- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

You have probably read of the ever-increasing ability of auto manufacturers to increase stiffness in their vehicle’s chassis, a major achievement.

This firmness has allowed engineers to give excellent handling characteristics and increased ride comfort to vehicles in a wide range of categories.

This is the case with this next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer. Mitsubishi engineers and designers have taken what they have learned in their years of dominance in World Rally Championship (WRC) racing and developed a street car that is leaps and bounds above any previous iteration.

Unlike the Lance Evolution, which is basically a race car for the street, the new version of the Lancer is a street car built for everyday driving incorporating race car technology.

During recent testing of the new Lancer, I found myself continually noting how smooth the ride was even on rough road surfaces. Wind noise at highway speeds was minimal and the seats — in fact, the entire passenger compartment — was quite comfortable.

Granted, the car I was sitting in was an uplevel GTS, not the entry DE model. Still this can be an excellent indication of how far we have come in the compact category.

Under the hood on all models sits a 2.0-liter world engine. This world-engine term is being bantered about more often these days, but there is good reason. This particular engine is the result of a collaboration among Mitsubishi, Hyundai and DaimlerChrysler.

All three automakers are using this engine in one form or another. It helps reduce costs for all concerned and keeps the reins on the cost to the consumer.

This engine runs smooth and develops reasonably good performance. In this configuration it produces 146 horsepower and 152 foot-pounds of torque. Not the most powerful engine on the street, yet coupled with the five-speed manual transmission it zipped through mountain roads

The shifting was precise and I was able to hit each gear while shifting up or down.

Also available is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), taking the place of a traditional automatic gearbox. Developed to increase fuel economy the CVTs feature a technology that eliminates the traditional shifting of gears.

Fortunately, Mitsubishi offers a manual-mode CVT in the GTS where, through either tapping the shifter forward or backward or using the Formula 1-style paddles located in front of the steering wheel, the driver can select and hold the gear of choice.

This raises the fun level tremendously. It also increases the practicality of the CVT greatly.

I rate the Lancer highly. The sedan is comfortable, fun to drive easy on the pocketbook and attractive.

We will have to wait a few months to see if the uplevel GTS retains the economical price structure Mitsubishi has said it will follow.

Pricing will be announced soon, but for now we will just have keep our fingers crossed that will be in our price range.

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