2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart Performance

9.0
Performance

While the looks aren't all that special, there's a lot to love in the driving experience for either of these models. The Evolution packs a 291-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the Ralliart get a lower-boost, 237-hp version. If we had to drive only in traffic, we'd choose the Ralliart's engine, as it's more flexible and tuned for stronger low- and mid-rev response.

The Evo's engine is peaky, with more turbo lag, and it delivers its power in a frenzy at the top of the rev band. Shifts are made either through a sturdy five-speed manual, which is good but a bit notchy, or a six-speed automated manual transmission, termed Twin Clutch-SST, which pulls off snappy shifts like a track pro when you tap into all the power.

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is a small, sporty, all-weather sedan that's a lot of fun to drive, while the Lancer Evolution is a serious, focused performance car that's far more sophisticated than it looks.

To get all the power to the road smoothly, these models include Super All-Wheel Control, an Active Center Differential, a helical gear front differential, and Active Yaw Control, which altogether give the Evo tremendous agility, tractability, and poise to rival much more expensive machines from Germany.

Both the 2012 Mitsubishi Evolution and Ralliart handle crisply, like performance cars, but the price chasm between the two is at its clearest here. More discerning drivers will find the Evo to be more nimble (and precise) because of its 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 GT. But the Ralliart does get some serious upgrades, including the Evolution's lightweight aluminum hood with integral ductwork to keep the turbo cool, along with an aggressively styled front bumper and dual exhaust.

These models have quick-ratio steering that transmits some info from the road surface--a good thing in a performance car. 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, giving it tremendous tractability and poise.

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