2012 Lancer Sportback New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Lancer offers an enticing range of compact cars from practical economy to sensible all-wheel-drive sedan to sporty liftback to rally rocket. The Lancer sports a tidy, sleekish shape with a bold and distinctive shark mouth. Its interior is clean, seating is comfortable, instrumentation is blessedly simple.
Good engines give it good value, with its base model bringing 26/34 miles per gallon City/Highway, according to the EPA. Seven airbags, including one for the driver's knee, help make it safe, in addition to anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and the mandated tire pressure monitor. Lancer was last redesigned for the 2008 model year.
The 2012 Lancer SE is a new model. It uses Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive system called AWC (all-wheel control), with the proven 2.4-liter engine making 168 horsepower. Ready for the Snow Belt, the Lancer SE comes with heated seats and mirrors.
The base Lancer DE is not bare bones, with its power doors and windows, keyless entry and auto halogen headlamps, but it lacks air conditioning, folding rear seat, and cruise control. Lancer DE uses the good 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that features Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system (MIVEC) with double overhead cams and 16 valves.
Driving gets more civilized with the Lancer ES with air conditioning and better seats, front and rear. For 2012, Lancer ES gets new interior fabric and instrument panel trim. The Lancer ES Sportback is a smooth-looking 5-door. We found the Lancer ES offers decent steering response and tracks well through corners, with no excessive body lean.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer GT is last year's GTS model with a changed name. It uses Mitsubishi's excellent 2.4-liter engine, a gem of a powerplant, coupled with a sweet 5-speed gearbox or 6-step CVT (continuously variable transmission) with paddle shifters that's rated 23/30 mpg. We got good seat time in a Lancer Sportback GT 5-speed with front air dam and rear spoiler, looking sleek in Graphite Gray Pearl and 10-spoke alloy wheels. Lancer GT is compelling for its good looks, enjoyable driving characteristics and fuel economy. If you don't need all-wheel drive or turbocharged acceleration, the GT is the one, especially as a Sportback with its great cargo area.
The all-wheel-drive Lancer Ralliart moves into high-performance land with an intercooled and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 237 horsepower, and showcasing Mitsubishi's racy 6-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission. The 2012 Lancer Ralliart is available only as a sedan, with flared fenders, hood scoop, vents like shark gills, optional Recaro seats. The sharkmouth gets a chrome ring that shines it up to make it look more like silver lipstick on a largemouth bass.
The Lancer Evolution, or Evo, pumps out 291 horsepower. Sedan only, with 5-speed Evolution GSR model, or with 6-speed twin-clutch Evolution MS, which adds Bilstein shocks and lighter brake rotors. Have fun at the track, your car is ready.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer DE ($15,695) comes with a 2.0-liter engine with variable valve timing making 148 horsepower, cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers, power doors and windows, halogen headlamps. Air conditioning is optional. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Lancer ES ($16,995) comes with a 5-speed gearbox, and ES Sportback ($18,395) comes with a 6-step CVT with paddle shifters. Standard equipment includes premium fabric upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, power door locks with keyless remote, 16-inch wheels, rear stabilizer bar, 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, silver interior accents, body-color outside mirror housings and door handles, anti-theft security alarm and pre-wired Bluetooth. ES options include a power sunroof and 710-watt, nine-speaker, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system. The Sport Aero Package ($850), Rear Lip Spoiler ($290) and Sport Accent ($295) give it an Evo look.
Lancer SE ($20,195) is the new model for 2012. It uses Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive system called AWC (all-wheel control), with the proven 2.4-liter engine making 168 horsepower. It adds heated seats and mirrors to the ES equipment.
Lancer GT ($19,845) and GT Sportback ($21,345) feature a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 168 horsepower, rear disc brakes replacing the drums in the ES, a 5-speed manual gearbox or optional CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) using Sportronic manual shifting with steering-wheel paddles. Only the CVT comes with the Sportback. A 140-watt 6-speaker sound system is standard, along with sport bucket seats. The sport-tuned suspension is tied to 18-inch alloy wheels.
Lancer Ralliart ($27,995), sedan only, gets a 237-hp 2.0-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, while its suspension and brakes are upgraded from the GTS. It uses a 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 a Navigation & Technology package with GPS-based navigation system storing mapping data on a 40GB hard disk drive, with 10GB set aside for personally recorded audio files, to be played on the optional 710-watt 9-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system with Sirius satellite radio.
Lancer Evolution comes in two models, the GSR ($34,495) with 5-speed gearbox or the MR ($37,695) with 6-speed twin-clutch, plus BBS forged alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs and big rear spoiler. Evo standard equipment includes automatic climate control, Recaro seats, 140-watt six-speaker audio system, power windows and locks and keyless entry, and Yokohama performance tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. Options include navigation, Bluetooth, 710-watt 9-speaker Rockford-Fosgate sound system, and HID headlamps.
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, along with Active Stability Control. Front seatbelts have pretensioners and force limiters to help position users for maximum protection from airbags in crashes. Rear seats incorporate child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH). Available all-wheel control enhances safety in slippery conditions. The 2012 Lancer earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick, with its best rating in high-speed frontal impact, high-speed side impact, and rear impact.