Since its introduction more than three decades ago, the Lancer remains to be its manufacturer's bread and butter. Despite being basic as a family car should be, it has always been the recipient of Mitsubishi's expertise in car design and innovation. In fact, it was one of the first manufacturers to sport an overhead cam engine (OHC) on its line-up, alongside a slightly faster steering radius as compared to the competition, as well as the standard sporty and ergonomic driving position. Not only that, a top-of-the-line model always capped the line-up in the guise of the GSR acronym (whatever that means). In today's car speak the top-of-the-line Lancer is spelled out as E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N or simply Evo to enthusiasts.
Why the keen interest and knowledge in Lancers other than the Evolution series, one may ask this writer? Aside from being the original sporty sedan during the 1970s, this writer had the chance of owning its sporty, 2-door hatchback version. Dubbed as the Celeste, it is derived from the Lancer platform so no mechanical differences could be seen between the two models. Despite the really sorry state of that car's body and frame, all mechanical components performed exactly the way Mitsubishi wanted it to be, a testament of its durability. Too bad the project was never finished because of the sheer lack of body panels; this writer had since graduated to a four-door sedan of the same vintage. Thirty years after, even though the current Lancer has attuned itself to the times just like its contemporaries, it still stays true to its selling point of being as basic and functional at it could be.
What sets the 8 th generation Lancer apart from the competition is the fact that it's one Mitsubishi model that benefited extensively from the Daimler-Chrysler merger, for it was conceptualized back in the time Mitsubishi had ties with Chrysler.
Here in the Philippines, the 8th generation Lancer is again, basic as it could be. Throughout its local line-up, the base models are powered by a 1600 cc engine while the top-of-the-line MX model is powered by a 1800 cc engine, both devoid of any variable-valve timing gizmos. A CVT (Contiunously Variable Transmission) with 6-speed Sportronic is available for both GLS and MX models to help fill the gap. Safety features include disc brakes all round with ABS and EBD, driver and passenger side air bags, and vehicle security system.
Styling cues for the Lancer MX include a body kit consisting of front, side, and rear skirts as well as a spoiler. In sync with contemporaries is the new roof-mounted antenna, as well as the face lifted front and rear fascia, which made the Lancer look a little bit aggressive.
Driving the Lancer MX was never a chore for this writer, and ultimately, any driver for that matter. The Lancer has always been easy to drive but it does not border on the boring side. Driving position is reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz driving position, which is not a bad thing at all. The engine, although a little bit low in numbers, still delivers ample performance expected of cars in this segment. A little plus however on the performance factor comes from the fact that the Lancer possesses a CVT, thereby maximizing the engine power band a little bit more, making it responsive whether on uphill climbs or occasional overtaking bursts.
Handling is another plus for the Lancer, and will remain to be so as it is firm on its commitment towards multi-link, independent rear suspension design. The Lancer is surefooted even sans aftermarket springs; it will continue to do so until it reaches the understeer limit that's inherent on front-wheel drive vehicles. Braking likewise is very good, owing to the fact that it has disc brakes on all corners.
The leather-laced interior of the Lancer MX is comparable to other offerings in its segment, as well as its abundant space. The four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is also a joy to touch and turn, however, this writer feels it is a little bit big compared to other cars. But then, a larger steering wheel requires lesser effort to turn vis-à-vis smaller ones. An adjustable arm rest is a welcome addition for drivers who sit a little bit forward due to height considerations, like this writer. A Pioneer MP3 Head unit supplies tunes; a dealer option is a DVD head unit with an LCD monitor. Availing of the latter, however, blocks the air-conditioning vents when in the operating position, and may induce moist that leads to premature damage.
All in all, the Lancer and all of its variants is still a worthwhile purchase for everyone who plans to have a piece of the Mitsubishi tradition. Driving a Lancer also is somewhat a sneak preview of what to expect from a Lancer Evolution, as they both share the same platform, albeit the latter has all the enhancements, not to mention a turbo engine and all-wheel drive layout. After all, it is the Lancer that's developed first, and evolves into the Evolution. Pun intended.