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Car Tech Video: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

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Car Tech Video: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

5:45 /

Could any car be more irrelevant and in need of a refresh to the 21st century than the 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE? CNET's Brian Cooley doesn't seem to think so.

Just a handful of years ago, this Lancer SE would have been a pretty cool contender at its category. Today, in 2013, it's like taking a trip back to the Soviet Union. Everything is a generation behind from another era. Let's drive this 2013 Lancer SE in Check the Tech, or at least the places where it should be. Let's face it. Mitsubishi is not longing for the US market. They don't fix some things and fix them fast. Their car line-up consists of 3 versions of this Lancer and the Galant, which I don't know if they even made anymore. They're peddling all their hopes right now on the 2014 Outlander. Meanwhile, we've got this Lancer in kind of mid-trim to show us where the company is going stale on the vine in the last couple of years. Now, inside the Lancer, the first thing you're struck by, and I mean struck by, are the acres of bad plastic, more than you'll see anywhere this side of a recycling plant, hard, bad finishes. They don't really gap well. Brings us to this head unit that is right out of the 80s, AM, FM, single CD and an ORANGE Dotmatrix Display. Functional, yes, but just barely. That's specs. We've upgraded, as you can see, to the Rockford Fosgate audio systems, 710 watts. It also rolls in 6-CD player, like anybody cares about that anymore. Huge old sub in the trunk. You see our aux jacks are down there. Infuriatingly, they are a pair of RCAs, which I've heard from a lot of you about, saying "Why RCAs? Give me an aux mini. It's what I always have." Now, if you want Bluetooth hands-free, don't get all excited. We have the buttons. We just don't have the functionality behind them. That's part of an extra cost option. It also rolls in Bluetooth streaming and the USB jack. As I understood, until the USB jack replaces the aux input, doesn't augment it. I could be wrong on that, but that's how I read the spec; a little disturbing if it's true. Now, navigations option, which would bring you the LCD on this dashboard, it would also roll in some different media choice of a 40-gigabyte hard drive for media, which you're never gonna use. So it's basically a 2400-dollar navigation system. I'm not big on that. Knowing Mitsubishi's finesse with cabin tech, I'd blow off the nav entirely at least on this generation. Now, the SE has the middle engine of a Lancer. You can actually, on the lower trim, get a smaller engine at 2-liter, in-line 4. We have the 2.4-liter, in-line 4 that is a hotter one above this for the evil, of course. We'll deal with that in another video. 168 horsepower, 167 foot-pounds of torque, add to this out of this engine sitting very conventionally crossways here in the front. Car weighs about 3120, gets up to 60 miles per hour in just a tick under 8 seconds while delivering 22, 29 mpg. One gearbox on the SE, the CVT, continuously variable transmission. You cannot get the 5-speed manual unless you go down-trim, and you can't get Mitsubishi's dual-clutch automated manual-- they're excellent SST gearbox-- unless you go up to an evil. So you're stuck with this combination. Now what our Lancer does have that sets it apart in many ways is all-wheel drive. They call it all-wheel control. You mean to say that rocker switch in the cabin. You've got a 2 wheel-drive front mode. You've got an automatically managed all-wheel drive mode or all-wheel drive lock mode, putting it into the more serious round for those of you that live in serious weather. Now, I have never worked on a farm, but I'm pretty darn sure I could write some Steinbach caliber pros about driving a tractor at this point 'cause I've spent time in the Lancer. This SE has a coarse harshness about it that's coming in from both road vibration as well as from this engine. It makes some horrible noises. It's not a pleasant experience. The CVT transmission takes what might be a nice motor. There might be some good power in response in there. I believe there is, and really mutes the hell out of it. Now, the all-wheel drive, as I mentioned, is a bonus on this vehicle. It's one of its strong selling points. Unfortunately, it's April in San Francisco. I don't have any way to really put it to a test. So, we'll take the word of many, many owners who attested that it's a great system to have at a really good price. So there's not a whole lot as the takeaway from this car, except that it's one of the last econoboxes that is still an econobox. Most inexpensive compact cars have gone a gone-up market these days, and left the econo role to the really small cars, the little subcompacts and little urban A class and B class cars. So this is an odd role that Mitsu is kind of hanging onto here, and what if they know they have to evacuate fairly soon. Okay, here's how I price out the Lancer SE, if you must. $21,090 gets the car delivered in SE trim, and they're CVT only at that level. Then another $1550 gets you to premium package. Good choice here. Rockford Fosgate audio, 6-CD, satellite radio, power glass roof. It's a good value. Then you also want the fused hands-free kit. For just 400 bucks, you get hands free calling. Thank you. Bluetooth streaming, USB adaptor. What I wouldn't do is spend a nearly 2400 bucks on the navigation plus 40-gig hard drive thing. Their tech isn't good enough to warrant what is one of the higher prices for that system. Bottom line, you buy a Lancer because you really value an all-wheel control technology. That is definitely a point in this favor, and Mitsu has got a reputation of building cars that are tough as the day is long, but this guy is on its way out as is this era of Mitsubishi lemos, so you really need to wait.

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