Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback 2009 Review

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

mitsubishi-lancer-vrx-fq

Fads of celebrity culture are a strange thing. In the nineties Pamela Anderson reached the height of her fame and it felt like breasts had been reinvented. Around the millennium, Jennifer Lopez took up the mantle and suddenly it was bums that took centre-stage. Despite every person on this earth owning one, rear-ends reached a new level of popularity, and suddenly it was ok to have a big one, so long as it was well rounded. Fast-forward to 2009 and J-Lo’s famous derrière is seldom seen on the big-screen, but the concept of the butt as a feature, a source of attraction, remains. Just ask Mitsubishi.

For the eight generation Lancer, Mitsubishi decided some cosmetic surgery was required on the back-end to spice things up. The Lancer sedan survived unscathed with the new enhanced rear only attached to the Lancer Sportback. The Sportback is exactly the type of styling that polarises opinion. Myself, I like the generous curves on the Sportback, but I’m that type of guy. Also, the Lancer Sedan is nose-heavy in its styling, the Sportback negates this and like a beer-gut on a darts player, the hatch brings a useful balance. It seems rude to stare too long at the Sportback’s rear end when the vehicle is flush with other admirable characteristics.

Everything from the back doors forward is identical on the Lancer Sportback as it is the sedan. Pushing forward from the rear the Lancer has a strong clean-cut look; a raked-back windscreen descends onto a subtle character-lined bonnet finishing out front with a large grimaced grille. On the VRX 18-inch rims come as standard and a chrome-tipped exhaust mean the Lancer is always dressed for the red carpet.

What’s the gossip on the interior? Well, the story starts with the smart key system, which enables the driver to keep the key in their pocket or handbag for the entire journey. Sit down and the cosseting front-seats support well, but possibly too firm for some tastes. The dashboard is the stage for hard black and silver plastics to mingle together, resulting in a dark understated atmosphere. Driving position and visibility is great while looking frontward but the thick C-pillar and high back compromise rear visibility severely and highlight the absence of rear parking sensors. The tubed instruments sit around a useful LCD screen that displays driver information. Well-located control buttons sit on both sides of the steering wheel. Interior space is good for driver and passenger, however, the rear door opening is narrow. Once seated in the back, legroom is good but headspace is limited for taller passengers. Putting ‘junk in the trunk’ is easy with the Sportback hatch opening wide and providing a 344-litre capacity, which is better than the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3.

The most impressive element of the VRX’s interior is the equipment list. MP3 compatible six-CD tuner with iPod connectivity and optional subwoofer, paddle-shift CVT gearbox, climate control air-conditioning, sports seats, multi-function trip computer, power windows and mirrors, dusk sensing halogen headlamps, alloy pedals, Bluetooth connectivity, auto wipers and keyless remote central locking. A real A-list of kit but is it all for show or is there some menace under the bonnet?

Being gifted an engine upgrade for the 2009 model year the VRX now makes a true performance impression. With a 2.4-litre, four cylinder firing up front the VRX produces 125kW of power and a solid 226Nm of torque. It moves very well and although guilty of being sluggish of the line, once up to pace the VRX is a free-revving spirited drive. It’s a good performer at cruising speed and suffers no stage fright during open road passing.

The CVT automatic transmission is competent at delivering the power to the front wheels and is silky smooth at low speeds or in traffic, but has a tendency to surge at high revs. While the transmission is neither too erratic nor meek, the VRX’s steering wheel paddles offer a more direct connection between car and driver.

The handling is a pleasure with a strut front, multi-link rear that is set up very well meaning the VRX can be pushed on twisty roads or for evading moped-riding paparazzi. Body roll is minimal and the car tracks well around tight bends. Understeer, the enemy of most front-wheel drive cars, will catch out those going too hard. However, the ESP makes short work of minor errors and strong brakes offer comforting stopping power. Steering is reasonable, giving out ample feedback to keep the driver informed and lightening up well for easy manoeuvring at car park speeds.

The only thing keeping the VRX off this year’s Oscars list is its ride quality. Riding on 18-inch rubber, many bumps and dips in the road are passed on to the driver. Worse still is the road noise which is unacceptable and combined with some wind noise negatively affects the overall driving experience. I don’t mind the bumps and noise in a lightweight performance car, but at 1435kg the VRX isn’t that light and isn’t that much of a performer for it to be forgivable.

All safety boxes are checked with ABS, electronic brake force distribution, traction control and a total of seven airbags cover front and rear passengers.

The Sportback is more than just a counter-punch to the styling of the Subaru Impreza, it gives potential buyers another option. Most buyers will be front-focused Pamela Anderson fans and buy the Lancer sedan, but there will be a few that think different and prefer generous J-Lo curves at the rear.  Overall the VRX is a well priced, strong performing and very well equipped vehicle. It is let down in terms of ride-quality and refinement but redeems itself with useful pace and predictable sporty handling. Mitsubishi has created a sophisticated modern hot hatch that is a top act and a competitive choice in its class.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: $40,990

What we like:

  • Well-equipped interior
  • Good handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Smooth CVT transmission

What we don’t like:

  • Reward vision
  • Ride quality
  • Back seat headroom

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Mitsubishi Lancer VRX (2009) – Specifications

Engine

Displacement (cc): 2,360
Max power (DIN) kW @ rpm: 127 @ 6,000
Max torque (DIN) Nm @ rpm: 230 @ 4,100
Bore and stroke (mm): 88.0 x 97.0
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel consumption – l/100km: 8.9
CO2 g/km: 207
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 59
Fuel type: regular unleaded 91

Dimensions / Weights

Overall length (mm): 4,585
Overall width (mm): 1,760
Overall height (mm): 1,515
Wheelbase (mm): 2,635
Track front (mm): 1,530
Track rear (mm): 1,530
Turning circle (m): 10.0
Kerb weight (kg): 1,445
GVW (kg): 1,900
Head room – front (mm): 920
Head room – rear (mm): 833
Trunk volume – litres (VDA): 288
Trunk volume with floor lowered – litres (VDA): 344
Cargo capacity with rear seat folded – litres (VDA): 575
Cargo capacity with rear seat folded & floor lowered – litres (VDA): 635
Towing capacity with brakes (kg): 1,000
Towing capacity without brakes (kg): 550

Porsche releases details of latest GT3

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche GT3 rq

Porsche’s newest hardcore 911 the GT3 will be officially unveiled in just over four weeks time. However, photos and details of the 911 GT3 have been released. Back when the original 911 Turbo debuted 35 years ago, its 256 horsepower was considered staggering. The new GT3 again leaves old 911s in the dust with an un-boosted 435 hp from its 3.8-litre flat-six. Although Porsche hasn’t yet quoted a specific number, the GT3′s mid-range torque response is claimed to be significantly stronger, too.

The sprint to 100 kph now takes a claimed 4.1 seconds. Handling dynamics are apparently improved and the driver now has more control over the stability management system. The electronic stability control and traction control systems can now be individually deactivated, and travelling at high speed is improved by greater downforce at both ends of the car.

Adaptive damping systems are too old school in 2009. For the GT3, Porsche has added active engine mounts that can recognise hard driving. The GT3 also gets optional ceramic brakes and centre lock wheels.

Europeans can pick up a GT3 starting in May, down here in NZ we will have to wait a little longer.

Over 1.3m Toyota Yaris models to be recalled

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

The 2006 and 2007 model Toyota Yaris is being recalled over a seat belt problem. In severe frontal crashes, a foam pad attached to the seat belt pretensioner could reportedly ignite. The recall affects 1.3 million Yaris units worldwide, with over 3000 vehicles in New Zealand affected.

A Toyota spokeswoman said 3027 Yaris models manufactured between June 2005 and April 2007 would require modification. All affected owners would be notified by Toyota and the problem rectified free of charge, she said.

There have been no reports of problems of the seat belt pretensioner igniting in New Zealand models but there have been three cases reported overseas.

Mini to put Crossover Concept into production

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

MINI Crossover Concept fq

Just when the motoring world thought the Mini Crossover Concept was nothing more than a show-off vehicle, BMW have approved the project for production in 2011.  According to BMW, the reception to its MINI Crossover Concept from the Paris Motor Show was so positive that the automaker decided to produce the model just four weeks after it debuted. The production version of the jacked-up Mini CUV is slated to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, which is right on schedule with earlier projections. Don’t expect to see the concept’s trick rear doors or the side-hinged driver’s side portal on the production model, which will instead rely on four normal front-hinged openings and a standard tailgate. Also on the menu is an optional four-wheel drive system complete with low range when drivers want to go off road, which will probably be never.

According to Mini, the car will retain the brand’s trademark kart-like handling, despite the ample ground clearance and heavy rolling stock that will be required on a vehicle with genuine off-road intensions. In any case, the biggest Mini ever, won’t come cheap. MINI also promises a full range of available options.

Honda honours S2000 with ‘Ultimate Edition’

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

honda-s2000-ultimate-fq

Honda recently announced that the S2000 will cease production after the 2009 model year and with any real successor in doubt, Honda decided to give the high-revving roadster a final hoorah before it sets off down the long road to becoming a future classic.

The Honda S2000 Ultimate Edition retains the 2.0-litre VTEC-equipped four-cylinder putting out 237 hp and 153 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed manual transmission, but benefits from a new set of wheels and an optional hard-top. “Grand Prix White” is the chosen colour, while a red leather interior, colour-matched stitching and numbered doorsill plaques set it apart from the standard model. Honda will debut the S2000 Ultimate Edition at the Geneva Motor Show this March, with sales beginning in Europe shortly thereafter. The S2000 Ultimate Edition is clearly a class ride but most Honda fans would rather see the money spent on developing a new sports model, rather than dressing up an old favourite.

Artega GT roadster going to Geneva Auto Show

January 29th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Artega GT fqThe Artega GT is not new, over the past few years, the Henrik Fisker-designed coupe has made an appearance at various motorshows. Firstly in conceptual form in 2007, then in production guise in 2008. This year, Artega’s will bring the next incarnation of the GT to the Geneva Auto Show, and if the rumors are true, the coupe will lose its roof.

The same Volkswagen-sourced 3.6-litre V6 will be mid-mounted, sending 300 horsepower through a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox on its way to the rear wheels. Left and right-hand-drive versions will be available, and depending on whether Artega opts for a soft-top or retractable hard-top roof the curb weight shouldn’t be significantly higher than the GT. Paragon has made it clear that the Artega GT’s success is dependent on global availability, so don’t be too shocked if one makes its way down here to NZ.

Alfa Romeo to launch ‘Junior’ sportscar

January 29th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Alfa Romeo MiTo fq

While the Alfa MiTo was under development, speculation placed a number of different nameplates on the sport hatch. One of them was Junior, but new reports suggest that Alfa may in fact be preparing an additional model to carry the Junior name.

Although the MiTo was picked to hold down the lower end of the Alfa Romeo range with styling drawn from the 8C Competizione, but the new Junior may in fact end up closer in looks to the halo supercar being more of a sports coupe than a sport hatch. The platform will allegedly be based on the MiTo’s, sharing some of the same engine options while introducing a new hydraulic manual as well as a new dual-clutch gearbox to the range. Little else is known about the Junior, but expect similar styling to the MiTo with a lower roofline and sleeker profile.

Rumours extend to sister company Lancia which may get its own version of the Junior to revive the Fulvia name.

Wiesman celebrates with special edition MF4-S

January 29th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Wiesmann mf4s fq

Niche automaker Wiesman is celebrating a birthday and instead of blowing out candles or downing beers its created a special edition vehicle.

Founded in 1985 by brothers Martin, an engineer, and Friedhelm, a businessman, Wiesmann got its start building hardtops for convertibles. In 2006, however, the Brothers Wiesmann came out with their own vehicle a curvaceous and retro coupe and roadster. It’s hard to tell when they started counting from, but the company is now celebrating their 20th anniversary with a series of special editions, starting with this GT MF4-S.

Power comes from a 4.8-litre V8 derived from the BMW M3′s and tuned to 420 horsepower, placing it between the standard 367hp MF4 and the 507hp V10-powered MF5. Customers can choose between a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch transmission, while special touches include a revised interior featuring the obligatory numbered and signed plaque. Only 30 examples of the MF4-S will be offered, but Wiesmann is expected to follow it with two more special editions before the birthday party is over. It will be unveiled at the Geneva Show in March.

Page 1 of 812345678