Car enthusiasts, nobody wants to talk cars with us until they either have something break at which point they want us to use the magic car force to fix it or they want advice on a new car. We make a recommendation based on what we like they scoff at us and say they don’t need things like turbos or clutch pedals or horsepower. They want the car to work, save fuel, and not attack them with scissors. We try to sing the praises of enthusiast based features but often they get annoyed with us. So we are forced to message boards and forums to vent our car enthusiasm. However we all know these non-car people. Hell were probably good friends with a lot of them. So while this might not be the sexiest review of all time, It is relevant to you the car person and should help you help these people without annoying them. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer!
Life has not been easy for Mitsubishi in recent years. Nothing illustrates this more than the death of the Evo. The one car that actually made us care about Mitsubishi. It appears that the car the Evo is based on, the Lancer is going to be axed as well. Earlier this month Mitsubishi announced they were killing the Lancer in favor of its new focus on crossovers. I recently had the opportunity to drive the Lancer and while it is far from my brand of whiskey, I could see it being a good car for that person in your life who just wants a car, nothing special just a nice vehicle to take them to work.
Mitsubishi gave me what in their mind was the best non-Evo Lancer, the SEL 2.4 AWC. Leather seats and every single bell and whistle available on the Lancer found its way into this car. this includes the optional Rockford Fosgate audio system, complete with a 10 inch, trunk mounted subwoofer. This leads to a stereo system that really kicks, it will happily thump any kind of music that tickles your fancy. The one problem with it is, should you be blasting your tunes it renders the rear view mirror completely and totally useless. The added bass really vibrates it to the point that all you see is a blurry image vaguely resembling whats behind you.
One of the biggest requirements for non car people is a quality interior. The Lancer SEL has a very nice interior. The quality feeling leather seats and appointments make the car feel like it should be more expensive. The controls and infotainment system was simple and easy to use. However, it all felt a bit dated, it all worked brilliantly and in many ways was is better than the over-complicated Lexus IS200T interior (Keep It Simple Stupid). Another point where a non-car person won’t be as detail obsessed as we would. It looks nice and it does what it is supposed to do. Comfort, another area where we make sacrifices in the pursuit of speed or fun. Non-car people don’t see it this way, they want to be comfortable, they don’t want the side of the seats poking them in the ribcage, they want to sit down and feel nothing. Just a seat that doesn’t give them a backache on their way to work, or PTA meetings or tubberware parties or whatever these people do while were in the garage. The Lancer gets high marks there as well, the seats were comfortable and supportive, with plenty of room for your friends and their stuff. It is worth noting that even with the subwoofer the trunk has enough space to hold my golf clubs. For me, the interior would not be the reason not to purchase this car. It is nice enough and in many ways you could do much worse.
The reason I would not buy this car is the drivetrain. the 2.4 liter MIVEC 4 cylinder engine chucks out 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque. That is fine for daily driving and any non enthusiast but for me it isn’t enough. When you consider this is the top of the range Lancer that doesn’t have an Evo badge 200 hp should have been the number. Plus this is without question the worst sounding engine of any new car I drove in 2016. It buzzes and the exhaust note sounds very tin-ny. Again, something a normal car buyer may not notice, but for me it was awful. I could live with these things, you can always add more power, you can, to a point, make your car sound better but the final nail in the coffin for this car was the transmission. It was a CVT and as a rule I loathe CVTs with the passion of nearly 1000 suns. I’ve always driven manuals and the way CVTs hang at an RPM range given throttle input sounds like a novice manual driver riding the clutch. To anyone who has ever driven a manual this sound is like nails on a chalkboard. However, this is of no consequence to the non-car person. They probably won’t notice the engine noise and the car handles the shifting for them so who cares.
This car is not far from being a fun little daily driver. More power from a better sounding engine mated to a manual box and Mitsubishi would have had something pretty damn good for enthusiasts. Unfortunately they will never get the chance to do so as the Lancer is dead. Deader than disco, Jimmy Hoffa and Ned Stark combined. So why is it dead? Mitsubishi as a company is not nearly as omnipresent as Honda and Hyundai are. In my area at least I am within a 40 min drive to at least 3 different Honda and 2 Hyundai dealerships. It’s a case of out of sight out of mind. Yes there was a Mitsubishi dealer in the next town over but unless you drove past it on a regular basis nobody knew it was there. No sales lead to no money, no money and even the most dimwitted accountant will recommend the need to kill the line.
This is not bad news though, far from it. Contrary to what we all want to believe there are far more normal people than there are car enthusiasts. So a car we hate, can still be good for them. This is where the Lancer fits in. We all have non-car people friends. They’re not bad people, all they want is a car that will work, looks and feels good and won’t break down. The perfect example of this is my friend Lauren, who desperately needs to replace her 2000 something Chrysler Sebring. Every time I see her and that car I die a little inside.
My immediate recommendation given her budget would be a CPO Focus ST. Problem is she could care less about a sporty car. Lauren does not care about clever engineering or a manual transmission or any of the stuff I actively pursue when buying a new car. Her car needs are get me to and from the places I need to go and don’t break whilst doing so. She would prefer AWD, as any form of precipitation on the roads makes her go fetal. (Ok so maybe I exaggerated, point is she does not like wet roads and given the Sebring I can’t say I blame her) Given all the Lancer does well and the security of AWD it would be a very good choice for her. With the Lancer being discontinued it means they are going to get cheaper and cheaper. As far as deals go it will be hard to beat getting a new car at CPO prices. Dealerships doing everything they can to get rid of old inventory. In fact that is a top tip when it comes to buying a car, see if you can find out how long it has been on the lot. The longer its been there the more willing the dealership will be to giving you a great price.
All in all the Lancer is not a car for me, that is not to be taken as it is a bad car, far from it. It is a very nice car and would fit someone who doesn’t drive for fun, they drive because they have to. So if you have any friends out there who need a new car but could give 2 shits about zero to 60 times I strongly recommend you point them in the Lancer’s direction.