Mitsubishi Lancer Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: The Lancer is Mitsubishi’s smallest offering in the U.S. The previous generation was a bit player in the compact segment thanks to its uncomfortable styling and lackluster performance, but Mitsubishi has high hopes for the new model. It features sharp lines that draw heavily on the 2005 Concept X show car, and it comes in base DE, mid-level ES or sporty GTS trim levels all powered by a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. For enthusiasts, it also forms the basis of what will be the Evolution X, the successor to the wildly popular turbocharged all-wheel drive Evolution IX.
These days, everything matters at Mitsubishi. The company is no longer drowning in red ink, but it’s still ankle deep and the only way out is with good product. With Eclipse sales modest and the new Outlook too new on the market to make much of an impact, the Lancer has a lot riding on its stylish shoulders. Expect a big advertising push when the car goes on sale, and with any luck on Mitsubishi’s part, more customers than tumbleweeds on its dealer lots.
All 2008 Lancers will be powered by a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder double overhead cam engine that uses Mitsubishi’s MIVEC variable valve timing technology to churn out 152 horsepower. California cars get a 143-hp PZEV version of the same engine. The engine is mated to either a standard five-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), a first for Mitsubishi in North America. Top-line GTS versions get a six-step Sportronic manual shifting mode with the CVT that includes magnesium shift paddles mounted on the steering column. GTS models also get a sport suspension and the same brakes as the Outlander SUV.
The new Lancer boasts clean lines that stay close to the Concept X that debuted at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. It is a handsome four-door sedan, with a profile that reminds us of the Acura TSX. The taillight treatment blends into the body work. ES models get five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, while GTS models get 18-inch 10-spoke alloys, an aerodynamics package, fog lights and a big rear spoiler. Overall it’s a nice shape, but it looks strangely dated, perhaps because of its overall resemblance to the 1999-2003 Mitsubishi Galant.
Mitsubishi is packing the Lancer with high-tech features. Standard safety items include two front air bags, seat-mounted bags, side curtain bags and a knee bag for the driver. There’s also a standard tire pressure monitoring system and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution is available on the DE and standard on ES and GTS. All 2008 Lancers are pre-wired for Sirius Satellite Radio, and a Sun and Sound package for the ES and GTS includes an ear-splitting 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system. GTS models also feature standard Bluetooth wireless technology for cell phone syncing, and an optional Navigation and Technology Package that includes a 30-gigabyte hard drive-based navigation system with a digital music server.
Mitsubishi says its 2008 Lancer features “class-up” value, with advanced safety and cutting-edge user technology in an aggressively styled package. The company also emphasizes the Lancer’s “international” driving character, thanks to its wider stance and stiff structure.
The Lancer has to be a success, there’s no question. While driving impressions will have to wait, we can say that on paper the Lancer presents a compelling argument. The clean styling may be a little dated, but the options packages and safety systems are 21st century all the way. However, the same can be said for the new Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Mazda3 and many other small cars. Prices haven’t been announced, but it’s a trump card that has played in Mitsubishi’s favor before. If it can come in under the competition, Mitsubishi’s little Lancer may lay the groundwork for a Mitsubishi resurgence. If it doesn’t, well, if you like it be sure to get one while you can.