Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer EX Ralliart

Photos by Ulysses Ang
At first glance, the Lancer Ralliart looks pretty much like the typical Lancer EX it’s based on. In fact, while the Lancer Evolution takes the path of being a sophisticated, no-holds-barred flagship that offers track-honed features and the capability of outperforming more expensive sports cars, the Lancer Ralliart feels more like a well-done tuner car—a reincarnation perhaps of the original Evolution.

Outside, the Ralliart’s dressed and designed certainly for the younger set with its go-fast look complete with the high-style rear wing and aggressive bodywork shared with the run-of-the-mill EX. Upon closer inspection though, you know the Ralliart’s extra-special with that light-weight aluminum hood with integral duct work (to keep the turbo cool), dual exhausts shooting out from the back and the Ralliart graphics sprinkled around the car.

Inside, the Ralliart shares a lot in common with the EX which basically means it betrays its compact car origins. However, the upholstery, accents, trims and even the steering wheel have been upgraded to match those of the Evolution. Overall, the cabin works quite well and the operation is pretty straight-forward. The instrumentation is absolutely excellent with its full-color display panel and large, readable numerals. The seats are mighty comfy and offer a good range of adjustments.

The Ralliart might look like the EX, but it’s definitely pumped with steroids. The driving experience may not be as aggressive and hard as the Evolution, but there’s still a lot to love in the driving department. Packed with a 2.0-liter engine good for 240 horsepower, the Ralliart is actually more suited to everyday traffic than the Evolution thanks to its excellent low and mid-rev punch. And at full throttle, the Ralliart can still deliver 90 percent of the whole Evolution experience. Mated to the engine is a six-speed dual clutch automatic with Mitsubishi terms, “Twin Clutch-SST”. All in all, this gearbox is a little hesitant to shift during gentler driving, but manages to pull off snappy shifts during hard acceleration.

Like its bigger brother, the Ralliart comes with a sophisticated all-wheel drive system called Super All-Wheel Control. Together with an Active Center Differential and Active Yaw Control, it enables this car to transmit the power smoothly to all four wheels, even when the driver isn’t using finesse or the conditions aren’t ideal. In fact, this drive train alone is enough to give the Ralliart tremendous agility, tractability and poise to rival much more expensive machinery.

 While the modern Evolution shares almost nothing in common with its more pedestrian siblings, the Ralliart manages to shove some of the Evolution components into a body structure that’s almost essentially the Lancer EX. With that in mind, the Ralliart isn’t as precise and unyielding as the Evolution, but it makes it all the more suited to everyday driving—especially on bumpy roads. It can still feel harsh under certain circumstances, but it’s not a deal breaker. The steering remains sharp and the stout brakes deliver all the braking force the 18-inch tires can handle.

The Mitsubishi Lancer EX Ralliart comes surprisingly equipped than the racy, tuner-car look and feel might suggest. Along with the Fast Key keyless engine start/stop system, the Ralliart comes with HID headlamps, a trip computer, automatic climate control, bucket seats, aluminum pedals and a 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate system. Unfortunately, these extras don’t come cheap: at P 2,348,000 (P 2,350,000 for the Limited), the Ralliart finds itself treading into Subaru WRX STI category. And though you have to rock the gears yourself in the STI (at least in sedan guise), it easily packs 60 more horsepower and offers the very same standard equipment found on the Ralliart.

In the end, if you’re looking for an everyday sports car with a three-diamond on the mesh grille, then the decision’s pretty much made for you: get the Lancer EX Ralliart. If you can’t drive a stick and still want a sporty sedan, get the Lancer EX Ralliart. However, if you’re looking at bang-for-the-buck performance, you’ll be hard-pressed to decide between this or the Subaru WRX STI. And unfortunately for Mitsubishi, its steep price is ultimately its let down. A shame really, since this car pretty much lives up to its illustrious heritage and can go toe-to-toe with its formidable rival.

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