The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer is a time machine. Not the H.G. Wells type, which launched the Time Traveler into the future, but more like Doc Brown’s DeLorean that carried Marty McFly into the past. Although we didn’t drive the Lancer 88 miles per hour to see if we could take the Lancer back a decade or so ago, we really didn’t have to. The Lancer is already there.
The problem is, of course, that everyone else is already here. And while the Lancer’s exterior is valid—for lack of a better word—with a long hood/short deck profile (and for hatch fans, Mitsu makes a Lancer Sportback as an alternative), and a jet fighter intake grille, the Mitsubishi’s head and taillight clusters are on the trailing edge of automotive fashion. The grille as a Mitsubishi hallmark is being phased out, by the way, as on the new Mitsubishi Outlander’s front end.
As for the Lancer, that grille has been around since 2008, when the Lancer was redesigned. The first generation in the U.S. market had debuted for the 2002 model year.
It’s the inside of the Lancer, however, that gave the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE we recently drove an austere and outdated appearance. Even with the optional Premium Package that included “soft touch front door trim,” the Lancer’s surfaces looked cold and untouchworthy.
Add to that the combination of a limited number of controls on the dash—just the three HVAC knobs on the center stack—with the audio controls confined to the face of the drop-in double-DIN Rockford Fosgate audio system (part of the Premium Package) to make the Lancer’s inside look almost unfurnished.
It isn’t, however. The Lancer SE is the midlevel model of the Lancer Line, above the ES and below the GT and performance-enabled Lancer Ralliart. The Lancer line no longer includes the ultra-base DE that no one bought, and only existed so Mitsubishi could quote a low-ball base price. The 2014 Lancer GT matches the earlier Lancer GTS while the Ralliart equals Ralliart. And then there’s the rally-derived Mitsubishi Lancer EVO which lives in a world of its own.
As the ordinary Lancers go, however, the ES is powered by a two-liter 148-horse four, while the SE and GT get a bigger 2.4-liter rated at 168 horsepower, and the Ralliart tops off the Lancers with a vigorous 237-horsepower two-liter turbo.
The drivetrain of the Lancer SE is impressive for its price range, with standard all-wheel drive, although a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is also standard. The all-wheel drive unit is controlled via a rocker switch on the center console, with settings for front and all-wheel drive, plus a locked center differential for deep snow and such.
Price is where the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE shines, at least from ticking off boxes on a list of features. Our test Lancer SE carried a base price of $20,695, which includes the aforementioned all-wheel drive, plus heated outside mirrors, micron-filter air conditioning, heated (cloth) front seats, floor mats, and cruise control with steering-wheel mounted controls. The Premium Package on the SE adds a sunroof, that 710-watt nine-speaker surround sound Rockford Fosgate audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, color LCD multi-information display and the allegedly soft touch door trim, all for $1,450.
Including the destination charge of $795, our test 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE came in with a $22,940 price tag.
But price isn’t everything, and while the Lancer SE was reasonably adroit on back roads, moving up to the GT or especially the Ralliart would make the sport-minded driver happier. Anything but the CVT transmission would make most drivers happy, or at least us. The Mitsubishi Lancer’s CVT is one of the loosest we’ve seen in a long time, all too ready to add revs when some torque should be doing the job at a lower rpm. Except that the Lancer SE isn’t over-endowed with torque.
On the other hand, the Mitsubishi Lancer over-endowed with road and wind noise, and as a result, the audio goodness of the audio system is smothered by the extraneous rumbles and roar.
As a time machine, however, the Mitsubishi Lancer’s time is about to expire. The 2015 model year is destined to be its last, and there’s to be no direct replacement. Although there are rumor of something coming on a Renault platform, it’s still speculation, at least to anyone outside the project. If such a project exists. For the rest of us, time will tell.
Specifications and window sticker on next page.