2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS CVT review: Long on smilage

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

Mitsubishi gets a lot of mileage out of the Lancer, and we’re not talking the mpg kind. Rather, it’s the range of price and content from the budget Lancer DE to the fanatical Lancer Evolution to our test model, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS square in the middle at the mid-point of the line, pricewise, in performance and in equipment.

For those not familiar with the Lancer lineup—and don’t feel bad if you’re not—it starts with the Lancer DE as the budget model, priced at $15,295 but still including niceties including keyless remote locking and power windows with auto up/down, along with electronic brakeforce distribution and stability control, and it’s only offered with a manual transmission. Next up is the Lancer ES, with more standard equipment, adding air conditioning (yes, not standard on the DE), cruise control with steering wheel cruise and audio switches, Bluetooth and more, with either a manual transmission ($16,695) or continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission ($17,595). All DE and ES models are powered by a 2.0-liter 152-horse four-cylinder engine with front wheel drive.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Lancer Evolution, depending on version priced from $34,095 to $37,295, but packing a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, all-wheel drive and a host of high-performance features.

A notch back from the Lancer Evo models is the Lancer Turbo Ralliart. As its name suggests, it’s powered by a turbocharged engine, a 2.0-liter four tuned to produce 237 horsepower. All-wheel drive and Mitsubishi’s twin-clutch annual/automatic with steering column-mounted paddle shifting are standard. At $27,695, the Lancer Turbo Ralliart is Lancer Evolution light.

As an aside, the Lancer is also available in a five-door hatchback version called the Sportback and it’s available in ES, GTS and Ralliart trim levels that approximate trim levels of the standard Lancer sedan.

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS dash and instrument panel

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS dash and instrument panel

And then there’s the Mitsubishi Lancer GTS: add some power to the DE/ES and take away the all-wheel drive and turbocharger of the Ralliart and there you have it. Instead of the two-liter of the DE/ES, the Lancer GTS is powered by a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine that produces 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque. There’s a choice between a conventional six-speed manual transmission and a CVT.

Compared to the Lancer ES, the Lancer GTS adds 18-inch alloy wheels and sport tuned suspension with a front strut tower brace, along with a rear spoiler and front air dams, front sport bucket seats, fog lamps, automatic climate control, and an upgraded audio system, all for a very civilized price of $20,295 with the optional CVT automatic. Our tester came with a comprehensive Touring Package that for another $3,300 includes leather seating, a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate punch premium audio system with a 6-CD/MP3 in-dash head unit, auto on/off HID headlamps, heated front seats, sunroof and swapping out the standard rear wing spoiler for a bit more restrained rear lip spoiler.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.