2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart First Steer
The hot hatch market has pretty much been a two horse race to date, Volkswagen’s iconic GTi or Subaru’s WRX – but enter the tough new kid on the block, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and that’s all changed.
– David Twomey
Now before everyone starts yelling, I know there are a lot of other players in this field, and we all have our favourites, but the fact is the GTi sells about 200 units a month and the WRX, about 150, so that puts them well in front of the pack in the popularity stakes.
Mitsubishi’s product planning guy, and the man responsible for getting its product to market, is Chris Maxted and he’s very confident the new Lancer Ralliart Sportback and Sedan will sell at least 150 a month, with supply constrained by the availability of the sensational dual clutch, SST gearbox.
So that put the Lancer Ralliart right up there with the main players and grabbing for glory so how good is this new kid on the block.
Well, after several hours driving it around a variety of twisty roads in New South Wales today we can say that it is very, very good indeed.
Mr Maxted did tell CarAdvice that the Lancer Ralliart is for “EVO wannabes” and by that he wasn’t trying to denigrate his own buyers, more put them in context.
You see, the Lancer Ralliart is just the car for the person who might want the thrill of an EVO X but either doesn’t want to drive something that hard edged or cannot justify the $60,000+ spend.
Fall into either of those categories and the Lancer Ralliart is probably for you.
With a price tag of $42,490 for either the Sedan or Sportback the Ralliart forms a performance and price link between the mainstream Lancer VRX and the hardcore Evolution X.
As the spiritual descendant of the much-lamented Lancer GSR the all-wheel drive, turbocharged Lancer Ralliart is effectively a detuned version of the high-performance EVO X.
According to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) president and chief executive officer, Robert McEniry, the Lancer Ralliart is targeted squarely at a specific audience.
“These vehicles will appeal to true motor sport enthusiasts – men and women who love to drive and relish a sporting image. The Lancer Ralliart has attitude, and in true Mitsubishi style, they have the pedigree and performance to live up to the hype,” Mr McEniry said.
Available in either Sportback or Sedan body styles, the Lancer Ralliart shares a retuned version of the 4B11, 2.0-litre turbocharged and intercooled DOHC four-cylinder engine that powers the Lancer Evolution.
In Ralliart tune, it looses the twin scroll turbo and has less boost, it generates 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 343Nm of torque at 4750rpm.
In addition, the Lancer Ralliart will come standard with the acclaimed Twin Clutch Sport Shift Transmission (TC-SST) – complete with steering wheel paddle shifters – from the Lancer Evolution.
In its Ralliart application, the TC-SST offers two driving modes – Normal and Sport, leaving out the Super Sport mode which MMAL says is really only suitable for the racetrack use to which some owners will put the Evolution.
Mr McEniry said the inclusion of the TC-SST as standard on the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart give it a unique advantage over its competitors in a hard fought segment and allowed the driver to exploit the superior shifting control and time advantages this cutting edge technology offered.
In addition, the Lancer Ralliart will share much of the technical enhancements that make the Lancer Evolution a dynamically superior vehicle when it comes to active safety, handling and vehicle control.
The all-wheel drive system – called All Wheel Control – includes Active Traction Control, Active Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist.
Active Centre Differential and Electronic Control (with console mounted switch), coupled with a Ralliart-only rear mechanical Limited Slip Differential, transfer from the Evolution to provide a seamless and safe – yet spirited – driving experience.
He added that the Lancer Ralliart continued the Mitsubishi reputation for outstanding safety systems by adding passive safety features such as seven airbags (driver and front passenger SRS, driver’s side knee airbag and side and curtain airbags), three point seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, and Mitsubishi’s acclaimed RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body as standard specifications.
Braking is provided by front ventilated discs with two piston floating callipers and rear solid discs with single piston floating callipers.
Vehicle dynamics are further supported by the high performance suspension, including front McPherson strut suspension and rear multi-link suspension, front and rear stabiliser bars and front strut tower bar – mostly an up-rated version of the suspension in the VRX.
The Lancer Ralliart has 18×7.0JJ alloy wheels with 215/45R18 89W tyres, again carried over from the VRX, and Mr Maxted admitted that Mitsubishi would have liked a unique wheel for the Ralliart but none suitable were available in time for the release.
He said an alternate alloy wheel would be offered if one became available.
Drivers are well accommodated by the three-way adjustable front seats, complete with Ralliart sports cloth trim, replicated on the 60/40 split rear seats.
Aluminium pedals, deluxe floor console, leather accents to the sports steering wheel, gearshift and parking brake and the geometric print instrument, door and shift panels and front console complete the inside design ambience.
Power windows, Smart Key central locking, automatic dusk sensing headlamps, automatic rain sensing wipers and climate control air conditioning ensure occupants enjoy features usually found only in luxury vehicles.
In addition, the Lancer Ralliart Sportback includes one touch folding rear seats and a cargo cover to keep valuables and luggage protected.
On the road the Lancer Ralliart is fast enough to be entertaining and sure-footed enough to allow a high level of corner speed, while riding with a level of comfort that would ensure the car was liveable as a daily driver.
Despite rival Subaru announcing more power and better handling for the somewhat compromised WRX, the Lancer Ralliart has enough of what it takes to represent a serious threat to its Japanese rival and to others as well.
Off the line there is discernable turbo lag below 3000rpm but once that figure is reached the progress, while not as explosive as the EVO X, is very linear and progressive all the way to the redline.
A key to the progress is certainly the TC-SST gearbox, which sports taller fifth and sixth gear ratios than the Evolution, but which allows snappy gear changes in manual mode and seemed very intuitive in picking the right gears for most moments in auto function.
Occasional there was confusion, especially with some throttle juggling in corners, when the SST became confused and was unsure about choosing an up or down gear for the next cog.
The delay was momentary and didn’t really represent a great problem, in fact I personally prefer manual shifting into corners that way the gearbox is in no doubt about your intentions.
This is a car that can be driven very quickly across country and just laps up corners thanks to a chassis that delivers a confidence inspiring level of grip.
Competent damping dealt the some big hits and very patchy road surfaces during our drive in a more able and composed fashion than is the case with the lesser Lancers.
The ride was obviously less rigid than that of the Evolution and while there was a greater level of bodyroll, there was also more compliance, making this again a car that would be much easier to live with on a daily basis.
Inside the Lancer Ralliart is hard to pick from the VRX, getting a virtual total carry-over of the interior, except for the seats. Also on offer is the option of Rockford Fosgate audio and the Mitsubishi Multi Communication System.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart will be available in Cool Silver, Red Metallic, Solid White, Black Mica or Lightning Blue.
It’s definitely a great addition to the ‘hot hatch’ segment of the market and one that will certainly threaten the major players.