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First drive: Lancer undergoes a Ralliart attack

Rally-bred: The Lancer Ralliart is the first affordable turbocharged all-wheel drive model from Mitsubishi since the Lancer GSR in the 1990s.

Mitsubishi’s affordable turbo hotshot is here to show the Impreza WRX a thing or two

24 Oct 2008

THE spirit of the affordable, turbocharged, all-wheel drive Mitsubishi is resurrected in the new Lancer Ralliart.

Priced from $42,490 and available for the first time in five-door hatchback as well as four-door sedan guise, the Ralliart is a modern take on the iconic CC Lancer GSR sold in Australia from 1992 to 1996.

Back then, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) failed to capitalise on the outstanding GSR’s brand-boosting potential in the same way that the conceptually similar WRX that followed from February 1994 did for the Subaru Impreza. Not this time, though, as the Lancer Ralliart is priced to put pressure on the latest WRX, as well as the front-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus XR5 Turbo, Holden Astra SRi Turbo, VW Jetta TFSI and even Ford’s mid-sized Mondeo XR5 Turbo.

Described internally at MMAL as “Exhilaration on Demand”, the Ralliart is sandwiched between the sporty $29,790 VRX sedan and Sportback and the “Ingeniously Brutal” $59,490-$71,690 Evolution ‘X’ sedan in the burgeoning Lancer line-up.

Mitsubishi based the Ralliart on the VRX body, meaning it uses the standard Lancer structure that includes a split-fold rear seat instead of the beefed-up and braced Evo item.

Nevertheless, many (albeit-modified) Evo-X features are fitted to the Ralliart as standard, including its aluminium bonnet featuring an air scoop for the turbo, and the three-spoke steering wheel.

21 center imageThese, along with a redesigned front bumper, bigger air intake, larger grille (wearing an oversized Audi-style chromed ring surround), restyled rear bumper and a pair of exhaust pipes, distinguish the Ralliart from lesser Lancers.

More importantly, a variation of the Evo-X’s new TC-SST Twin-Clutch Sport Shift Transmission and turbocharged 4B11 1998cc 2.0-litre four-cylinder underscore the Ralliart’s performance aspirations.

This 98-RON premium unleaded petrol-powered twin-cam 16-valve unit, fitted with Mitsubishi’s MIVEC variable-valve timing device, has been detuned, with an emphasis on providing ample low-to mid-range torque.

Using a single-scroll rather than the Evo-X’s twin-scroll turbocharger as well as a unique cooling and exhaust system set-up, the Ralliart engine delivers 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 343Nm of torque at 3000rpm to about 4750rpm (down from 217kW at 6500rpm and 366Nm at 3500rpm in the Evo X).

This compares to Subaru’s latest MY09 Impreza WRX outputs of 195kW at 6000rpm and (an identical to Ralliart) 343Nm, realised at a higher 4000rpm.

The Ralliart can hit 100km/h in 7.1 seconds (Evo X: 5.7 seconds) on the way to a top speed of 220km/h (Evo X: 242km/h), while its fuel consumption and emissions outputs are rated at 10.2 litres per 100km and 243 grams per kilometre respectively (WRX: 10.4L/100km and 247g/km).

Channelling the 4B11’s performance is the aforementioned W6DGA TC-SST six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, offering the choice of an automatic and a sequential manual transmission experience through two selectable drive modes – Normal and Sport.

A set of paddle shifts can take over duties from the floor shifter, priming one of the two clutches (for Reverse, 1st, 3rd and 5th or 2nd, 4th and 6th) at all times for instantaneous up/down shifts. Note that the fifth and sixth gear ratios are altered for the Ralliart.

No manual gearbox will be offered for the time being. However, with the USA calling for one, MMAL will import a manual if or when it becomes available.

The Ralliart also uses a version of the rally-honed full-time all-wheel drive system underpinning the 2004 CG Lancer Evo-VIII dubbed All Wheel Control (AWC).

AWC employs an active centre differential with an electronically-controlled front helical limited-slip differential (LSD) and a rear mechanical LSD.

Torque is constantly apportioned according to whichever end requires the most traction, while three modes can be called upon depending on prevailing external conditions: Tarmac (normal), Gravel (for wet or loose surfaces) and Snow.

The track-focussed Super-Active Yaw Control function is not available on the Ralliart.

Backing this up are switchable stability and traction controls, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA). Brakes are 294mm vented discs with two-piston floating callipers at the front, and 302mm solid discs with single-piston floating callipers in the rear.

The MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear suspension set-up has been honed for the Ralliart. Though based on the VRX state of tune, it employs stiffer spring rates for increased damping forces with mono-tube dampers in the rear, larger anti-roll bars and a front-strut tower brace.

Wheels are alloy (and identical in design to the VRX for the time being – a new style is in the pipeline), shod with 215/45R18 89W tyres, while steering is via a hydraulically-powered rack-and-pinion system.

Along with all the active safety features listed above, the five-star crash-test rated Ralliart also includes dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, auto-on headlights, ‘Smart Key’ keyless entry and smart, climate-control air-conditioning and power windows.

High-end audio, satellite-navigation and a sunroof are among the options available.

As with lesser Sportback models, the Ralliart hatchback also features a pair of one-touch folding rear seat handles on either side of the cargo area. On the other hand, the AWD system robs a small amount of boot space compared to the front-wheel drive Lancers.

Supply constraints mean that MMAL will only have about 150 Ralliarts to shift each month, with sales split evenly between Sportback and sedan models.

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart pricing:
Ralliart sedan TC-SST $42,490
Ralliart Sportback TC-SST $42,490

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