Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
Mitsubishi Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC

The Mitsubishi Lancer sedan was last redesigned in 2007 and the next generation Lancer isn’t expected until the 2014 model year. Seven years is an unusually long time between model redesigns, especially now that vehicle entertainment, communications and safety technologies are advancing so rapidly. So it’s not surprising that the Lancer is starting to look and feel dated. In particular, the Lancer’s hard plastic instrument panel materials, rudimentary audio display, lack of a telescoping steering wheel and power seats, and lack of a factory navigation screen and rearview camera (a dealer-installed navi system is available) betray its aging design. Mitsubishi has made some attempts to update the Lancer with things like Bluetooth audio, brighter instruments and a colour trip computer display, but what it really needs is a complete redesign.

Still, there are some reasons to consider the Lancer sedan – notably its class-leading warranty (basic 5 years/100,000 km, powertrain 10 years/160,000 km), availability of All-Wheel Control (AWC) with driver selectable 2WD, AWD and differential lock, decent handling, and a fairly roomy cabin. And to a certain extent, Lancer sedan owners benefit from the rub-off effect of owning a car that resembles the high-performance, rally-inspired Lancer Evolution model.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

Excluding the turbocharged Ralliart and Evolution models, the 2013 Lancer sedan is available with two normally aspirated four-cylinder engines: Lancer DE ($15,498), SE ($19,198), 10th Anniversary Edition ($19,998), and GT ($23,998) models have a standard 148-hp 2.0L engine, five-speed manual transmission (optional CVT) and front-wheel drive, while SE AWC ($23,098) and the new-for-2013 GT AWC ($27,998) trims come with a 168-hp 2.4L four-banger, “Sportronic” continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters, and Mitsubishi’s AWC system.

Lancers are also available in a hatchback body style called the Sportback in SE ($19,798) and GT ($24,198) trims but with the 2.0L engine and front-wheel drive only.

Today’s tester is a top-of-the-line GT AWC sedan with an as-tested price of $29,698 including a $1,350 Freight charge and $250 pre-delivery inspection charge.


Driving Impressions

The bigger 2.4L four-cylinder engine provides 20 more horsepower and 22 lb-ft of additional torque over the base 2.0L engine. That’s enough to improve throttle response in low and mid-range acceleration, and provide a decent 0–100 km/h time of about 9 seconds (a 2.4L CVT-equipped Lancer Sportback tested by AJAC in 2010 reached 100 km/h in 9 seconds). However, equipped with the continuously variable transmission, the 2.4L engine’s fuel economy numbers (L/100 km) of 9.2 city/6.9 highway are considerably thirstier than the 2.0L’s 7.9 city/5.8 rating, and higher than many competitors that have smaller, more fuel-efficient engines, including the all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza with its 148-hp 2.0L motor that delivers an impressive 7.5 city/5.5 hwy.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

Still, it’s not really fair to compare the 2.4L Lancer with 1.8L or 2.0L competitors. A more appropriate comparison is with the Mazda3 GT with its optional 2.5L four-cylinder/five-speed automatic powertrain (9.2 city/6.7 hwy) and the Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L with its standard 2.5L five-cylinder/six-speed automatic (9.1 city/6.5 hwy). Here we can see that the Lancer GT AWC’s 9.2/6.9 fuel economy is comparable for its engine size, and it has the advantage of all-wheel drive.

Both Lancer SE AWC and GT AWC models come with a standard “Sportronic” continuously variable transmission that can be shifted manually via two large magnesium shift paddles behind the steering wheel. In normal automatic operation, the CVT performs with less noise and vibration than we expected and engine rpm levels are restrained under normal acceleration. Mitsubishi has done a good job of keeping powertrain noises out of the cabin. In fact, tire noise from my car’s Yokohama Ice Guard winter tires was a bigger concern over the week that I drove the car.

The CVT can be shifted manually through six simulated gears with the large shift paddles behind the steering wheel, but unlike most paddles, they don’t turn with the steering wheel. That makes it difficult to shift while turning a corner, but in theory, you’re supposed to shift down before entering a corner, so you shouldn’t be shifting while turning anyway! Interestingly, the driver cannot shift manually with the console shifter and there is no separate shift gate for manual mode. To engage manual mode, the driver simply pulls on the shift paddles. Shift times are crisp and add to the fun of driving the Lancer in a sportier fashion, but it’s too bad Mitsubishi doesn’t offer a traditional manual transmission combined with AWC – a manual five-speed transmission is available in the front-wheel drive Lancer. To resume the CVT’s automatic mode, the driver simply pulls on the right paddle for a second or two.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

The Lancer GT’s AWC (all-wheel control) system consists of three driver-selectable options: 2WD, 4WD and Lock. 2WD means front-wheel drive only and that’s sufficient for most dry and wet weather conditions and provides the best fuel economy. 4WD means all-wheel drive – a rear-mounted electronically controlled transfer clutch automatically varies torque between the front and rear wheels to provide the best traction and cornering stability on slippery (or dry) roads. Most of the power is sent to the front wheels, but unlike many on-demand AWD systems, there is always some power going to the rear wheels – up to a maximum of 40 percent under hard acceleration and about 15 percent when cruising. AWC works in concert with the Lancer’s standard traction and stability control to maximize stability and steering control on slippery surfaces. The AWC’s Lock setting doesn’t actually lock the front and rear differentials in a fixed 50/50 distribution but it does send more of the engine’s power – up to 50 percent – to the rear wheels when necessary in severe conditions like deep snow, mud or gravel. This means that even on dry roads you can drive in Lock mode without any binding when turning.

The Lancer’s AWC system doesn’t include the Active Centre Differential and front and rear limited slip differentials featured in the Lancer Ralliart. Nor does the Lancer AWC have the Evolution’s sophisticated Active Yaw Control. But for the purposes of typical city and highway driving, the Lancer’s standard AWC system is a distinct performance advantage when driving on slippery surfaces. Driving in the rain-soaked streets around Vancouver, our test car felt stable and confident with grippy handling, but there wasn’t any snow to put it to a real test.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

As advantageous as AWC is, its $4,000 premium over the front-wheel-drive Lancer GT seems excessive. As a buyer, I’d seriously consider whether I really needed the advantages of AWD in my daily driving routines. On the other hand, a similarly equipped Impreza with all-wheel drive (the only other compact sedan with all-wheel drive) is priced even higher.

The Lancer GT AWC comes with standard 205/60R16-inch tires while newer competitors are offering 17- and 18-inch low-profile tires with sharper looking alloy wheels. That doesn’t affect the Lancer’s handling though: with its fully independent suspension (McPherson strut/multi-link) and traditional but responsive hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering, I enjoyed the Lancer’s combination of predictable, solid handling and a comfortable ride. Its tight turning circle is also a pleasant surprise in an all-wheel-drive car. Outward visibility is good except for that huge trunk spoiler that bisects the view through the rear window. Apparently, a rearview camera and parking sensors ($440 plus labour) are available as dealer-installed accessories, but I couldn’t find the rearview camera option on Mitsubishi’s website. Perhaps it’s part of the dealer installed navigation and music centre ($4,612 plus labour). It should be for that price!

Interior Impressions

The Lancer sedan’s tall roof, four large doors and raised seating positions make it easy to get in and out of and there is plenty of room for four adults. I found the driver’s seat comfortable even though there is no lower back adjustment, but was disappointed that the top-of-the-line GT AWC model doesn’t have a power driver’s seat – the height, recline and longitudinal adjustments are manual. As well, the small, leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts, but it doesn’t telescope. I was able to find a comfortable driving position but drivers with longer legs and shorter arms may not. Fortunately for a car with leather seats, there are two-step seat heaters for the front seats.

Sitting behind the driver’s seat, I found about three inches of kneeroom, plenty of footroom, and about an inch of headroom. The centre rear seat however, is very uncomfortable.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

The Lancer’s instrument panel features a brightly illuminated tachometer and speedometer and a colour trip computer display between them (activated by the “Info” button on the dash), which provides useful info such as average fuel economy and distance to empty. The ‘turned steel’ trim across the dash and doors looks attractive as does the silver trim around the shifter and on the steering wheel, but the hard plastic dashboard material and the narrow centre audio display look and feel dated. The audio system is state of the art though: a standard 710-watt, Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer in the trunk, and a six-CD in-dash changer. The audio system also includes Sirius satellite radio with a six-month free subscription and wireless Bluetooth audio – after you’ve paired your cell phone you can play the music stored in your phone wirelessly. If you need a connector, there is a USB port inside the glovebox, and a couple of charging points in the lower centre console and centre storage bin.

The top of the line Lancer GT AWC also includes automatic climate control (single zone), power moonroof with sunshade, and keyless entry and ignition: with the key in the pocket, the driver presses the black button on the driver’s door handle to unlock or lock the doors. Once inside, the driver twists a knob (where the ignition key usually is) to start the car.

Trunk space in the Lancer GT AWC is partly compromised by the subwoofer housing and a roof brace, but its 334 L (11.8 cu. ft.) size is still quite roomy, and the split rear seats do fold down for more space. I didn’t like the fact that the trunk has no outside handle, and even when unlocked remotely, your hand has to be squeezed under the lip to lift it up.

Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC car test drives reviews mitsubishi
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC. Click image to enlarge

Verdict

With an MSRP of $27,998, the Lancer GT AWC is priced similarly with the all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza 2.0i Limited ($28,195) and the front-wheel-drive Mazda3 GT ($27,195) and VW Jetta 2.5L Highline ($25,990). But it’s not that much cheaper than the sporty Lancer Ralliart sedan, which features a 237-hp turbocharged 2.0L engine, twin-clutch transmission, Super-AWC system, and 18-inch alloys for an MSRP of $31,998. That’s something to think about!

Though its design is past its best-before date, the Mitsubishi Lancer sedan’s clever all-wheel-drive system, decent ride and handling, and roomy cabin have kept it from becoming an also-ran in the competitive compact sedan class.

Pricing: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT AWC
Base price: $27,998
Options: none
Freight: $1,350
PDI: $250
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $29,698

Competitors:
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Cruze
Dodge Dart
Ford Focus sedan
Honda Civic sedan
Hyundai Elantra sedan
Kia Forte sedan
Mazda3 sedan
Nissan Sentra
Subaru Impreza sedan
Suzuki SX4 sedan
Toyota Corolla
VW Jetta

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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