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May 13, 2000

Review: 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer GSR

Monet replicas are everywhere.  You see them in offices, elevators and yes, even McDonald's restaurants.  Has it ever occurred to you why such an excellent artist as Monet had to be contented on seeing his works displayed along side Ronald McDonald?  The answer is simple really: it's inoffensive and bland.  Much like a Big Mac or McChicken is bland, a Monet doesn't really stand out.  It may look great to the art critic's eye, but for the rest of civilization, it's nothing more than a piece of decoration: greatly unnoticed, ignored and never appreciated.  What a Monet replica is in the world of furniture, is what the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR is in the world of automobiles.

From the outside, the Lancer has all the right ingredients to be a great looking coupe.  The sweeping angled roofline and chiseled body sides give the GSR a degree of strength and sportiness.  The headlights, on the other hand adds a measure of menace and the standard rear lamp garnish give it more flare.  However, the ingredients were a bit undercooked and didn't turn out right.  It's like having Terminator 2 with Danny DeVitto playing the killer cyborg (oh…the horror!).  Don't take me wrong, the GSR is a fine looking car.  It's great to look at, but it doesn't really cause anyone to stare.  And this is where Mitsubishi is missing the entire point: coupes must be respected and admired from every angle.  Unfortunately, their Lancer GSR is short of being lost in the world of 1.6-liter oblivion.

Now, maybe you're thinking the interior tells a different story…well, you're wrong.  In fact, the interior is simply a disaster.  Don't be fooled by the seemingly curvaceous and excellently shaped dash, the GSR's switch gear and ergonomics have as much taste as a person considering the Whopper as a gourmet sandwich.  If I'm not mistaken, the entire switch gear was borrowed straight out from the previous generation Lancer and even the Lancer before that.  Since they came from parts bin from the yesteryear, the GSR's interior is kind of a hodge-podge of textures, without a dominating or consistent quality to speak of.  The light dimming switch for instance, still using a rotating switch, actually looked like it came from an early 80s Corolla, and not a brand new sports coupe.  At the same time the side mirror and hazard switches came from the Galant GTi (I know those switches anywhere).  That's not all, some of the parts of the GSR seems to be inverted somewhat, as some parts such as the handbrake feel as if it were intended to be for a right-hand drive model.  The interior could have been forgivable if these switches were a smooth operator.  Unfortunately, most of these switches felt like they came straight from an arcade gaming unit.  The handbrake felt empty, the ventilation switches felt too hard and the window switches too flimsy.

The driving experience was much like a day-old Chicken McNuggets.  From the moment I started the engine to the moment I drove the car out to the public road, I knew I was in for something…dry.  The engine unit, a SOHC 1.6-liter 16-valve inline-4 engine sounded more like any other 4-pots that I knew.  In fact, at idle, the Mitsu's engine could be easily mistaken for as the Honda Civic's.  However, unlike the Honda, the Mitsu engine doesn't have the sudden rush of power (and a change of engine note) provided by a VTEC transition point.  The engine is rev-happy and responsive, but lacks any dynamic characteristics.  It's as swift as the Ford Lynx or the Nissan Sentra.  Thank God that he engine note is more accented at high revs thanks to the sport-tuned exhaust system.

Handling is like a line at a fast food place: ordinary.  It felt every bit like a sedan trapped in a coupe shell.  It's pointable, stable and predictable.  It's great in sweeping bends and long corners, the only weakness being the lack of support from the GSR's seats (and yes, you'd feel being thrown about in the car).  At tight bends, the GSR shows its limitations.  It cannot really provide the same agility that you'd expect from a coupe.  In fact, you can liken the feeling of wanting to be a 'Minime' instead of a 'Doctor Evil'.  This so-called sports coupe felt as big as a Honda Accord!  The softer riding Honda Civic still reigns supreme in the handling category (the Lancer is not even a prince).

Outward vision is excellent, the low-slung nose helped front vision, while the coupe's large frameless glass made the side equally excellent.  Perhaps, the weakest vision is the rear-three quarters because of the GSR's thick C-pillar construction.  Parking is a breeze, thanks to the GSR's standard trunk spoiler which, in my opinion, it's only what that darn thing is useful for!

Mechanically, the car is very stable and solid.  The steering and gear change are as smooth as a caramel sundae.  Moreover, I have to say that the saving grace of the GSR is the transmission.  Although our test unit wasn't equip with the INVECS-II automatic, the manual was still precise and worked with tick-tock accuracy, beating even the Galant Super Saloon.  However, at 17,000 on the odometer, the GSR already had loud creaks from the dash and harsh road noise (probably from the tires).

Speaking about the tires, the GSR comes standard with 15-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE94s.  Though the Potenza helped the GSR give a better brake feel (yes, the GSR had very good brakes) and handling, the tires also were the ones responsible for giving the GSR a harsher ride and noisier cabin (road noise problems).  Since the Potenza RE94s are indeed old technology as far as Bridgestone is concerned, if you are to buy a GSR or perhaps own a GSR, I'd suggest that you change the tires, perhaps to something a bit newer from Bridgestone.

Standard features of the GSR that we've tested are quite adequate.  From what I've mentioned earlier, it comes with integrated rear garnish and spoiler; 195 / 55 VR 15 Bridgestone Potenza RE94 tires; sport-tuned twin tailpipes and a Pioneer stereo cassette with CD player.  The 2000 Lancer GSR contains more features.  Aside from the ones mentioned above, it gets: four-wheel disc brakes; ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System); dual airbags; optional leather interior (color-coded to the body); mutli-reflector front and rear lamps; the Mitsubishi Cyclone-series engine plus the INVECS-II Sports Shift.

Overall, the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR had the potential of become a maestro, but ended up being a replica.  The car wants to shout the words 'mass produced' and it shows.  It's not hiding the fact that this may well be the new Big Mac without the irritating center bun (in our case without the rear doors) instead of being possibly a Sirloin steak.  Mitsu wasn't able to really put together the GSR to the point of being a spectacular and out-and-out car.  Perhaps if they put the Evo VI engine in the GSR, then you can get me to buy one of these.  However, as long as they make the GSR like what McDonald's does with their drive thru, then this won't happen. You better look somewhere else.  If you want the perkiness and the handling, lacking the best features?  Go for the Honda Civic VTi or SiR.  If you want touring with the best features?  Go for the Nissan Sentra Exalta STA or the Ford Lynx Ghia.


  1. Taena kung nakinig lang sana tayo noon about getting an SiR.


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