- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

The eighth-generation Mitsubishi Lancer is challenging other compacts such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Mazda3.

Based on the “GS Platform,” a small-car structural solution co-developed by Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler, the Lancer shares its underpinnings with the new Mitsubishi Outlander SUV, Dodge Caliber hatchback, Chrysler Sebring sedan, Jeep Compass crossover and Jeep Patriot crossover.

Compared with the previous generation, the new Lancer has expanded in width by 2.7 inches to 69.4 inches and shrunken in overall length by 0.6 inches, now measuring 180 inches bumper-to-bumper. Combined with a wheelbase stretched by 1.4 inches, the new Lancer’s footprint is wider — yet more compact — yielding an aggressive appearance, particularly when accompanied by the 18-inch wheels and tires. Height grew by 2.3 inches, allowing for more headroom and better visibility.

Visually, the 2008 Lancer demonstrates Mitsubishi’s new corporate styling strategy most prominently marked by the “shark-nosed” front fascia inspired by fighter-jet design.

Underneath the precisely articulated hood, Lancer sedans are powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, outputting 152 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque in all 49 states except California. In order to meet the state’s strict Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) air-quality standards, a de-tuned engine yields only 143 horses and 143 pound-feet.

Arriving standard is a five-speed manual transmission, but a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is also offered.

Three well-equipped trim levels, DE, ES and GTS, provide a range of feature and option choices. Base Mitsubishi Lancer DE models come with 16-inch steel wheels inside 205/60-series tires, power windows and folding mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, automatic-off headlights with daytime running lamps and a four-speaker single CD audio system, with MP3 capability.

Midlevel ES models add 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille accents, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, front center console, 60/40 split rear seat with folding armrests and cup holders, power locks with remote keyless entry, map lights, driver’s seat height adjustment, a multifunctional steering wheel with illuminated switches, Bluetooth availability and an alarm system.

Opting for GTS status yields 18-inch alloy wheels inside 215/45-series tires, sport-tuned suspension with a front strut brace and larger front/rear stabilizer bars, larger disc brakes, front fog lights, the trunk-mounted rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, front and side air dams, front sport seats, leather wrapping on the steering wheel and shift knob, automatic climate control, standard Bluetooth cell phone interfacing and a six-speaker audio system.

There are three option packages, depending on the trim.

Plentiful safety features are standard across the board. Tire-pressure monitoring is also standard. Front disc and rear drum brakes equip DE sedans, while four-wheel discs are mounted to ES and GTS models.

A five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty covers all Mitsubishi Lancers, while a 10-year/ 100,000-mile powertrain warranty protects vital engine, transmission and differential components. Fuel economy of the Lancer rates at 21 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway with the five-speed manual and 22/29 with the CVT.

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