Someday the real world calls us all. No longer can a car just be purely fun; it now has to keep up some appearance of civility. While the Mitsubishi Evolution X makes rides to the grocery store as fun as a lap around a rally circuit; it’s loud exhaust and harsh ride will turn any date into deaf, stiff-walking old lady. Also the Evos appearance only gains respect from underlings in the corporate parking lot.
Enter the Lancer Ralliart. Where the Mitsubishi’s Evo X competes with rally uber-sedans like the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, this one competes with cars like the plain ‘ol WRX, Volkswagen R32 and Mazdaspeed 3. Compared to the Evo X, the ride in the Ralliart is less harsh, there is more noise dampening material, the bodykit is less dramatic, there is less power, and the base price is about $6,500 less. The Ralliart is not a soft Evo X; it’s just softer.
Just because this is a friendlier version of the Evo X shouldn’t imply that it looks less mean. While the Ralliart trades in some of the Evo’s dark-as-midnight bits for a little chrome and color, it still it still keeps the gaping snout and flared fenders (although not as wide) as the Evo. The package is rounded out with 10-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler that doesn’t scream out “boy racer”.
The view from the driver’s seat is a standard sedan. Aside from the gearshift, it’s hard to tell the Ralliart apart from other Lancer packages. It’s neat and tidy with a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel.
We did not have the GPS navigation screen option on our tester. This gives the obvious benefit of always pinpointing a location, but in the Ralliart it would have also given the radio a much more informative readout. Something we’ve become more accustom to in modern cars.
We were not traveling completely inconspicuous. We got the Recaro sport seats as part of a $2,750 package that also included goodies like HID headlamps and a Rockford-Fosgate stereo w/subwoofer. This little addition of the sport seats not only kept us planted like any good sport seat will do, but also ensured that we would have a hard time convincing any onlookers that we were not driving an Evo X.
At current pricing, the Ralliart is almost double the price of the base Lancer (our tester with a few options came in at $29,915,) so where does all the money go? The answer is in the drive.
For starters, the engine is a version borrowed from the Evo X. This 2.0-liter unit only has single scroll turbocharger instead of the Evo’s twin-scroll, so it’s down 54 hp to a still respectable 237. What brings the Ralliart back onto the Evo’s radar is the turbo kicks in at around 3,000 rpm, which makes the Ralliart extremely quick off the line.
When the roads get twisty, the Ralliart really shines. A few of the Evo X’s improvements have been left out of this suspension and all-wheel drive system. Instead this is more of a mirror of the Evo IX’s setup, and that’s perfectly fine. The previous generation Evo was acclaimed for sticking to the road like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth, and the pre-setting for tarmac, gravel or snow means the fun doesn’t stop just because the pavement does.
The only transmission available is the Sporttronic SST dual-clutch automated manual. While that description is somewhat confusing, just think of it as the best shifting automatic around. With many “automated manual” transmissions, at in-town speeds, the jerky motion of the computer shifts can feel like there is novice driver shifting the car for you. This is not the case in the Ralliart. It feels like a regular automatic at low speeds, but kicks gears quickly when the throttle is punched.
In a regular automatic transmission, the “Sport” mode just usually means changing the shift pattern a little. With the Sporttronic, the whole program is changed. The shifts are not only likely to be quicker than you trying to work the steering wheel paddles, but it will also take the car all the way to it’s 6,500 rpm redline. It even does the engine braking downshifts for you, too.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart a rally car soul with a little extra age added on. It’s an Evo X without a little less power and a lot less boy-racer stigma.
The family man may have a hard time taking the kids to school in the Ralliart without the sports car ride giving them scoliosis, but it is the perfect sports car that can fit a few friends with relative ease. You may not be ready to trade in surfing for golf or Red Bull for Starbucks coffee yet, but it’s just nice to know the trunk can carry a few full sets of clubs.