After a year-long hiatus, the Lancer Evolution returns for 2012.<p><p>The Lancer SE all-wheel drive returns for 2012. It comes with 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel.<p><p>The Ralliart all-wheel drive now offers optional navigation, as does the GT model and the Sportback ES offers optional 16-inch alloy wheels and a deluxe package that includes an upgraded 6-speaker stereo with a USB port, FAST-key entry system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, SIRIUS and a color LCD dash indicator display.<p><p>The manual transmission is no longer available on the Sportback models and the TC-SST Sportback Ralliart model is not offered for 2012.
The 5-seat Lancer comes in two distinct body styles, a few engines and a couple of trim levels for each in 2012. At the heart of the base Lancer DE and also the ES in either sedan or Sportback styles is a 2.0L 4-cylinder, which produces 152 hp and comes mated to a standard 5-speed manual transmission.
Farther up the Lancer food chain is the 2.4L 4-cylinder, which delivers 168 hp and powers the GT in both sedan and Sportback trim. A 5-speed manual is standard there as well, though ES and GT models can be ordered with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). DE, ES and GT Lancers are front-wheel drive.
The Lancer Evolution comes with a 291-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a choice of 5-speed manual transmission and a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. Evolutions are equipped only with all-wheel drive.
The Lancer DE comes with plenty of features, such as power windows, doors and mirrors, plus anti-lock brakes, passenger and driver airbags, a knee airbag and side-impact airbags. The ES adds on air conditioning, keyless entry and steering wheel audio controls. The ES also has a 60/40 folding rear seat.
Next is the Lancer Ralliart, also available in either body style. It derives its 237 hp and 253 lb-feet of torque from a turbocharged 2.4L 4-cylinder. That power is put to all four wheels through either a 5-speed manual or Mitsubishi's advanced, rally-inspired Twin Clutch-Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST). Ralliart styling includes fog lights, rear spoiler, sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels as well limited-slip front and rear differentials. The Ralliart gets an upgraded 140-watt sound system, with an optional 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate system. Other options include a navigation system and Recaro sport seats.
In creating the Sportback, available in ES, with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine and GT trim with a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, designers kept functionality in mind as much as sportiness, and gave it a cargo floor that can be lowered three inches for more space and a rear door that extends all the way to the bumper for loading heavy or cumbersome gear.
The top-of-the performance heap Lancer Evolution is an impressive performance sedan by any measure. It features a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 291 horsepower and 300 lb-feet of torque, front and rear limited-slip differentials and a high-tech electronically controlled center differential. Mitsubishi used its knowledge and experience on the rally circuit to perfect the computer-controlled all-wheel drive system found in the Evolution and the result is impressive levels of control and safety even at high speed.
The Evolution also comes with Brembo 4-piston brakes, 18-inch Enkei alloy wheels, aluminum body panels, a large rear spoiler, fog lamps, active stability control and sports-tuned anti-lock brakes.