First Drive: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart review (2008 onwards) – MSN Cars UK

27 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart review (2008 onwards) – MSN Cars UK

First Drive: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart review (2008 onwards)

What: Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Where: Barcelona, Spain

Date: June 2008

Price: £21,500 (TBC)

Available: January 2009

Key rivals: Subaru Impreza WRX, VW Golf R32, Focus ST, Mazda3 MPS, Renault Megane R26

New five-door junior Evo brings ballistic four-wheel drive turbo nutter performance to a more affordable level

Likes: bang per buck, standard-fit SST gearbox, great chassis, practicality

Dislikes: weight blunts performance, odd proportions, band G emissions, flat sounding engine

GALLERY: Mitsubishi Ralliart

First Impressions

Image © Mitsubishi

Click images to enlarge

The new Evo X is an amazing car but it’s also an expensive one, suitably specced examples now costing £30K or more. So Mitsubishi has responded with this, the Lancer Ralliart. Based around the forthcoming five-door Sportback Lancer it’s got Evo essentials like four-wheel drive and a ballistic turbo engine for a much more affordable price.

What counts as affordable though? Well, prices are yet to be fixed but expect it to cost around £21,500 when it goes on sale early next year. So we’re talking Golf GTI money here, pitching the Ralliart against the Impreza WRX.

Megane R26. Focus ST. Mazda3 MPS. Astra VXR and others.

And against these rivals the Ralliart has some significant advantages. Its Evo bloodline means four-wheel drive is a given. And although it runs a detuned version of the Evo’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine it’s still got 237bhp and will crack 62mph in just seven seconds.

But the big news is the gearbox, the Ralliart coming as standard with Mitsubishi’s SST dual-clutch transmission.

That’s a serious spec for this price point, considering a 227bhp Golf GTI Pirelli with a DSG gearbox would cost you £24,385. The Ralliart bathes in the reflected glory of its Evo brother too, sharing the bonnet scoops and aggressive face and pairing it with the new hatchback Lancer body. It ain’t pretty but it certainly has presence.

To Mitsubishi what STI is to Subaru, Ralliart is the in-house competition and tuning department. And its name wasn’t about to be used in vain. It might not be an Evo by badge but this new five-door is certainly Evo by nature and the turbocharged four-cylinder delivers its 237bhp with real vigour.

It uses a simpler turbo set up than the Evo. And although the MIVEC variable valve timing attempts to smooth the power delivery there’s no hiding the forced induction character. Which is a good thing, the boost arriving in an invigorating torrent in proper, old school turbo fashion.

There’s an appropriately raw edge to its power delivery too. It’s just a pity it sounds so boring, with none of the Focus ST’s charisma and rather less refined than the slick VW T-FSI turbo engine in the Golf GTI. If it makes you feel any better it sounds a lot better on the outside.

It does struggle with the Ralliart’s hefty 1550kg kerbweight though, the four-wheel drive gubbins adding at least 200kg to the standard front-wheel drive Lancer Sportback. As such it feels rapid but perhaps not quite as ballistic as you might hope, and you really need to work the engine hard to extract its best.

Evos have always rewarded keen drivers with super sharp handling and that’s clearly rubbed off on the Ralliart too. And it’s that rally pedigree that makes cars like this and the Imprezas (or some of them, at least) such effective weapons out in the real world of broken tarmac and lumpy back roads.

Anyone can make a car handle well on a track but true cross-country ability demands compliance as well as composure and Mitsubishi’s chassis engineers continue to go from strength to strength. The Ralliart doesn’t get the Evo’s designer-label Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs but that doesn’t seem a huge handicap.

The weight does make its presence felt though. The Ralliart disguises it well but there is a hint of heftiness that robs it of that last degree of sparkle. Nonetheless, direction changes are rapid and the steering eager to respond, the four-wheel drive chassis letting you power through initial nose heaviness, should you so wish.

The SST gearbox makes going fast very easy too. Large, aluminium paddles behind the wheel let you punch through the ratios, the shifts slamming home with real aggression in sports mode. It’s clunkier than DSG but this rawness suits the car and there is a slurry auto mode for when you just want to pootle.

Image © Mitsubishi

Drive it the way it encourages you to and the official combined consumption of 28.5mpg will seem as distant a dream as sub £1 per litre fuel. You might get close on a motorway cruise but the weight, four-wheel drive chassis and – most importantly – lairy nature are all conspiring against you.

Band G emissions are also going to hit you where it hurts, with most front-wheel drive rivals scraping into band F. And while the previous Lancer took a bit of a hammering on the Euro NCAP test Mitsubishi has been working hard here, safety features including a ‘RISE’ reinforced body and hazard lights that blink under emergency braking.

The MSN Cars verdict: 4/5

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