The Mitsubishi models that use the Lancer body and platform cover a wide range of performance and cost. We found the Lancer Evolution X an incredible thrill ride and the Lancer Ralliart a fun sport driver. But now we're looking at the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS, a semisporting version of the basic Lancer.
Mitsubishi offers the Lancer in a Sportback version, a slick hatchback, but our GTS was the sedan version. For sedans, Lancers all use the same basic body, with a big grille in front and a sporty, go-forward look down the sides, accentuated by a sharp belt-line crease and rear lip.
The Evo, with its advanced all-wheel-drive system and engine turbocharged within an inch of its life, justifies the sporty body styling, the GTS less so. Powering our GTS was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a power plant that has become iconic for suburban runabouts with its use in the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Compared with engines in other Lancers, this 2.4-liter four-cylinder one is rather boring.
With Mitsubishi's variable valve timing, this engine produces 161 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque, a nice balance that gives the Lancer GTS a decent amount of pep. But don't expect anywhere near Lancer Ralliart or Lancer Evo performance, as those versions' turbochargers kick up the horsepower substantially.
Those models can also be had with Mitsubishi's automated manual transmission, an impressive piece of technology that contributes greatly to performance. But the GTS comes with another high-tech transmission, this one continuously variable. Instead of fixed gears, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) uses a steel belt and drive pulleys to allow for a wide range of potential drive ratios.
Mitsubishi includes a manual mode for this CVT, which let us choose from six virtual gears using the shifter or the big steering-column-attached shift paddles. But Mitsubishi's CVT did not impress us as much as other examples we've tried in Nissan vehicles. It delivered fine everyday performance, creating smooth acceleration, but manual shifts took about as long as with a standard automatic, showing surprising sluggishness.
Although tame next to the Ralliart and Evo, the GTS does get these column-mounted paddle shifters.
CVTs usually wring out superior fuel economy compared with conventional transmissions, but the GTS' standard five-speed manual comes in about equal. With the CVT, the GTS gets an EPA-rated 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The five-speed manual version of the car comes in at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. During our testing, we only achieved 23.5 mpg, but much of our driving was urban.
Handling evinces a little bit of rally car DNA, but the GTS is mild-mannered compared with its sportier siblings. Strictly front-wheel drive, the electric power-steering unit is tuned for its suburban mission. The suspension feels a little stiffer than on a Camry or Civic, and offers a typical economy car ride.
Fuse chases Sync
Mitsubishi unveiled its Fuse system this year, a competitive technology to Ford Sync. Fuse offers features similar to what Sync had at launch, including Bluetooth phone and iPod support, along with voice command for dialing contacts by name or selecting music.
Our GTS lacked the available hard-drive-based navigation unit, but we have seen this technology in other Mitsubishi cars. Full-featured, it offers traffic information with dynamic routing, but has a somewhat rough interface needing a serious design makeover.
The radio display shows information from MP3 CDs.
Because the car did not have the LCD that would come with the navigation unit, it did not offer a display of cell phone contacts, nor a rich iPod music library display. The monochrome radio display in our car showed just the most basic information.
But the Fuse system worked very well, accurately recognizing the names of contacts we asked it to call. With an iPod connected through the USB port, it let us request music by artist and album name, even recognizing difficult track titles. Unlike Ford's Sync, which works with a variety of MP3 players, Fuse only handles iPods.
The placement of the USB port was a bit inconvenient. We actually had to consult the car's manual to find it, as it is mounted in the top of the glovebox. We prefer USB ports mounted in the console, as they are easier for the driver to reach quickly, useful if you are constantly plugging and unplugging a device.
Other audio sources include satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio. For an auxiliary input, Mitsubishi makes red and white RCA jacks available in the console. For most portable devices, you will need an RCA-to-1/8th-inch adapter.
The Touring package brought a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system into our car. Boasting a 710-watt amp, this audio system seems like too much power for the little Lancer GTS. A 10-inch subwoofer in the trunk gives it big, thumping power. We wouldn't call it the most refined audio system in the world, but it far and away beats the typical six-speaker systems found standard in so many cars of this class.
The Rockford Fosgate audio system includes this 10-inch sub.
Along with the usual treble and bass controls, Rockford Fosgate puts in some special sound processing. The Punch setting does what it sounds like it should, making music something you can feel as well as hear. Equalizer presets offer Rock, Pop, and Jazz, among others, while sound field settings add a bit of echo, an unusual effect for a car system.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS' Fuse voice command system elevates the level of its cabin tech, providing easy connectivity and control for cell phones and iPods. The available navigation system is also a nice option, considering the car's segment. And we got a kick out of the Rockford Fosgate audio system. The GTS' biggest drawback in the area of cabin tech is the lack of such driver assistance features as blind-spot detection.
As for performance tech, the GTS is a long way from its all-wheel-drive turbocharged siblings. Instead, it makes do with a pretty average engine. We give it credit for the CVT and its electric power-steering unit.
For design, we like the look of the GTS, as it cuts a unique figure compared with so many bland economy sedans. It is generally good ergonomically, too, with decent trunk space, but the USB port is a little troublesome. The electronics interface, especially with the available navigation unit, is rough-looking and could use some refinement.
|Model||2011 Mitsubishi Lancer|
|Power train||2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||23 mpg city/30 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||23.5 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible six-CD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Rockford Fosgate nine-speaker, 710-watt audio system|
|Price as tested||$24,355|