Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos | February 01, 2008 00:00
Defending HonorIt's about time. For two years now, Mitsubishi have been teasing us, almost taunting, about what shape will come into production ever since the unveiling of the Concept X at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show.
The previous global-look Lancer was not really the definitive sales success previous generations were, especially when faced with Toyota's all-conquering Corolla Altis and Honda's future Civic. Still, the Lancer soldiered on until an heir can uphold the pride the previous generations valiantly built and upheld. Enter the all-new Lancer.
Known as the Galant Fortis in its native Japan, the Lancer just evokes a go-fast feeling from any angle. It's not so much as an evolution, but a complete and total revolution. The snout is swept forward, reminiscent of 7th generation Galants/Diamantes, an appearance further accentuated by the tapered muscular (even for a compact car) body lines. Beyond the skin and the obvious testosterone overdose, it's difficult to notice the key improvements over the previous model like the longer wheelbase and wider track (for improved high-speed and cornering stability), yet still has shorter overhangs.
And no longer will Mitsubishi be outdone by their rival brethren from Honshu island in terms of both power and technology. Under the bonnet lives and breathes MMC's all new 4B11 naturally aspirated MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system), the latter having evolved into a continuously variable valve timing unit.
Diamond star loyalists may recall that previous Lancers and subsequent Evos used the 4G-series of motors (4G15, 4G92, 4G63T, so on), but the engineers in Japan sought a new engine to power their new Lancer. The 4B11 has 154 proud horses with 198 newton meters of pull at its disposal, all of them providing propulsion to a Continuously Variable Transmission dubbed INVECS-III; the reins of which are either the center console shift knob or paddles (ala Outlander) behind the steering wheel.
Sitting inside for the first time, the Lancer is already brimming with Evo interior doctrine. Absolutely no tacky faux wood or quasi-luxury beige-on-whatever color schemes... just proper shades of gray, black, brushed aluminum in the right places. The seats are well-bolstered for taking on cornering Gees; the steering wheel also lifted straight from the Outlander, hence, thick and grippy. A dual cylinder gauge cluster stares you in the face, with a tach and speedo gleaming with red while Rockford Fosgate powers the audio.
Right off the line, slotted in manual mode, the two liter is quite an experience both physically and aurally. Calling up 2nd and 3rd gear with my right index finger isn't just a matter of calling up cogs, but an experience in itself, as shifts are instant and definitive, easily rocking the car forward to the right foot's desires.
Handling is excellent, reminiscent of drive-defined BMWs. Cornering within tight confines were easy and composed, obviously an orchestra of the large rims, grippy Yokohama Advan rubber and Ralliart genetics, courtesy of full independence with MacPhersons and multi-links, 21 and 20 millimeter thick stabilizers, up front and out back, respectively. And that engine (with the tuned exhaust) produces a chill-inducing growl for any motorhead's ears.
And if that ain't enough, the Evolution X (4WD powered by a 4B11T at 276 hp) is waiting in the wings, ready to take its place in the pantheon of super sedans.