2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
November 13, 2009

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart have well-honed performance capabilities but lack all the refinement to make them day-to-day enjoyable. Other Choices

TheCarConnection.com looked to a wide range of reviews that cover the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Lancer Ralliart models to pull together this comprehensive review, including how this model matches up against other small performance cars. TheCarConnection.com's editors have also driven the Lancer Evolution and Ralliart—including the Sportback body style—and produced the Bottom Line assessment featured here.

Are Mitsubishi's turbocharged Lancer models tuner cars focused on going fast on a tight budget or sophisticated, world-class performance cars? The answer is both. The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is an affordable sedan fitted with impressive performance upgrades, while the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a sophisticated, no-holds-barred flagship that offers track-honed features and the capability to outperform some sports cars costing several times as much.

In appearance, the Evolution and Ralliart look more like well-done tuner cars than sophisticated performance machines. Squint just a little bit and it's easy to see that the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is based on the Mitsubishi Lancer, a basic compact sedan. The 2010 Ralliart shares much with the sportiest version of the Lancer, the GTS, but it gets the Evolution's lightweight aluminum hood with integral ductwork to keep the turbo cool, along with an aggressively styled front bumper and dual exhaust. Inside, both the Evo and Ralliart have an interior that looks quite basic, with accents and trims being the main difference from the mainstream Lancer.

While the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution might look like an economy car on steroids through and through—and leave older, more sophisticated buyers reeling—there's a lot to love in the driving experience. The Evolution has a 291-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the Ralliart picks up a lower-boost, 237-hp version of the same engine. Between the two, we actually like the Ralliart's engine a bit better; it's tuned for stronger low- and mid-rev response. The Evo's engine tends to have a longer turbo lag and delivers its power in a sudden mad rush. In either case, shifts are made either through a five-speed manual, which is good but a bit notchy, or a six-speed automated manual transmission, termed Twin Clutch-SST. The automated gearbox includes Normal and Sport driving modes and though it's a little hesitant in gentle driving, it pulls off snappy shifts like a track pro when you tap into all the power.

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Both the Ralliart and Evo come 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 2010 Lancer Evolution and Ralliart tremendous agility, tractability, and poise to rival much more expensive machines from Germany.

Ultimately, ride and handling is where the more discerning drivers will find the difference between the Evolution and Ralliart. The Evo has very little in common with its lesser brethren; it has an exclusive, enhanced body structure, with many of the steel body panels replaced with lightweight aluminum. The Ralliart is a compromise of sorts, offering some but not all of the powertrain components from the Evo, in a body structure that's essentially the same as that of the sporty Lancer GTS. The chassis underpinning the Ralliart doesn't feel quite as precise and unyielding as that of the Evolution, but that's fine for everyday driving—especially if you find yourself on bumpy roads. The steering is sharp and has a very quick ratio, along with good feedback, and stout brakes deliver all the braking force the tires can handle. The suspension can be harsh, though, rebounding abruptly and temporarily flustering the Ralliart's otherwise good composure on bumpy corners, especially when getting back on the power. The Evolution MR brings an especially high-performance package that ranks above the base GSR and adds track-ready Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs.

Both the Ralliart and the Evolution get a dressed-up interior versus the Lancer, with a few added trims and surfaces, but it's downright disappointing. With a proliferation of hollow, hard plastics—and some of the same pieces and panels from the $15,000 Lancer—it's a letdown in a $28,000 Ralliart, let alone in a $44,000 loaded Evolution. Seats are the exception in the Evolution; the heavily bolstered, grippy Recaros are superb, and we recommend the option package that includes these seats in the Ralliart. Functionally, the Evolution and Ralliart are reasonably comfortable, versatile daily drivers, thanks to decent backseat space, a big trunk, and 60/40-split backseats that fold forward in any of the models. The Sportback is especially useful as the hatch allows just a little extra cargo flexibility. However, on any of these models, road noise is an issue.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart shares its body structure with the standard Lancer sedan, a vehicle that has performed very well in crash tests; because the Evo has such a different structure, it might prove different. The Lancer got top "good" ratings from the IIHS in frontal offset, side, and rear tests, and a mix of four- and five-star results in federal testing. The feds haven't tested any Lancer, Ralliart, or Evo for side impact. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, head-curtain side airbags, front-seat mounted side bags, and a driver knee airbag are all on the standard-features list for the Ralliart and Evolution.

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. To get the Recaro seat upgrade on the Ralliart requires a $2,750 option package that also includes HID headlamps and a bassy Rockford Fosgate premium sound system. The Lancer Evolution GSR gets a host of performance hardware but otherwise parallels the Ralliart for equipment—except for offering a five-speed manual gearbox. The Evolution MR upgrades to the twin-clutch gearbox, a slightly more compliant suspension, improved wheels, and HID headlamps, plus other extras like the FAST hands-free entry system. New for 2010 is the MR Touring, which also gets new heated leather sport seats, a power sunroof, and other appearance upgrades. Remote engine start and a nav system with music storage are among the options on all Ralliart and Evo models.

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