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Old 12-28-2008, 11:56 PM   #1
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Default Edmunds Comparison Test: 09 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart vs. 09 Subaru Impreza WRX

Improved WRX Forces a Rematch With Mitsu's Ralliart
By Erin Riches



Stuff the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX into a corner, and you know it deserves a rematch with the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.

It's no less refined than the 2008 WRX, but it goes in without paralyzing understeer and doesn't keel over as soon as you load the outside tires. Provoke it and you'll get some attitude. When you're back on the throttle hard at the exit, there's no rush to grab 3rd gear. Rescued from last year's rev-starved funk, the 2.5-liter boxer-4 engine wants to see its 6,500-rpm redline again.

Most important, the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX isn't trying so hard to distance you from the drive. It rewards your efforts in the cockpit — one of the things that made the previous-generation WRX so likable.

Probably this is also why the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is so involving to drive. Introduced last summer, this Lancer Ralliart is the long-awaited head-on challenge to the WRX dynasty and it kicked the 2008 WRX while it was down. Even compared to the 2009 WRX, Mitsubishi's Ralliart is a flashier package. It has mechanical limited-slip differentials both front and rear, a very neat automated dual-clutch gearbox, Recaro seats and the schnoz of a tiger shark. Evo Jr. has a nice stiff chassis, too.

If the homely gray Subaru has any shot at winning here, it will have to do more with less.

How Much?
A relatively low $28,160 price tag is a good start for our 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan.

This figure includes our test car's Premium package ($2,500), which provides passable but unbranded audio, a sunroof, foglights and heated seats and mirrors. It's really too much money for a not very useful kit, so we'd cheap out here. Notably, the WRX sedan costs $500 less than the hatchback. Take a long look at our tester's tail and you'll understand why.

Mitsubishi's Lancer Ralliart undercuts the Premium package-equipped WRX sedan with a $27,185 base price — but only if you don't mind sitting high on pedestrian GTS seats.

To smoosh your glutes into Recaros, you'll have to spend another $2,750 for an option group that also includes HID headlights, hearty Rockford Fosgate sound, a CD changer and satellite radio. Add $150 for Rotor Glow paint, and this 2009 Lancer Ralliart lands at $30,065.

The Money's in the Drivetrains
So the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart costs $1,900 more, but remember that it comes with what amounts to an automatic transmission. Mitsu's six-speed Twin-Clutch Sequential Sportshift Transmission (TC-SST) is flexible enough to handle both commuter traffic and back-road work with minimal compromise.

And whether you use the paddles or cede all control to the computer, the Ralliart's dual-clutch gearbox is invariably smoother and more expedient with gearchanges than you are when working the WRX's conventional five-speed manual.

Both cars have permanent all-wheel drive as standard, but the Lancer Ralliart goes higher-tech here as well, borrowing from the Evolution IX its Active Center Differential (ACD) hardware, which features driver-selectable pavement, gravel and snow settings. Subaru offers a similar clutch-type limited-slip differential on the STI, but the 2009 WRX has a less costly viscous-coupling unit.

These Numbers Matter
Getting Evo-grade hardware in a Lancer Ralliart is cool. But when your budget is limited (and it is, or else you'd be reading some Evo vs. STI test), whatever car you buy should be putting up numbers that justify its go-faster extras.

Accordingly, we're weighting our instrumented testing results a hefty 30 percent in this comparison.

In acceleration testing, this approach favors the WRX. The 2008 model was already quicker than the Lancer Ralliart. With the Subie's turbocharged, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder making 265 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 244 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm in 2009, the gap widens.

It's Really This Quick?
The 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX is quicker than you can fully appreciate from the driver seat. The car doesn't like to be launched hard, and although the shifter is smoother through the gates than other Subies we've sampled, it's still notchy.

You get used to it. Especially when you realize your car hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds (5.0 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). The WRX also runs a sub-14 quarter-mile — 13.7 seconds at 98.7 mph.

Some suggest that the 2009 WRX will out-drag an STI, but the quickest STI we've tested ran a 4.5-second 0-60 time and a 13.3-second quarter at 100.3 mph. Still, there's no denying that the Everyman's 'Rex has moved closer to the STI.

And, says our resident Evo expert, Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh, that's no bad thing: "The 2009 WRX is going to make the Evo better."

Harder Launch for the Ralliart
Since the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart lacks launch control, we brake-torque it and manage a few runs before the twin-clutch box delivers the fateful "slow down" message and decouples its clutches until everything cools off.

Our footwork shaves almost a second off the Ralliart's times, but it still runs a half-second behind the WRX with a 5.8-second 0-60 time (5.5 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and a 14.2-second quarter-mile at 94.9 mph.

Evo Jr.'s turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-4 develops 253 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm — enough to get the Ralliart sideways if you want. But 237 hp at 6,000 rpm doesn't go that far in a 3,500-pound car.

On public roads, the 2009 Lancer Ralliart feels a touch sluggish off the line, and it's weaker through the midrange than the WRX. Drive it hard, though, and the dual-clutch transmission largely masks these vulnerabilities by delivering rapid-fire shifts.

Tires Revive the WRX
Once we get a taste of the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX's newfound speed and renewed appetite for cornering, we don't want to stop driving it on Malibu roads like Piuma and Yerba Buena.

Our feelings are backed up by hard data from the test track, as the 2009 WRX averages 68.5 mph through the slalom and 0.87g on the skid pad — both good numbers for this class. Still, this isn't quite a night-and-day improvement through the cones, as even with its soggier suspension setup, the 2008 WRX ran a respectable 67.7 mph. We suspect the 2009 WRX is benefiting most from its superior tires. Instead of last year's 205/50R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE92 all-season rubber, the '09 Subie wears wider, stickier 225/45R17 Dunlop SP Sport 01 summer tires.

How good are these Dunlops? The 2009 Subaru WRX stops from 60 mph in 107 feet. Last year's car had the same brakes but stopped in 121 feet. Our long-term STI stopped in 109 feet.

Tires Ruin the Ralliart
Driven on the same roads, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart corners with less body roll than Subaru's WRX. Its steering is also better weighted and richer in feedback. And with all those limited-slip differentials helping to adjust its cornering attitude, we expect to get on the throttle earlier and harder.

But we can't, because the Lancer Ralliart wears 215/45R18 Yokohama Advan A10s, which are optimistically classified as summer tires. These Yokohamas push so severely that all you can do is slow way down for tight corners and squeeze back on the gas, anticipating a tail-out exit. It's a terrible waste of Evo IX kit.

At the track, the Ralliart goes through the slalom at 65.6 mph. That's 3 mph slower than the WRX — an eternity in our world. The Mitsu manages only 0.80g on the skid pad.

Braking is the bigger worry on public roads. More than once we find ourselves hurtling down a hill into a tight turn and really hoping the tires will eventually dig in to slow the car down. Through it all, brake pedal feel is solid and reassuring, so our brain is telling us the Lancer should have stopped 10 feet ago.

During testing, the 2009 Lancer Ralliart stops from 60 mph in 127 feet on the first run. All subsequent stops are in the 130s.

We Take a Time Out
We're sure a stickier set of tires is all the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart needs.

But we don't want to speculate. Conveniently, our friends at Mitsubishi have a set of 215/45R18 93Y Bridgestone Potenza RE050As they're willing to swap onto the Lancer Ralliart. These are the same tires the Mazdaspeed 3 wears. New ones go for $215 apiece on Tire Rack.

So we run our braking and handling tests again. (Take note, Subie fans: These test results do not count toward the final score.) It turns out these RE050As are very worn, so we don't see much improvement on the skid pad with a performance of 0.82g, but the difference in the slalom is huge, as the Ralliart now goes through at 69.3 mph.

"The Bridgestones give the Ralliart a far more neutral cornering attitude," Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton says. "Turn-in is far more trustworthy, and when the tires let go at the limit, they do so in unison, so the car drifts as a whole rather than one end or the other."

The Lancer Ralliart's 60-mph-to-zero braking distance improves to 120 feet. Hard brake pads and/or non-ideal ABS tuning are likely why we're not seeing a more dramatic drop.

But there's more to better tires than better numbers. During a quick run up Glendora Mountain Road, the 2009 Lancer Ralliart on RE050As stops more predictably and emboldens us to try faster cornering speeds. It's no Evo, but Junior is more fun now.

WRX Wins by 4.9 Points
Although it doesn't turn into a corner like an old-gen WRX, the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX is the better of these two sport compacts. It doesn't matter that the 2009 WRX lacks fancy differentials and a twin-clutch gearbox. It's quicker, lighter and cheaper than the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.

Still, had our instrumented tests with the Lancer Ralliart on RE050As counted, the Subie's lead would narrow to 1.8 points. Factor in the higher evaluation scores a Ralliart with stickier rubber would likely get and the Mitsu might squeeze out a victory. The fact that tires matter so much says a lot about this rivalry. In spite of their different hardware, the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX and 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart are so closely matched that it doesn't take much to tip the scales.

There's also a lot of emotion that we can't measure. Although the 2009 WRX is the winner here, we can't agree on which one feels better on our favorite roads.

This happens when we test Evos and STIs, too. The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX might be lesser heroes, but they want to be driven just as hard. If that's your thing, neither one's going to let you down.


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Old 12-29-2008, 08:08 AM   #2
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Subie FTW!

Always wanted to try those 2 cars back to back. I just wish Subie designer would get slapped around and re-design the damn cars.
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:15 AM   #3
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Too bad the Ralliart only comes with the dual clutch automatic. I'd favor the WRX right off the bat because it comes with a manual, and only a manual for 2009.
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Old 12-29-2008, 10:27 AM   #4
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Un-retire the 4G63 dammit!
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Old 12-29-2008, 05:12 PM   #5
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wow they have gotten ugly.
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Old 12-29-2008, 05:20 PM   #6
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wow they have gotten ugly.
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:36 AM   #7
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wow they have gotten ugly.
my first thought too...WRX especially
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:59 AM   #8
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I kinda like the way they look
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:02 AM   #9
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I think both companies really did a good job at ruining the appeal of these cars
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:22 AM   #10
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Un-retire the 4G63 dammit!
unfortunately the 4b11 is here to stay...
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Old 01-04-2009, 03:19 PM   #11
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boosh hows the evo runnin? i say you the other day it sounded pretty damn good you get an exhaust?
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Old 01-04-2009, 04:34 PM   #12
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there was a good episode about the sti and evo on TopGear a couple weeks ago....sti beat it around the track but they still voted the evo #1
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Old 01-04-2009, 10:37 PM   #13
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unfortunately the 4b11 is here to stay...
Yea its pretty depressing.
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