2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart Performance

9.0
Performance
There's a lot to love in the Evolution or Ralliart driving experience. The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 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.

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 2011 Lancer Evolution and Ralliart tremendous agility, tractability, and poise to rival much more expensive machines from Germany.

Ride and handling is ultimately 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.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a serious, focused performance car and feels more sophisticated than it looks; the Lancer Ralliart delivers all-weather sports-car thrills on a tighter budget.

Out on the track, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution certainly lives up to its predecessors on the track. But it's pricey, and it definitely makes some comfort sacrifices in the name of performance. Mitsubishi has made much of the driving excitement provided in the Evolution to be accessible in the more affordable Lancer Ralliart, so it's worth considering the Ralliart's more flexible engine and much lower price.

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