Auto Review: A study in versatility: Lancer SE AWC

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Oct. 31, 2013
Monica Duval, Pam Lapponese and Mary Wilde are very proud of the ‘Ladie’s Night Out’ event. - Contributed Photo

One of the best features a vehicle in the northeast can have is all-wheel drive, as it can make getting to where you need to be in the dead of winter much easier. In the past, the only problems with such vehicles used to be their price and size, as the engineering and hardware required to power all four wheels comes at a price, and was largely restricted to trucks and SUVs. But fortunately for consumers, the technology has been moving into cars at an increasingly affordable price, and this week we have a prime example in the new Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC. This compact sedan platform is no stranger to all-wheel drive, as the amazing Lancer Evolution version is also updated for 2014 and is a street-legal rally car with a performance suspension, nearly 300 horsepower and lots of go-fast goodies. The SE is much less hard-core and much more affordable, and as a result has a lot of great things going for it if you’re into a comfortable, economical sedan with a surprisingly smooth ride and great all-weather capability.

The Lancer ES AWC is powered by a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 168 horsepower, and this, in turn, is linked to a Continuously Variable Transmission (that has no manual mode). From here we go to a very interesting AWC (All Wheel Control) drive system that gives you a choice of three modes: 2WD, 4WD and 4WD lock. This means that, unlike a lot of the AWD sedans out there, you can disconnect the rear-drive wheels to save fuel when conditions don’t require the extra traction. Acceleration is acceptably brisk, and the transmission is smooth and quiet like most contemporary CVT gearboxes. The Lancer has an amazingly balanced suspension in that the ride quality is on a level with a lot of more expensive (and larger) sedans, yet handling is very crisp and steering response is very satisfying. The car also has a more solid feel, especially compared to previous Lancers. Of course, the ’14 Evolution model, with its seriously aggressive suspension, sticks to the tarmac like Velcro and the turbocharged engine is a rocket in the bonnet, as they say. But the price is a fairly harsh ride (as well as a fairly high price tag). Here’s where the ES shines, for as a daily driver it’s much more user-friendly.

Inside, the new Lancer is more refined than previous models, and while there’s still a lot of hard plastic, it’s better executed that in the past.  The driver’s displays are very clean and well-organized, with a colorful trip computer. These outstanding displays are part of the optional Premium Package, which also includes a stellar 710-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system. The rear seats offer up very good room for a compact, meaning passengers won’t feel they are being punished for having to occupy the rear compartment.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE 2.4L AWC is EPA rated 22 MPG city/29 highway and has a base price of $20,695. With options, our sticker came to $22,145.

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