We still think its sharp, Vader-esque front and soft, Jar Jar-like back look like they came from two different design studios , but now that we've driven the new five-door "Sportback" take on Mitsubishi's Lancer we can talk about less superficial things. After spending a week in the all-wheel-drive, turbocharged Ralliart version -- the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart, to be exhaustingly precise -- we're thinking a Lancer EVO Sportback shouldn't be out of the question. After all, just because we prefer the more cohesive looks of the Lancer sedan doesn't mean we'd forego the added practicality of the five-door.
Unsurprisingly, the Lancer Sportback Ralliart drives just like the Lancer Ralliart sedan. The dual-clutch transmission - the same found in the higher-strength EVO - is particularly unsmooth in stop-and-go traffic but particularly awesome under hard acceleration and braking. There's something about the knob, the lever and the fast, seamless swaps that made us spend more time in manual mode than usual. Adhesion limits came into play more quickly than expected and the 237-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine - a de-tuned version of the EVO's mill - needs a beat to wake up from a full stop, but for sane canyon bombing runs the Lancer Sportback Ralliart is a powerful, responsive, paddle-shifting blast.
If stop-and-go traffic isn't a part of your regular route, you have no delusions of hanging with EVOs at the track and you regularly transport a bike or camping gear or swap-meet treasures, the Sportback Ralliart may be your Lancer of choice. If you could live happily with front-wheel drive and 69 fewer horsepower, among other sacrifices, there's a Lancer Sportback GTS model that starts about $8,000 less. Either way, you'll have at least one thing to hold over the heads of all those cargo-challenged EVO drivers.
The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS starts shy of $20,000, while the turbo AWD 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart starts around $28,000. If you don't see any on your dealer's lot just yet, check tomorrow.