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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2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Styling

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution gives the right sporting impression outside, but less so inside.

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. Although the Evolution has further structural differences and an aluminum roof, it looks virtually the same but with more aggressive wheels, a slightly different front fascia, and an added rear spoiler.

ConsumerGuide comments that the Lancer Evolution "is aimed at a broader, more upscale audience," which explains why Mitsubishi did away with the old Lancer Evolution's enormous rear wing and semi-circular hood scoop. The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution does come with a more subdued spoiler on the back, and Road & Track approves of the "vents on the hood suggesting something wonderfully wicked resides underneath." The car's front end also draws comparisons to a shark's mouth from several reviewers. 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 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."

New for 2010 is a five-door Sportback version of the Ralliart. Car and Driver says that the Sportback is a "steeply raked hatchback that looks swept and sporty," while Edmunds asserts that the Sportback looks better than the sedan, although it "resembles a lowered Lexus RX crossover SUV" from angles behind.

After admiring the well-modeled and aggressive exterior styling of the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, drivers might be slightly disappointed by the interior styling. While there are no glaring deficiencies inside, ConsumerGuide laments the "unconvincing 'aluminum' finish" and lack of "anything dressy or upscale about the interior." Automobile Magazine says, "The interior no longer reeks of Play-skool technology," though. ConsumerGuide also appreciates the inclusion of "the proper interior 'go-fast' pieces," such as a "leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob." ConsumerGuide reports that the Ralliart's "interior shares several features with the Evolution models, including upgraded cloth upholstery, aluminum foot pedals, and a sport steering wheel," although there's still an "less-legible electronic information display" than the kind found on competing models.

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9

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Performance

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a serious, focused performance car, while the Lancer Ralliart delivers driving thrills on a tighter budget.

The 2010 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.

A 291-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the Evolution. A five-speed manual is standard, but a six-speed Twin-Clutch automated manual is available; it allows manual gear selection through paddle shifters alongside the steering wheel or in automatic mode. There's also an S-sport mode for maximum performance. The Ralliart picks up a lower-boost, 237-hp version of the same engine. The results are impressive with the Twin-Clutch transmission, but some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com lament the lack of a manual transmission option.

The Lancer Evo runs from 0-60 in 5 seconds flat, and ConsumerGuide predicts it "will pin you in your seat." Regarding the Ralliart, Motor Trend says it's "modestly defanged (say, one incisor)," and features just "a single-scroll turbocharger (instead of the twin-jobber)." 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." Jalopnik, however, notes "that's pretty much the only place it's available." 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.

Car and Driver contends that the Ralliart Sportback isn't quite as sprightly as the Ralliart sedan or WRX hatchback because of a lower power-to-weight ratio: "At 237 hp, it’s notably down on power compared with the 265-hp WRX and feels it, partly because of the Sportback’s higher curb weight."

The feature that draws the greatest praise is the fantastic new semi-automatic transmission in the Evolution MR and Lancer Ralliart. The software behind the automatic's gear selection is so good that Motor Trend claims, "the Evo has the best version of this kind of transmission to date," and finds that it "always seems to be in the right gear." Automobile Magazine notes that "the various clutch packs, differentials, and hydraulic pumps work seamlessly to make you look heroic." 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 Twin-Clutch transmission is about as slick and effective as automatics get, some enthusiasts will still pine for a center-mounted stick shift and third pedal—but that's only offered in the Evolution GSR model.

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. Road & Track says that the Active Yaw system "makes the Evo X one of the best-handling sports sedans in the world." Motor Trend also praises the car's exceptional road-gripping abilities, declaring, "the action is light, accurate, and unnervingly fast at first." Compared to the Lancer Evolution, the setup in the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is "notably more relaxed," with "far less tight" on-center steering feel, contends ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver reports that the 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." The biggest performance complaint during TheCarConnection.com's surveys of automotive experts is in regard to the Ralliart's brakes, which Edmunds ventures are "borrowed from the Outlander SUV."

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6

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart have a reasonably comfortable interior, but lack the refinement, comfort, and pleasing materials expected in vehicles of this price range.

Both the Ralliart and the Evolution are quite roomy and practically arranged inside. They're 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.

When first sitting in the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, drivers and front passengers will notice that Recaro racing seats provide excellent comfort and support.

The Sportback is especially useful as the hatch allows just a little extra cargo flexibility. "It’s no Buick Estate Wagon back there, but the loading hole is large, and there’s room for bulky items with the seats folded," notes Car and Driver. Edmunds isn't overly impressed, saying that it "gains an additional 40 percent of trunk space over the sedan, but much of that space is cannibalized by the aggressively raked hatch."

And while the cabin isn't too bad in basic design, it's disappointing in the details. 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. Edmunds notices that while at first the interior looks good, up close it's "rife with hard plastic surfaces" that are textured to give the impression of being soft-touch when they're not. ConsumerGuide also takes exception with the "grained hard plastic bathing virtually every interior surface." TheCarConnection.com notices that Mitsubishi makes great strides from the old Lancer Evolution, and Automobile Magazine praises certain parts of the interior as having "gone decidedly upmarket."

Jalopnik sums that the Ralliart "trades many of the Evo's all-out race compromises for a larger dose of convenience and comfort."

Road noise and ride comfort are complaints from quite a few reviewers in various forms. Motor Trend notes that "the stiff chassis tuning and lack of sound-deadening lay siege to the senses," and many reviewers find the car to be very unforgiving on long drives. Edmunds says, "Potholes can be jarring, and on heavily traveled highways, even a slight washboard surface can quickly become intolerable." The same reviewer points out the prominence of road noise, "filling the cabin with a constant low rumbling."

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8

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Safety

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart offer more safety and security than their racy image suggests.

The racy styling and eager demeanor of the 2010 Evolution and Ralliart might invite risky driving, but they promise good safety overall.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart shares its body structure with the standard Lancer sedan, a vehicle that has performs very well in crash tests; because the Evo has such a different structure, it might prove different. The Lancer gets 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.

MotherProof approves of the Lancer Evolution's "comprehensive standard safety package that includes seven airbags." Road & Track says that the all-wheel-drive system in the 2010 Evolution "combines all of the car's electronic sensors to maximize safety during hazardous driving conditions."

However, ConsumerGuide notes that 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."

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8

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Features

The 2010 Mitsubishi Ralliart and Evolution aren't as tech-laden as luxury sport sedans, but they're respectably equipped.

Both the 2010 Ralliart and Evo come very well equipped. Fog lamps, a hands-free entry system, a trip computer, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, leather trim, and aluminum pedals are all standard on the Ralliart. The Evolution MR upgrades to the twin-clutch gearbox, a slightly more compliant suspension, better 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 boosts. Remote engine start and a nav system with music storage are among the options on all Ralliart and Evo models.

Kelley Blue Book feels that, among other options, the "most desirable options include a...hard drive-based navigation and audio system." In Ralliart models, getting the Recaro seat upgrade requires a $2,750 option package that also includes HID headlamps and a bassy Rockford Fosgate premium sound system. Edmunds recommends the upgrade, calling the stock sound system "merely passable." However, even with the upgraded system, Edmunds says it lacks true iPod integration.

ConsumerGuide notes that the navigation system "absorbs the audio controls, complicating their use." However, they also acknowledge that their critique "is admittedly nit picking, and in all fairness, most other navigation systems are equally annoying."

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