The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer debuted at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, with a bold new design that was first revealed at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show with the popular Mitsubishi Concept-X.
Although not quite as aggressive-looking as the concept, the new Lancer offers a lot more personality than its predecessor and carries forward the latest Mitsubishi design theme shared with the Outlander SUV. The new Lancer also delivers sportier driving dynamics and a new interior while continuing to provide good value in the compact sedan segment.
Offered in three trim levels, DE, LE and GTS, the 2008 Lancer has a distinctive front-end design-one might call a "shark nose" effect-with the integration of the grille, bumper and lower air intake, which Mitsubishi describes as being inspired by the air intakes of a jet fighter.
The wedge-shaped profile shows clean sharp lines with a high beltline, prominent fender flares and a short decklid. A distinctive shoulder line begins at the headlights and at the rear blends into the high-mounted taillights.
The styling is further emphasized by 5-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, color-keyed door handles, color-keyed mirrors and a chrome grille surround for the ES. The GTS adds 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, a front air dam, side rocker extensions, fog lights, a rear spoiler and a chrome exhaust tip.
Inside Lancer resides a clean, functional design with crisp surfaces and the use of different materials to distinguish the trim levels. The dash is curved and highlighted by a full-width horizontal trim section that continues into the door panels. The Lancer DE has a black geometric grain material, the ES has a dark silver-colored panel, and the GTS has a printed geometric pattern. The shape of the instrument panel gives the interior an open, roomy feel.
The instrument panel features a large speedometer and a large tachometer with a dual-hood design, similar to what you might find in a classic sports car. Between the gauges is a standard Multi Information Display with an LCD screen.
Each trim level offers unique seat and trim material, starting with smooth knit for the DE and premium fabric with shiny accents for the ES. The ES offers either all black or a combination beige and black interior with beige for the seats, lower dash and lower door panes and black for the upper dash and steering wheel. The GTS features a suede-like knit with an embossed geometric pattern, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and chrome interior door handles.
New Platform Improves Driving Dynamics
The 2008 Lancer is built on a new platform shared with the redesigned 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander, giving the compact sedan a solid feel. The wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer and the track is 2.3 inches wider than the previous version, but the overall length is 0.6 inches shorter. The height is increased by 2.3 inches, which translates into additional headroom and interior volume.
Built around Mitsubishi's next-generation Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) unibody design, high-tension steel is extensively used to create a stiff body structure which allows sport suspension tuning without compromising a compliant ride. The body stiffening techniques that were used to stiffen the platform for the Evolution IX were carried over for the new platform.
The platform feels very solid and gives the car a good overall feel and balance. The Lancer GTS version with standard 10-spoke 18-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension has a sporty feel, making the new Lancer a blast to drive. When driven quickly on twisty two-lane roads, the car transitions from side-to-side in a very predictable and balanced way with a tendency to understeer when pushed hard.
The initial turn-in from the steering was not as crisp as we would have preferred and required a little more steering input than expected, but it may not be fair to compare the new Lancer to the razor-sharp steering of the Evolution IX. The steering works well as far as side-to-side transitions, and we adapted to the amount of steering input needed. The overall performance of the GTS is good for a compact sedan and definitely has a sporty character.
The front suspension is a MacPherson strut with the focus on improved rigidity, reduced weight and lower roll center. The rear suspension is a new trailing-arm type multi-link system to provide ride and handling that would be expected from a more expensive car. A new rack-and-pinion system is designed to improve steering feel.
The Lancer GTS features the same 4-wheel disc brakes as the Outlander SUV, while the DE and ES use front discs and rear drum brakes.
All versions of the 2008 Lancer are powered by a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter DOHC MIVEC 4-cylinder engine that produces 146 lb-ft of torque and was developed along with Hyundai and DaimlerChrysler. For California the engine is PZEV-certified and produces 143 horsepower and 143 lb-ft of torque.
Lancer's standard transmission is a 5-speed manual, and the 2008 Lancer is the first Mitsubishi offered in the U.S. with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). When the CVT gets dropped in the Lancer GTS, it features a 6-speed Sportronic mode with magnesium shift paddles behind the steering wheel for the driver to shift manually between the six ratios.
Safety Equipment and Technology
The 2008 Lancer offers a high level of standard safety features for a compact sedan, including advanced dual front airbags with occupant sensors, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, and a tire-pressure-monitor system. Lancer ES and GTS add standard ABS with electronic brake force distribution.
With an estimated starting price of around $14,000, the 2008 Lancer DE includes 16-inch wheels with wheel covers; power windows and mirrors; electronic climate control; a clean air filter; a 140-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3 capability. Air conditioning, ABS and power door locks can be added as an optional package.
The ES offers a higher level of standard equipment and an appealing choice with standard ABS, standard air conditioning, power door locks, keyless entry, cruise control, a 60/40 split-folding rear seatback, map lights, driver's seat height adjustment, and steering wheel audio controls.
The Lancer GTS is the sport-tuned version with front sport seats, sports suspension and the 18-inch alloy wheels mentioned earlier, as well as automatic climate control, a Bluetooth cell phone interface system with voice recognition, and an upgraded audio system.
For high-end audio fans, the Sun and Sound Package includes a power glass sunroof, a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate Premium Sound System, a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, and SIRIUS Satellite Radio with a six-month prepaid subscription.
The GTS trim offers some high-tech options via a Navigation and Technology Package that includes a 30-gigabyte hard disk drive navigation system with a 7.5-inch touch screen and music server function, Mitsubishi Multi-Communication System and the FAST Key entry system, which allows the driver to unlock the vehicle simply by having the remote in a pocket or purse and grasping the handle on either of the front doors or the trunk.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer will reach dealerships in March 2007. The high-performance Lancer Evolution X will follow, and Mitsubishi gave Evo fans a preview with the Prototype X at the auto show in Detroit this past January.