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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

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Car Review: Ever heard of a "sleeper", a car that looks ordinary but drives really fast? This is the opposite, the quick-looking Mitsubishi Lancer GTS, which comes with the wild styling but makes do with the ordinary Lancer's 152 horsepower engine.

I've driven lots of cars that make idiots want to race me. Usually I just ignore them and drive like a grandma until they go away, taking off in their sticker-covered cars with McDonnell Douglass spoilers and Folgers coffee can exhaust tips. I think it's great that they want to race, just not on a public street.

And I've never driven a car that attracts more stupid, whiny-engined, street racers than this Mitsubishi.

It's the Lancer GTS, a family car designed to look and feel sporty. It has a rock-hard suspension, a huge rear wing and styling that makes it look kinda sorta like the wicked-fast Mitsubishi Evolution X. Despite what the kids in crooked hats think though, the Lancer GTS is no Evolution. It actually feels like it's powered by an anemic hamster.

Other than the drivetrain, everything about this car feels raw and abrasive, exactly what a hardcore driving enthusiast wants. In many ways, it feels like it belongs on a racetrack, mainly because of the raucous suspension that makes even a mirror smooth road feel like it's filled with potholes.

Few street cars let you sense the road surface as precisely as this one, which is great if you want an engaging drive but no so cool if you want to be comfortable.

Other than a rough suspension that's designed more for fun than comfort, the Mitsubishi Lancer GTS has a rather comfortable interior. Roomy seats and a sculpted back seat bench make the interior look more like a family car than a screamer.

In a strange contradiction, though, this car that feels race-inspired in so many ways has an engine that feels, in comparison, like a wind-up toy.

The GTS has the same engine as all the other standard-issue Lancers, a 2.0-liter four-banger that makes 152 horsepower. That's actually a reasonable amount of power for a family car, but it seems out of place in a vehicle that feels spectacularly sporty in other ways.

It doesn't help matters that the engine is coupled to a continuously variable transmission, so you don't get the same sensation of speed as you would with a manual transmission or even, heaven forbid, a traditional automatic.

Of course, driving isn't all about power. Even without a super powerful engine, the Lancer GTS is fun to toss around, rewarding your skill as a driver rather than your ability to step on the gas pedal.

It doesn't come with traction control, it's not even available as an option, so you're always free to play with the limits of tire adhesion without an electronic schoolmarm stepping in to spoil your fun.

The Lancer GTS also excels as a regular family car, assuming you can live with the rough ride. It has comfortable front seats, a roomy back seat and lots of air bags to keep you safe in a wreck.

The big question is whether you'll want to buy one. If you want your car to look fast but not necessarily be fast, then the Lancer GTS is a good buy for $18,490. For that money, it's a nice looking, fun-to-drive, family car.

But if you want serious performance, you'll have to look elsewhere. The Evolution X will likely cost around $35,000, but more affordable speed machines are out there, like the Chevy Cobalt SS in the low $20,000 range.

Does that mean there's room in the Mitsubishi showroom for a higher performance Lancer that's more affordable and less scary than the Evo?

I sure hope so.

What was tested? The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS with a base price of $18,490. Options included a Sun & Sound package for $1,500. Price as tested, including a $625 destination charge: $20,615.

Why avoid it? It doesn't have the power to back up its racer looks.

Why buy it? It's a stylish, fast-looking family car with a super-firm, sporty feeling suspension.

By Derek Price AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Mitsubishi Home Page

Byline:  Car Review provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name: All the style without the speed
Topic: The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS
Word Count:  753
Photo Caption:  The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS
Photo Credits:  Mitsubishi Lancer Internet Media
Series #:  2008 - 05


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