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Weidel on Wheels: Lancer offers mediocrity, but some good stuff too

By: Jeffrey Weidel
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To properly provide an overall evaluation of the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer, one should really test drive all its options — the Lancer has four different trim variations and they are quite diverse. The DE and ES trims are pretty modest offerings, the type of vehicles that won’t draw a lot of excitement. The GTS is certainly an upgrade from the previous two, featuring a more powerful engine and some nice upgrades in terms of standard features. However, the real gem among the bunch is the Ralliart, clearly the most exciting choice in the Lancer group. The Ralliart is quite fun to drive, featuring a turbocharged 2.0-liter, inline-4 engine that cranks out 237 horsepower. The problem, even for the appealing Ralliart, is this compact segment is loaded with some great choices. The competition includes the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta or SportWagen, and the little known Chevrolet Cruze. The Lancer GTS that was test-driven here for a week is a mediocre compact. It lacks overall refinement, is modest in terms of performance, and doesn’t have any one quality that’s going to convince a car shopper that “this is a must buy.” What car shoppers will find appealing about the GTS is a stylish exterior and some new additions, like electric-assist power steering and brake regeneration, both upgrades to its base models that have rather noisy engines. The Lancer GTS ($16,595) has a respectable 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine that offers 168 horsepower and reportedly goes 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds. If you like the lesser price ($15,195, $16,595) DE and ES models, one gets a lower performing 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder with 148 horsepower. Handling is just average in all three models. What Lancer owners will like about the above three choices is the gas mileage. The GTS gets 23 to 30 miles per gallon, while the other two models get between 24 to 33 mpg. The Ralliart goes 17 to 25 mpg. The GTS offers a fairly comfortable cabin thanks to its “sport” seats. Leg and headroom are modest in the Lancer and there is nothing interior-wise that gives it any advantage over competitors. The trunk space is pretty mediocre as well. __________ 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS Price: $16,595 Power: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower Mileage estimate: 23 mpg city; 30 mpg highway Standard features include: Stability control; tilt-only steering wheel; 60/40-split rear seat; center console; foglights; rear spoiler; paddle shifters; keyless ignition/entry; automatic climate control; voice-activation system; six-speaker stereo and USB port