Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer If...
Budget-conscious fans of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will find plenty to enjoy in the 2009 Ralliart. Using the Evolution’s twin-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive system, the Ralliart serves up commendable performance for thousands less.
You May Not Like The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer If...
Though not as punishing as the Evolution, the Ralliart remains a stiffly-sprung sport sedan that will leave you feeling less than coddled. And, as we discovered with the Evolution, the new automated manual transmission earns more of its stars on the track than in tight traffic.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the mainstream Lancer and the Lancer Evolution performance model, Mitsubishi offers the Lancer Ralliart for 2009. Shared with the Evolution are an all-wheel-drive system, a new six-speed Twin-Clutch Sportronic Transmission (TC-SST) and a de-tuned version of the Evo’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Move inside the Lancer Ralliart and you’ll find several accents serving to complement the upgraded exterior. To reflect the car’s sporty character, aluminum pedals have been added along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Upgraded upholstery is standard, while Recaro front seats are reserved for the options list. Entering and exiting the Recaros can be a challenge due to the tall side bolsters; the comfortable rear bench seat provides ample room for average-sized adults.
When it was redesigned for 2008, the Mitsubishi Lancer adopted a much flashier look, which has been enhanced with 2009’s Ralliart treatment. The Ralliart is differentiated from lesser Lancers with smoked taillights, front foglights, 18-inch alloy wheels, restyled front and rear bumpers and chrome dual exhaust tips. A vented aluminum hood has been added as well. The result is a model that’s more aggressive than the Lancer GTS yet not quite as menacing as the Evolution.
As an intended compromise between the base Lancer and the Evolution, the Ralliart can be considered a success. There’s the usual bit of turbo lag, but once that threshold has been crossed (at about 3,000 rpm) the engine willingly unloads all of its available horsepower as it approaches its 6,500 rpm redline. Compounding the turbo lag issue is the new TC-SST gearbox. Like many automated manual transmissions, the TC-SST fails to immediately respond when the driver initially presses the gas pedal, a characteristic that can cause aggravation in congested stop-and-go traffic. On the plus side, quick gear changes can be manually executed. Drivers will most likely enjoy that feature during spirited drives, a time when the car’s handling capabilities shine. Like the Evolution, the Ralliart rewards its owner with responsive steering, excellent brakes, and negligible body roll.
With a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at about $27,500 and a fully-loaded price of about $33,000, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart costs a bit more than its primary competitors. That group consists of the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, the Subaru WRX and the MAZDASPEED3, all with starting prices in the low-to-mid $20,000s. The Ralliart is selling at MSRP, but market conditions can change, so be sure to verify current Fair Purchase Prices before making a deal. As for resale value, expect the Lancer Ralliart to better the Chevy Cobalt SS and perform on par with the Subaru WRX and MAZDASPEED3.
Next to the top-of-the-line Evolution, the Ralliart is the most expensive Mitsubishi Lancer model available, and as such, has been bestowed with a generous list of standard equipment. Features include an automatic climate control system that’s easy to use, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a handy auxiliary input jack for your iPod, and Bluetooth hands-free capability. Passenger safety is addressed by front, front-side and side-curtain airbags as well as a knee airbag for the driver and stability and traction control systems.
Mitsubishi offers two packages for the Lancer Ralliart, one of which is a Navigation Package that includes a navigation unit with a 40-gigabyte hard drive that stores maps and music files. Next is a Recaro Sport Package, bringing with it a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system featuring six months of satellite radio service and a 10-inch subwoofer that, unfortunately, consumes precious cargo space. High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights are also part of the deal as are deeply-bolstered Recaro front seats. These sporty buckets do a remarkable job of keeping the driver planted during aggressive cornering, though the base seat’s handy height-adjustment feature is sacrificed.
TC-SSTFor Ralliart buyers who plan on spending time at the track or having fun wrangling twisty back roads, the TC-SST offers a Super Sport mode that delivers quick shifts by way of magnesium paddles or the center shifter. S-AWCThe Ralliart’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system, borrowed from the Lancer Evolution, delivers outstanding handling when the driver wants to explore the car’s limits. S-AWC includes three modes designed to adjust for varying road conditions: Tarmac, Gravel, and Snow.
Under the Hood
Like the Lancer Evolution, the 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart draws motivation from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that runs on premium gasoline. However, the four-cylinder has been detuned for this application, dropping a total of 54 horsepower and 47 lb.-ft. of torque. The Evolution’s TC-SST automated manual transmission is standard on the Ralliart, as is the performance-minded all-wheel-drive system. When compared against competitors such as the Subaru WRX and MAZDASPEED3, the Ralliart’s engine specifications usually come up short. In terms of fuel economy, the Ralliart offers EPA ratings just a tick below the WRX and MAZDASPEED3, but falls far short of the Chevrolet Cobalt SS’s 30 mpg on the highway. 2.0-liter in-line 4 turbocharged237 horsepower @ 6000 rpm253 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
Long considered arch rivals, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX haven’t battled on a completely level playing field. The Evolution stood square with the WRX STI, but not until the debut of the Lancer Ralliart has there been a more affordable and less powerful equivalent to the base WRX. Subaru’s new competition comes in the form of a 237-horsepower, all-wheel-drive sedan that offers Evolution-inspired handling and style, albeit with less performance potential. Thanks to an automated manual transmission that’s better suited for the track than the street, the Ralliart isn’t a first pick for daily commuting, but there’s no denying its appeal as an obtainable, capable sport sedan.