2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
August 7, 2009

The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is essentially the daily-driving Evo, with every bit the racy look but not the jarring ride and peaky powertrain.

TheCarConnection.com has studied a range of reviews covering the new 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart to produce this comprehensive full review. TheCarConnection.com's editors have also driven the Lancer Ralliart and bring forth their expert assessment.

The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is a well-honed sporty sedan with a tuner-car look and feel—and an appearance closely resembling that of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, which has been benched for the 2009 model year. The Ralliart is based heavily on the sportier GTS version of the economical Mitsubishi Lancer sedan, which is covered by a different review. While the Evolution made its debut last year, the Ralliart is new this year, and it lands between the sportiest standard Lancer sedan, the GTS, and the high-performance Evo in demeanor.

The 2009 Ralliart shares much, appearance- and equipment-wise, with the Lancer GTS; however, the Ralliart does get the Evolution's lightweight aluminum hood with integral ductwork to keep the turbo cool, along with a more aggressively styled front bumper and dual exhaust.

The Ralliart picks up a lower-boost, 237-hp version of the Evo's 291-hp 2.0-liter, tuned here for stronger low- and mid-rev response. The six-speed automated manual transmission, termed Twin Clutch-SST, that premiered in last year's Evo MR is now exclusively offered on the Ralliart, and it includes Normal and Sport driving modes.

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Just like in the Evo, the Ralliart comes with a sophisticated set of mechanical and electronic systems designed to transmit power smoothly to the pavement, even when the driver isn't using finesse or the conditions aren't ideal. Highlights include Super All-Wheel Control, an Active Center Differential, a helical gear front differential, and Active Yaw Control. Altogether, these systems give the 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart great agility and tractability.

In the opinion of several TheCarConnection.com editors, most daily drivers will prefer the 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart to the Evolution, so there's no need to wait for the Evo to come back. Even though the Ralliart's engine produces 54 fewer horsepower, it actually feels stronger and smoother in most types of driving, and the twin-clutch transmission is an ideal companion, shifting quickly and responsively, with only a bit of hesitation in gentle acceleration. Overall, there's less of the rubber-band hesitation from the time you need more power until it's delivered in a mad rush.

The chassis underpinning the Ralliart doesn't feel quite as precise and unyielding as that of the Evolution, but that's mostly a good thing again for everyday driving. The steering is sharp and has a very quick ratio, along with good feedback, and stout brakes round out the package, although the suspension can rebound abruptly, temporarily flustering the Ralliart's otherwise good composure, when getting back on the power out of a bumpy corner. The Yokohama tires could be part of it; they hold on admirably but measure a rather narrow 215 width. Those suspension trade-offs are worth it if you drive on bumpy roads; even though the 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart allows a heavy dose of road noise inside, it's not downright jarring.

The interior of the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is its failing; it's too similar to what's offered in the bargain-priced Lancer, and a little too no-frills for a car that can sticker well over $30,000. The backseat is actually spacious enough for small adults, and it includes a 60/40-split folding seatback to expand trunk cargo space.

The Ralliart comes very well equipped, with fog lamps, a hands-free entry system, a trip computer, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, leather trim, and aluminum pedals. Remote engine start and a nav system with music storage are among the options. The standard sport seats are firm and supportive, but the Recaro seat option—which brings perches more like those in the Evo—is worth getting; it includes HID headlamps and a bassy Rockford Fosgate sound-system upgrade.

Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, head-curtain side airbags, front-seat mounted side bags, and a driver knee airbag are all on the Ralliart's standard-features list. The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart shares its body structure with the standard Lancer sedan, not the Evolution, so we can say that it will likely perform in a similar manner. The Lancer sedan got top "good" ratings from the IIHS in frontal offset and rear tests, as well as an equal mix of four- and five-star results in federal tests.

8

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Styling

It's not exactly a sleeper car, but the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's styling is subtle enough that it won't get mocked at the office.

There was a time when Subaru's WRX line of turbocharged models was the uncontested king of budget road rockets, but that time has passed—for in 2009 Mitsubishi has reintroduced the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, a vehicle that slides right in between the standard Lancer lineup and the rally-ready Lancer Evolution.

TheCarConnection.com's research shows that automotive experts approve of the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's exterior styling, which is essentially a hybridization of the Lancer and the Evolution. ConsumerGuide notes that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is "meant to bridge the gap—both in price and performance—between lesser Lancer models and the line-topping Evolution," although the exterior is more likely to be confused with the top-end Evolution than the standard Lancer. Motor Trend reviewers feel that the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's "appearance is pleasantly less menacing" than the Evolution's, and the "face doesn't look quite as mouth-agape-rocket-sled-guy," while the "rear wing won't draw the FAA's attention." ConsumerGuide observes that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart "wears the smooth-sided body panels of standard Lancers, but is dressed up with unique, Evo-like front and rear fascias and black taillight bezels instead of red." The Ralliart's hood is straight off the Evolution, and it features a functional hood scoop that is designed to keep the turbocharger well-fed and cooled. Overall, Jalopnik terms the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart "parts-bin engineering, but the good kind."

Inside, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's cabin will be familiar to anyone who has spent time inside the Evolution. ConsumerGuide reports that the "interior shares several features with the Evolution models, including upgraded cloth upholstery, aluminum foot pedals, and a sport steering wheel," although unfortunately there's still an "less-legible electronic information display" than the kind found on competing models. ConsumerGuide also complains that "some testers find the audio controls to be an uncomfortable reach and its dashboard screen hard to read in sunny conditions." Despite these gripes, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's cabin is vastly more livable than the one found in the Evolution, as Jalopnik points out that the Ralliart "trades many of the Evo's all-out race compromises for a larger dose of convenience and comfort."

9

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Performance

If you can't live without a clutch pedal, then you should look elsewhere; otherwise, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart might be the new king of the budget thrill rides.

In a bid to lure performance-minded shoppers facing shrinking budgets or perhaps craving a more comfortable commute than can be had in the Evolution, Mitsubishi detunes the Evolution's engine but at the same time makes it more drivable for most everyday users in the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. The results are impressive, but some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com lament the lack of a manual transmission option.

Peer under the scooped hood of the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and you'll find Mitsubishi's excellent "turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder" that ConsumerGuide claims is "similar to the powerplant found in the Evo." Unlike the Evo, however, Motor Trend says this version is "modestly defanged (say, one incisor)," and features just "a single-scroll turbocharger (instead of the twin-jobber)" that "delivers 237 horsepower at 6000 rpm" and 253 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers compare with 291 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque for the Evo. Despite the drop in output, Edmunds still reports that "power delivery is surprisingly solid throughout the rev range," thanks to the fact that "the torque curve is so broad and flat, delivering nearly the maximum 253 pound-feet from about 2,500 rpm all the way to 4,500 rpm." While that range is rather broad, Jalopnik notes that "that's pretty much the only place it's available," so try and keep the tach pegged within that 2,000-rev sweet spot. In terms of acceleration times, Edmunds testers clock the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart with "a 14.8-second run at 94.6 mph" through the quarter-mile.

The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart comes with just one very capable engine, which isn't much of a problem, but enthusiasts might be disappointed to learn there is only one available transmission—and it's not a manual. Automobile Magazine breaks the potentially bad news, reporting that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart gets "the Evo's twin-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission...albeit retuned a little." On the positive side, ConsumerGuide says that the "automated-manual transmission allows drivers to shift manually via steering-wheel paddles," but even when left in automatic mode, "the gearbox operates seamlessly." Edmunds raves that if you "put the transmission in Sport Drive mode...it'll run a real-time tutorial on how and when to shift gears." While the automatic is about as slick and effective as automatics get, some enthusiasts will still pine for a center-mounted stick shift and third pedal. The automatic sends the engine's power to all four wheels through "Mitsubishi's Active Center Differential," according to Autoblog, which notes that the AWD is a "full-time all-wheel-drive system."

Performance almost always comes at a significant price at the pump, and this definitely holds true for the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. According to the official EPA estimates, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart should return 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, which ConsumerGuide says is "unexceptional for a compact car." However, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's acceleration is exceptional for a compact car—just be aware that you'll pay dearly for your stoplight shenanigans.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's impressive all-wheel drive and slightly softened suspension make for an appealing combination of handling and ride comfort, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Compared to the Lancer Evolution, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is "notably more relaxed," with "far less tight" on-center steering feel, but the "car still supplies more accurate feedback than the GTS," contends ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver reports that the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart "carves a road pleasantly with well-weighted steering [and] stout brakes," although the "main limitations are body roll, a trade-off for tolerable ride, and overwhelmed 215/45 Yokohama rubber mounted on 18-inch rims." Furthermore, Motor Trend says the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart "offers ride firmness you could probably endure for 500 miles rather than the EVO's death-by-a-billion vibrations experience." The biggest performance complaint during TheCarConnection.com's surveys of automotive experts is in regard to the brakes, which Edmunds ventures are "borrowed from the Outlander SUV" and contribute to a 60-to-0 mph stopping distance of 128 feet for the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. The base Lancer GTS, by contrast, stops in 118 feet, while the Evo needs just 112.

7

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Comfort & Quality

It's a little more versatile than the Evo, but the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart doesn't have $30,000-grade materials.

Many enthusiasts consider the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart a budget car, but the term is very relative—sure, compared to the big-brother Evolution or Subaru's mighty WRX STi it might be a bargain, but with an MSRP close to $30,000, this is no Honda Fit. The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart falls slightly short of certain quality expectations in this price range, but overall vehicle comfort and practicality is par for the course.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart sedan will seat, like most sedans, a maximum of five occupants. Up front, ConsumerGuide testers assert that "headroom and legroom are sufficient for six-footers," who will find themselves perched atop "sport seats that hug tightly in fast corners." For those looking for a more authentic racing experience or perhaps just a little more support, Automobile Magazine reports that "the optional Recaro buckets, ported over from the Evo, are an acquired taste and produce a bit of back and thigh pain on longer drives." The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's rear bench can get cramped, although ConsumerGuide contends that at least "the seat is supportive." Additionally, "space is cozy for two medium-size adults, let alone three," although overall the "headroom is good, as is legroom."

One of the appealing practical reasons to opt for the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart over the Evolution is that, unlike the Evo, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart "comes with a 60/40 split-folding rear seat—a feature not available on the Evolution," says ConsumerGuide. It seems like this would be an easy cargo-space enhancement for the Evo, but the extra steel needed for the Evo's stiffer structure prohibits the split-folding seatbacks. In terms of storage space, Automobile Magazine claims that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart offers "decent trunk space," and ConsumerGuide reports there is "useful cabin storage [that] includes large front-door map pockets with bottle holders."

The one area where TheCarConnection.com's research unearthed numerous complaints was quality of the interior, which is decidedly subpar. ConsumerGuide is disappointed with the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's "mediocre overall refinement," and while Autoblog claims that "the interior materials and amenities seem several notches above its base brethren," you certainly wouldn't know there is nearly a $10,000 difference between the two. Jalopnik chimes in that "the materials have decent texture, but they're mostly hard plastics with a dull sheen," and furthermore, the "doors close with a hollow metallic sound that reminds [them] of...[an] '82 Civic."

Cost-cutting in the quality department is clearly evident once you hit the pavement, where road noise is woefully loud. ConsumerGuide points out that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's "crude engine note is a sore point" and there are "high noise levels" in nearly all driving situations.

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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Safety

The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's body is as sound as they come, but beware poor-visibility lane changes.

With the sort of overenthusiastic driving—and risk-prone drivers—that cars like the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart tend to inspire, it's good to know that the vehicle is certifiably safe. Fortunately, both NHTSA and the IIHS give their respective stamps of approval to the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.

In NHTSA tests, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart earns a very respectable mix of four- and five-star crash test ratings. For both of the driver-side impact tests, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart garners a perfect five-star rating; passengers fare slightly less well, with both passenger-side tests yielding four-star ratings for the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's government scores are impressive in their own right, but the IIHS scores are where the Ralliart really establishes its safety cred. In IIHS tests, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart picks up the highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact tests. Furthermore, the IIHS awards the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart a Top Safety Pick, citing the Ralliart's "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and optional electronic stability control."

In addition to a solid chassis and structure, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart comes equipped with a full array of safety equipment. MyRide.com reviewers point out that the standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, a full range of airbags, and daytime running lights, along with child safety locks for the doors. TheCarConnection.com's editors also note that a driver's knee airbag is standard on all Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliarts, and an electronic stability control system can be added as an option.

Unfortunately, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart suffers from one notable safety problem: poor visibility. As reviewers at ConsumerGuide report, the "high windowsills impart a slightly closed-in feeling" and are partly responsible for the fact that "outward visibility aft and to the right-rear isn't great, and it's made worse by the available rear spoiler." Poor sightlines are bound to make parking-lot maneuvers more stressful, and out on the open road, the spoiler can often obstruct police cars (a very valid concern for many Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart drivers).

8

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Features

It's not as techy as, say, an Acura, but the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart can be optioned with a navigation system and top-notch audio.

The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart's primary feature is its engine/transmission combination, but that doesn't mean Mitsubishi leaves out creature comforts entirely. Although they may not live up to the price tag, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart does offer a number of tech options.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is available in just one trim level, so there's only one set of standard features that buyers have to concern themselves with. Automobile Magazine reports that "standard equipment includes eighteen-inch wheels" and Bluetooth for wireless cell phone connectivity. ConsumerGuide adds that "keyless entry and starting are standard on Ralliart, as is a stereo with MP3 capability." For audiophiles, ConsumerGuide points out that "an available Sport Package adds premium audio with a 6-disc CD changer."

That Sport Package is the primary option on the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, according to TheCarConnection.com's research, and Automobile Magazine says other elements of the package "include Recaro seats, satellite radio...[and] a 650-watt stereo." Among other notable options for the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart are "a navigation system that provides real-time traffic information and includes a 40-gigabyte hard drive for storing digital music files," according to ConsumerGuide. TheCarConnection.com's editors also point out that the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart comes with fog lamps, aluminum pedals, and standard leather trim.

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