It’s hard to believe, but it has been three years since Mitsubishi introduced North America to the Lancer Ralliart. A Lancer what?, you ask? The Ralliart is sort of the middle child of the Lancer family, bridging the gap from the responsible but slightly boring base car to the manic Evo. The Garage reviewed the Sportback Ralliart, when it debuted in 2010, which is essentially a five door hatchback Lancer. So when the opportunity arose to reacquaint ourselves with the Lancer Ralliart, we grabbed it, interested to see what has happened over time.
Well, truth be told, not much. It was disappointing to find out that Mitsubishi dropped the Sportback Ralliart in 2012 (the Sportback is still available). But apart from some minor twiddling here and there, this is basically the same car as before. It’s worth mentioning the current Lancer has been around since 2008, so this is a car that is definitely getting along in years. Thankfully, the Lancer was blessed with distinctive, handsome looks. While hardly fresh, the Lancer’s looks have aged very well. With the Ralliart’s unique front and rear bumpers, side sill extensions, subtle rear spoiler and 18″ alloys, the car strikes the perfect balance from plainer, less sporting Lancers to the more outrageous Evo, a car whose design language is “Hey, Cop! Come and get me!”
Sadly, the interior of the Lancer has not aged as gracefully. Plagued with an uninspired design, acres of rock hard plastics and average quality of materials, the Lancer was at a disadvantage even in 2008. I did seem to notice more soft touch plastics than before, but otherwise, Mitsubishi has not touched a thing inside the Lancer. To its credit, the Lancer has simple, easy to use controls. The seats are comfortable over long distances. You will want to plan those long distance trips carefully, as the Lancer is cursed with an inexcusable 11.2 cubic foot trunk. Packing the Lancer for a weekend in Pennsylvania required a couple tries to maximize space for my family of three. The 10″ subwoofer in the trunk did not help matters.
As before, powering the Ralliart is a 2.0L turbocharged four rated at 237hp. The sole transmission is a twin-clutch 6-speed automated manual. There were rumors Mitsubishi would add a five-speed manual to the Ralliart, but it hasn’t happened. All Ralliarts feature full-time all-wheel drive with an active center differential. The car is as quick and entertaining to drive as ever, with a run from naught to sixty in the mid-five second range. In the realities of modern driving, the Ralliart has all the power you could really use. Handling is sublime, and it is a joy to saw away at the chunky sport steering wheel. After a spirited drive, I concluded the Ralliart made me think this is what the BMW E30 M3 might be like if the Bavarians kept size and weight similar to that iconic car. Yes, it really is that fun.
While all that was good about the Ralliart remains, so are its weak points. The dual clutch Sport Tronic transmission is a joy in passing situations or when you’re pushing the car. Slugging through downtown traffic, the tranny feels lazy, shifts slow and not very gracefully. Fuel economy is poor. Even with over 500 miles of driving on the interstate, I still barely averaged 20 MPG. Combined with a tiny gas tank, get used to spending a lot of time at the pump. And since she only wants premium fuel, it can be unnerving to see how quickly the ‘miles to empty’ display drops.
A 2013 Mitsubishi Ralliart has a starting MSRP of $28, 095 USD. Standard equipment includes auto climate control, SiriusXM satellite radio, aluminum pedals, color multi-information display, and Fuse, Mitsubishi’s telematics system. Options on our test car included the Ralliart Touring Package, adding a leather interior, nine speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats, power moonroof, auto dimming rear view mirror and a back-up camera. Navigation rounded out the options, bringing the total cost to $34,240, including delivery.
To pay over $34,000 for a car whose design is old, featuring a stark interior, awful fuel economy and a miniscule trunk may be asking a lot from today’s sport sedan buyer, and likely explains why sales have been slow. While its appeal may be limited, I still believe the Ralliart is the most well-rounded car in the Lancer family. The fun to drive factor makes its faults a trivial, distant memory, but perhaps even more important is the car has charisma, personality. In a world where even the ultimate sport sedan, the BMW 3-series is being called out for becoming more isolated than it should be, the Ralliart comes off as quite refreshing. Yes, she’s a little rough around the edges, but she is honest, unfiltered, pure driving pleasure. And to a small number of enthusiasts out there, that is enough to make them open up their wallets. We get it.