance tires with 18-inch, cast alloy wheels. Options include the Sight, Sound and Spoiler Package ($2000) that adds HID headlights with manual leveling; a 65-watt, Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system with eight, strategically positioned regular speakers plus one subwoofer; Sirius satellite radio with six months pre-paid subscription; six CD/MP3 in-dash changer; oversize rear spoiler; and FAST Key entry system, which allows keyless door unlocking and push-button start/stop for the engine. Phantom Black paint ($250) is optional.
The MR adds hands-free Bluetooth cell phone functionality with voice recognition, HID headlamps, the oversized rear spoiler and steering wheel-mounted audio controls (the toggle for the three all-wheel drive modes moves to the center console). The MR Technology Package adds Rockford-Fosgate, Sirius satellite radio, the 30GB HDD navigation system with 7.5-inch touch screen (that also displays video with the transmission in Park), the Mitsubishi Multi-Communication system (on-board computer and information system), and FAST Key.
Safety features for all Lancer models include front air bags, side airbags in front, side curtain air bags, a driver's knee air bag, and tire pressure monitor. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution is also standard for all models but the DE, where it's optional. Active Stability Control is not available with the DE and ES, is optional with the GTS, and standard on the Ralliart and Evo. Front seatbelts have pretensionsers and force limiters to help position users for maximum protection from airbags in crashes. Rear seats incorporate child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH).