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2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Affordable Family Fun

    If you’re a regular reader of these pages you already know that the Mitsubishi Lancer can offer serious doses of excitement when fitted with full Evolution trim. For some, however, the budget may preclude even considering an Evolution. Luckily for us enthusiasts there is a healthy amount of fun to be had for around $20,000 in the 2005 Lancer Ralliart. Mitsubishi claims the Ralliart package is “inspired by the Lancer’s rally heritage”. Although you will not find expensive goodies like a turbo or all-wheel drive, you will find enough pep to make driving feel a little less like work and a little more like fun.
     Fun starts under the hood and here it’s achieved with a MIVEC 16-valve 2.4-liter I4 with aluminum heads and a 6,500rpm redline. The maximum of 162hp comes at 5,750rpm and 162lb-ft of torque at a nicely useable 4,000rpm. The MIVEC system, or Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control, effectively adjusts the intake valves to vary the amount of air in the cylinders, which optimizes power across the rpm range. That, as Martha would say, is a good thing. The Ralliart is available with a choice of a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control. We can’t comment on how adaptive the automatic is because, thankfully, our tester was fitted with the manual. Every driver enjoyed this car’s do-it-yourself tranny and praised it for its slick operation. Clutch take-up was natural and provided for buttery smooth shifts. Together it’s the kind of setup you can use all day and not be any worse-for-wear. Power goes through the front wheels and to the pavement through P205/50 16” all-season tires. These tires proved competent while tackling several miles of twisty two-lane but we suspect there is still more handling potential to be tapped if even stickier rubber were outfitted. Nevertheless the package is already good enough to make Senior Editor Muxlow comment that the Lancer “makes you want to go rallying.”
     Much of this car’s handling can be attributed to its low weight but Mitsubishi adds a strut-tower brace to help stiffen up the chassis and increases the diameter of the front anti-sway bar. Further excitement is dialed in by reducing the steering to 2.86 turns lock-to-lock. All changes that certainly convey a degree of handling prowess that usually isn’t available in this class of car. Another feature not commonly available for this money is standard ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Together with standard 4-wheel disc brakes and a firm pedal, hauling this 2,850-pound sedan down to a stop is a quick and drama free affair.
     Mitsubishi has provided the Lancer Ralliart with a contemporary exterior that is fresh and handsome, especially in our car’s Graphite Gray Pearl paint. The Lancer’s nose looks particularly good with large clear headlamps and an aggressive lower air dam to funnel air over the radiator. Mitsubishi’s new grille treatment is also featured up front and it’s a success judging by those who commented on the car. We hope to see it featured across the Mitsubishi lineup, starting with the next Eclipse. In profile it’s clear this is a traditional three-box sedan. The Lancer features an upright greenhouse that isn’t particularly attractive but does offer generous headroom, even to rear seat passengers. Subtly flared fenders frame alloy wheels while stylized side-sills are a welcome component of the Ralliart package. Also part of the Ralliart package is the large trunk-mounted wing that dominates the rear view of the car. Clear lens tail lamps add some additional visual freshness out back but remain a styling element that not everyone can warm up to.
     The positive remarks continue inside where a generally well-finished cabin impressed us, especially in a segment where cost cutting is often painfully evident throughout interiors. Areas usually ripe for criticism include the door panels and dash plastics but here we cannot complain because we found soft-touch materials and sporty fabric used liberally around the cabin. The steering wheel and shifter were leather wrapped and the aggressively bolstered seats were covered in attractive cloth. The Ralliart package adds white-faced gauges that were easily readable and good-looking. An Infinity stereo with 315-watts of power pumping through 7-speakers will be well received by audiophiles on a budget. The interior design can accurately be described as straightforward but by adding a few details like metal door sill scuff plates and carbon fiber-style trim, Mitsubishi manages to deliver an aesthetically pleasing environment not usually available at this price.
     What is this price you may be asking? Actually, we don’t know for certain because our 2005 press vehicle was delivered hot off the line without even a window sticker. As near as we can figure a Lancer Ralliart optioned as ours was would list for $20,755. An attainable price for many consumers and even more affordable if you can live without the sunroof, high-powered audio system and side airbags which are part of a $1,500 option package. On top of all that you can sleep easy knowing you are covered by a 5-year or 60,000-mile fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty.
     In the world of sub-$20,000 cars driving is often reduced to a type of work—there’s little excitement involved and you certainly don’t look forward to it. Luckily, the Lancer Ralliart features just enough style, power, and comfort to make driving the family sedan seem a little less like work and a little more like fun. That’s a success in our book.

The Good:
Sharp style, fun drivetrain, plenty of headroom, well-bolstered seats.
The Bad:
Ringed headrests are uncomfortable.
The Verdict:
A strong choice in the $20k sedan market.


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