The Lancer nameplate has been around, under both Chrysler’s and Mitsubishi’s wardship, for over forty years; the current model was released in Australia in late 2007 and judging by Mitsubishi’s cycle for the car, it’s looking like an update isn’t (hopefully) far off. A Wheel Thing goes one on one with the (current) top of the range Mitsubishi Lancer XLS sedan with CVT and petrol engine.
Take a 2.4L normally aspirated four cylinder, petrol powered engine, bolt it to a constantly variable transmission (CVT), make it spin out 125 kW and 226 metres of Mr Newton’s best, lob it behind the bluff and upright nose of the 2015 Lancer and there’s your basic mechanical package for the Lancer XLS.
There’s the now common Sports mode, with flappy paddles attached to the steering column. It’ll quite happily swallow standard 91RON unleaded and is rated at a slightly high 8.5L consumed per one hundred kilometres travelled from its 59L tank.
The concept car was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005, with the first models off the production line sold in the U.S. in early 2007. Gone was the laid back nose cone with almost triangular shaped headlights (think the final Magna in Australia), replaced with a squared off, forward leaning, trapezoidal grille design with eagle eye headlights. The cabin remained largely unchanged on the exterior side whilst the rear copped a nip and tuck with a “cheek” left for the tail light cluster.
There was the addition of the “Sportback” but the delisting of the wagon variant. The XLS comes with a tasteful rear deck lid spoiler, 18 x 7 alloys wrapped in 215/45 rubber. The spare is a space saver.
The chrome surrounded grille is split by a large horizontal beam, at bumper line level, and framed by globe lit driving lights pushed to the bottom of each corner. Oddly, there’s no LED’s…..
On The Inside.
It’s a case of evolution for the Lancer with changes compared to the previous model minor but noticeable. There’s the now standard colour LCD display flanked by the speedo and tacho dials in the dash, keyless start (with a rubber tab on the door handles for access) but a knob where the key might go is still to be turned (!), the now familiar touchscreen for audio and navigation in the centre dash, faux leather seating/steering wheel/gear knob, alloy pedals, the hugely simple but effective rotary dials for aircon.
There’s a faux leather insert for the doors and the same, uninspiring, barely soft touch plastics on the dash; instruments, though, are housed in a simple and tastefully integrated binnacle. The centre console, framed by the heater buttons for the seats, feels flimsy and the storage locker lid is too low for support. Plastic trim is a combination of dull lustred ripple effect and almost piano black (it’s more a very dark grey) strips from dash through to doors.
The touchscreen system folds up to provide access to a CD slot and SD card access, although, bafflingly, the USB port is, still, in the glove box. Very inconvenient, quite simply. Storage in the rear (377L boot space) is accessed via pushbutton on the tailgate, a lever at the bottom right of the electric driver’s seat, the splitfold rear seats or via a button on the keyfob. Normal capacity is 400L however the subwoofer unit for the 9 speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system takes up a chunk. Audio quality itself was quite good but (to be nitpicky) the location of the subwoofer was audibly noticeable, with subs meant to be not audibly locatable.
Safety is taken care of via curtain airbags, knee airbag for the driver and Mitsubishi’s energy absorbing chassis construction, plus rear park sensors and camera and ISOFIX child seat mounting points.
On The Road.
The XLS Lancer is not a heavy car at just 1360 kg dry, with a gross mass under 1900 kilos. Peak torque is seen at a high 4100 revs, however the CVT transmission does a decent job of putting power down through the front driven wheels. Loaded with four occupants, it sits nicely in the road but has an odd sensation of the rear feeling a touch more floaty than the front. Steering is light, nicely weighted but doesn’t seem as if it offers a lot of conversation though.
The ride is even, level across most surfaces, even with the low profile rubber; it tracks truly, rarely upset by any road influenced changes. Braking is safely progressive, with enough pressure through the pedal and lack of intrusion from the ABS system to provide a user friendly level of confidence.
It’s not hugely rapid under acceleration however will move you along decently, for normal driving; handling through tight corners such as roundabouts does indicate a measure of push on understeer but at no time are you left wondering if the car will go out from underneath. Naturally though, if you go in TOO hard then there’s a good chance of an issue….On a flat road, it’s firm enough, with enough softness to provide a level of comfort befitting its luxury orientation.
The CVT is fluid enough; with the change from a rise in revs to a preset point to a programmed feeling of more like a “normal” auto, there’s the sensation of gear change now and, with the Sports Mode, there’s the semi manual option available which is probably best used in a straight line situation. On a downhill run, foot off the go pedal has the CVT “braking” the car and on the flat, there’s a moment’s hesitancy before the transmission feels as if it clunks then drops back a gear.
The Lancer’s biggest disadvantage is its age; to give a comparison, Kia’s Optima, a bigger car, uses the same capacity engine, at 2.4L. That powerplant provides 148kW and 250 Nm plus quotes 8.0L per 100 km. It uses direct injection, fuel directly into the combustion chamber from the injectors, rather than breathing from a rail into which petrol is injected. Economy overall varied, with stop/start traffic pushing the figure well over 10.0L per 100 k’s whilst good freeway runs dropped it to around 7.5L per 100 kms. Therefore, running costs for such a small car aren’t as good as they should be.
Although not unattractive, it’s been left behind by its two main Korean rivals and by its Japanese rivals in styling. Sitting at close to the top of the Lancer tree, to still twist a knob to start although it’s keyless entry and to have a media port in the glovebox rather than in the centre console is also historic.
Ride quality, fit and finish, engine and CVT all work well enough but the overall impression from my driver’s view is that the Lancer is now a generation behind.
The Car: Mitsubishi Lancer XLS sedan.
Engine: 2.4L petrol.
Fuel/Tank: 91RON, 59 litres.
Transmission: Constant Variable Transmission with six preprogramed shift points.
Economy: (combined, claimed) 8.5L per 100 kilometres.
Wheels/Tyres: 18 x 7 inch diameter, 215/45 R18.
Weight: 1360 kg unladen.
Dimensions (L x W x H in mm): 4570 x 1760 x 1490.
Wheelbase: 2650 mm.
Cargo: 377 L.
Servicing: 12 months or 15000 kilometres, roadside assist if car serviced under capped price servicing.