2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 21, 2012

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart might not make the best daily drivers, but they're among the most athletic, track-ready performers for the money.

Because of its reputation with the tuner crowd and, probably, its appearance in various racing games, the 2012 Lancer Evolution is likely by far the most easily recognized Mitsubishi in the U.S.  The Lancer Evo, and the nearly look-alike (at least to the laymen) Lancer Ralliart, are performance legends to a certain set.

While these two models look much the same, they appeal to quite different target customers. The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is an affordable Lancer sedan, fitted with some well-configured sport upgrades, while the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution gets more sophisticated bones, track-honed components, and serious performance hardware that makes it capable of outperforming much more expensive sports cars.

Essentially, both the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart look like tuner cars--like an economy car on steroids--much more than they look like exotic sports machines. An up-close look will probably elicit shrugs from those who don't get their performance potential; the Ralliart especially is heavily based on the pedestrian Lancer sedan, and especially in the Ralliart, there are interior details that find their way from the base model on up. The Ralliart can be had as a sedan or Sportback (hatchback), but the Evo is only a sedan.

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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. 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.

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.

Interior appointments are, to be blunt and honest, very disappointing in the Ralliart and Evolution. 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. Road noise is almost always an issue, too, but purely from a functionality standpoint there's decent backseat space, a big trunk, and 60/40-split rear seatbacks that fold forward for more cargo space. For 2012, Mitsubishi has added a few more soft-touch surfaces inside, as well as gloss-black instrument-panel trim.

There's no lack of features in the 2012 Lancer Ralliart and Evolution. 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 Evo GSR is somewhat more basic, with a five-speed manual, while 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. Options include a FUSE connectivity system with voice command; remote engine start; and a navigation system with music storage.

7

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Styling

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart looks like a tuner car--or perhaps a little too boy-racerish to those not in the know.

Essentially, both the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart look like tuner cars--like an economy car on steroids--much more than they look like exotic sports machines.

An up-close look will probably elicit shrugs from those who don't get their performance potential; the Ralliart especially is heavily based on the pedestrian Lancer sedan

On the outside, the look doesn't break out in any new directions, but its shark-like front-end styling makes it easy to spot and differentiate from a distance. There really isn't that much of a difference in appearance between the two models on the outside—with more aggressive wheels, a slightly different front fascia, and an added rear spoiler for the Evolution—even if the Evo has further structural differences and an aluminum roof. The Lancer Ralliart shares much of its look with the sporty Lancer GT, 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.

A five-door Sportback version of the Ralliart was new last year; it's a rather conventional, swept-back hatchback in appearance, but it works just as well with the aggressive front end and it's just a matter of personal taste as to which one's better.

This performance sedan's basic roots show even more on the inside of the Ralliart, where trims and finishes really aren't any more extravagant than in the budget-priced Lancer. The Ralliart can be had as a sedan or Sportback (hatchback), but the Evo is only a sedan. While there's nothing very impressive from a design standpoint, there are no glaring deficiencies either; the instrument panel is straightforward and businesslike, while most of the interior appears as it is: a slightly dressed-up economy-car cabin. Upholstery, accents, trims, and the steering wheel have been upgraded, though.

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9

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Performance

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.

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.

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.

Review continues below
6

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart is well laid-out and quite spacious, but it lacks the refinement and higher-quality materials that some might expect with its higher price tag.

Even if you've been brought up to revere the Evo's dynamic reputation, from racing games and the like, it's hard not to be a little disappointed with the cabin of the Ralliart or Evolution. 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. Purely from a functionality standpoint there's decent backseat space, a big trunk, and 60/40-split rear seatbacks that fold forward for more cargo space.

Road noise is an issue in either of these models, with coarse surfaces sounding into the cabin and adding to fatigue on long hauls. The ride can also be a bit jarring on pothole-ridden Rust Belt roads.

In all fairness, for 2012, Mitsubishi has added a few more soft-touch surfaces inside, as well as gloss-black instrument-panel trim; we're basing some of these impressions on previous model-year vehicles and will update this as soon as we get some time with the 2012 models.

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8

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Safety

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart offer more occupant protection than their racy exterior might suggest.

A risky, take-no-prisoners image might accompany the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ralliart, but these sedans actually factor in as reasonably safe picks--especially considering their excellent, responsive handling.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart shares much of its body structure with the standard Lancer sedan, a vehicle that has performed very well in crash tests (an IIHS Top Safety Pick). However, the IIHS no longer extends those great ratings to the Lancer Ralliart, or to the Lancer Evolution (which is structurally different)--although we'd feel relatively confident extending those results to the Ralliart, based on the level of commonality. The federal government also hasn't tested either of these models in its revamped NCAP test system.

Outward visibility is a point to consider here; the rather high beltline and rear spoiler can get in the way when changing lanes or backing up.

Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, head-curtain side airbags, front-seat mounted side bags, and a driver knee airbag are standard on both the Ralliart and Evolution. Additionally, the all-wheel-drive system might help allow you to make some types of emergency maneuvers with greater safety.

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8

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Features

While the interiors of the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and Evolution aren't luxurious, they do pack in a lot of high-tech features, conveniences, and upgrades.

There's no lack of features in the 2012 Lancer Ralliart and Evolution--even though the focus of their equipment tends toward performance, not luxury items. 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, though.

The Evo GSR is somewhat more basic, with a five-speed manual, while the Evolution MR upgrades to the twin-clutch gearbox, a slightly more compliant suspension, better wheels, and HID headlamps, plus other extras like remote start and the FAST hands-free entry system.

Options include a navigation system with real-time traffic data, plus a FUSE connectivity system with voice command; the system allows users to connect their Bluetooth phones, iPod, or USB drive and access calling functions or music with voice commands. A Gracenote service automatically identifies artists and track names. The available navigation system now also includes real-time traffic data.

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6

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart

Fuel Economy

Performance is the priority here in the 2012 Evolution and Ralliart; going green sure isn't.

With fuel economy ratings about on par with those of a typical three-row SUV, the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution simply isn't green--especially considering it's a compact.

At just 17 mpg city for both Evo models, or 18 for the Ralliart, you'll be chugging through the 14.5-gallon fuel tank in less than 250 miles. And that's if you don't tap into the intoxicating power reserves very much, if at all (trust us, we've seen much lower).

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August 18, 2015
2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution / Ralliart 4-Door Sedan Manual GSR

I give you one week before you void your powertrain warranty

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I've owned this car for three years now, It is hands down everything I've ever dreamed of and more. Interior and Exterior are a five star in my opinion and ill explain in one word why; Customization. Door... + More »
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