The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Is A Low-Budget Evo Alternative Everybody Forgot About
There's not much to the 2004 Lancer Ralliart, but in 2009 the car evolved in a big way.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart – It already sounds like a punchline, right? The Evo was the Lancer you wanted, the Ralliart was a consolation prize. The first one in 2004 was particularly wack, basically just a slow base Lancer with a body kit and some stiffer suspension. But in 2009 we were graced with a new, fully realized Lancer Ralliart; with a turbocharger and all-wheel-drive.
Before we get to the Lancer Ralliart, we have to understand that the only performance Lancer there ever has been is the Lancer Evolution. Rally-bred, dirt-huffing, turbocharged, absurdly advanced all-wheel-drive machines. Below the Evolution (affectionately called Evo), there was this dinky little FWD sedan that is just the Lancer. That Lancer, clearly, had not evolved very far.
The price gap between the base Lancer and fast Lancer Evo was huge; Mitsubishi’s first Lancer Ralliart trim effort in 2004 was an attempt to bag folks who were excited about the rally car but could only afford the base model. The ’04 Lancer Ralliart received an alleged two raging stallions (HP) from a different muffler, got stiff suspension for improved handling, and had some body cladding. According to contemporary reviews, it was actually a great apex of fun-to-drive and affordable. History has not smiled upon the car as kindly.
The opposite sort of happened with the revised-for-’09 Lancer Ralliart. The car finally got enough upgrades to be worth taking seriously, but contemporary reviews weren’t favorable towards the car, citing a high MSRP and citing underperformance, like this ridiculous line from C&D: “…it’s more of a Lancer in lipstick.” How? What?
The 2004 Ralliart is the “Lancer in lipstick;” the 2009-2015 model is a full-fledged mini Evo. There’s even a case to be made that it is an Evo, because it has evolved. It even has the drivetrain and differentials from an Evo 9 sans-Active Yaw Control, and a detuned version of the Evo 10 engine. Like I said – it’s a cool car!
I drove one a while ago with a simple tune and bolt-ons, and it was faster than a stock Evo 10. It had truly great steering, supple suspension with great body control, and unbelievable traction and turn-in. The mechanical limited-slip differentials made for a fluid experience from corner entry to exit, with the confidence to apply throttle at or before the apex and being able to drive the car on the throttle a little bit. AWD usually drives a bit FWD-like, but legitimate power was being sent to the back on demand, and the car would rotate on-throttle for a clean track-out.
I didn’t even hate the TC-SST gearbox, that’s Mitsu-speak for dual-clutch. It wasn’t sharp enough for my liking, preferring to emulate a normal automatic, but shifts were fast enough if lacking endorphin-rush gear grabs. I still think about Lancer Ralliarts to this day, being a few years removed from the raw caning I exposed to the one I drove.
Put respect on the Ralliart name, people. It’s a budget Evo, but more than that. It has an Evo drivetrain and nearly an Evo engine. Sure, it doesn’t have the brakes, the aluminum control arms, and the wide body. I think it’s better for it. Evo 10s are too harsh, too annoying. The Ralliart strikes a balance that needed some fine aging to be appreciated.
The best part? If you’re on the hunt for budget performance you can find these at reasonable prices at legitimate dealers with warranties and the like. Anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000 will nab you one with 100,000 miles or less, and in decent shape! It’s a far cry from the $30,000+ that Evo Xs command and the car offers the most performance potential of any car in that mid $10,000-range. With about $2,000 in mods, you have a certified Evo X hunter.
Put respect on the Lancer Ralliart! You may just get chopped by one soon. What do you think of it? Still deserves to be forgotten or a modern aberration that’s actually cool? Roast me in the comments!