The Mitsubishi Lancer was first introduced in 1973, and since that time more than six million examples have been sold. It has carried many different names, sold by different manufacturers, and come in different shapes and sizes. Since the car's inception, it has proven to be a solid competitor in rally competition. It has been a very versatile, and capable automobile.
When first introduced, it joined Mitsubishi's other models which included the Galant, their compact car, and the Minica Kei car. The Lancer fell into ranks between these two models, serving as the company's lower-to-middle class vehicle. When introduced, it was offered in twelve different trim levels, included the base 1.2-liter sedan, and ranging towards the rally-prepared 1600 GSR. Two body styles were offered, the 2-door coupe and the 4-door sedan. There was also a five-door station wagon, but the production levels on this never reached very high. A hatchback was added in 1975, called the Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste, and offered with either a 1.4- or 1.6-liter engine. A 2.0-liter unit was later added.
The second generation of the Mitsubishi Lancer was introduced in 1978 and remained in production until 1983. The only body style offered was the four-door sedan; two engine sizes were available, a 1.4- and 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit. The big news for this generation was the addition of the Lancer EX, which brought with it a turbocharger for the 1.8-liter engine.
In 1982 the next generation of the Lancer was introduced. A new model was launched, dubbed the lancer Fiore and based on the Mitsubishi Mirage. This generation of the Lancer was offered in a 3-door hatchback, 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback, and five-door station wagon. The 1.6- and 1.8-liter engines were still available. A diesel version was introduced, and fuel-injected and turbocharged versions were offered.
The station wagon was added in 1985, and it was followed quickly by a four-wheel-drive version.
In 1988 the next iteration of the Lancer began and would persist until 1992. The design changed; the car became less boxy and more aerodynamic in appearance and principle. The edges became more round and modern. The shape followed the design of the Galant.
By now, the Lancer name was being shared with the Dodge Lancer, which was being sold in the United States by Chrysler Group. In Japan, the model was known as the Mirage Aspire.
This generation of the Lancer was sold as a 3-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and 5-door hatchback. Front and four-wheel drive were available.
In 1991, the differences between the Mirage and the Lancer became even greater, though both were still built on the same platform. In the North American market, the Lancer was sold as the Eagle Summit.
A V6 engine, which displaced just 1.6-liters, was introduced and powered the Mirage, along with other Mitsubishi cars. It would even become the power source for one of the HSR Concept vehicles. This V6 engine was the smallest mass-produced V6, a title it retains to this day. Other engine options included a 1.3, 1.5, 1.8, and 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines. The 1.3 and 1.5-liter versions were SOHC while the rest were DOHC. The 1.8 was created in both SOHC and DOHC fashion. The standard gearbox was the five-speed manual, with the four-speed automatic being sold as optional equipment.
The big news was the Lancer GSR, which had a high-performance turbocharged engine and would form the groundwork for the Lancer Evolution, commonly known as the Lancer Evo, which began in September of 1993. The Evo used the drivetrain of the Galant VR-4 rally car, and would soon prove its potential as a high-performance competition machine.
All of the Lancer Evolutions has shared a two-liter, turbocharged engine, and four-wheel-drive system. The Evolutions, prior to version V, are the officially-approved models for Mitsubishi's efforts in the World Rally Championship's Group A class and SCCA Pro Rally Championship. The cars are built on the same platform as the other Lancers, but given many performance upgrades and mechanical improvements.
Lancer Evolutions continue to race in Group A and Group N classes.
The seventh generation of the Lancer was introduced in 1995 and produced until 2000. It continued the Lancer's successful formula of enjoying strong sales throughout the world. In Japan, the name for the sedan and wagon continued as the Libero; related Mirage models were still available. The Coupe was known as the Mirage Asti in Japan and the Lancer Coupe in the rest of the world.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V is the only Mitsubishi to earn the WRC Constructors Championship for its marque. Tommi Makinen has claimed four WRC Drivers Championships, from 1996 through 2000, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (IV, V & VI). Makinen has driven Mitsubishi's in most of his WRC career. The exception being a Ford Escort RS Cosworth in 1994 and a Subaru Impreza WRC in 2002.
The eighth generation of the Lancer was introduced in 2000 in Japan. Most of the other markets continued with the seventh generation. The 8th gen Lancer was available in a four-door sedan configuration or as a station wagon.
Styling changes for the Lancer occurred in 2004 and 2005 for the North American market. The grille was given more fins so it was closer in design to the American version of the Galant. The facia was changed slightly again in 2006.
The Sportback and Ralliart were introduced to the US in 2004. Both of these trim levels brought more equipped and bigger engines. The Sportback has a 160 horsepower engine and the Ralliart was just a little higher, at 162. For both, the suspension had been improved, resulting in better handling and performance. The cars were lowered and 16-inch alloy wheels could now be found on all four corners. Aerodynamic ground package, fog lamps, and front bucket seats completed the ensemble. The Ralliart was given clear rear tail lights and a rear deck spoiler, which did little except enhance the cars appearance. All Sportbacks were equipped with an INVECS-II automatic gearbox. The Ralliart had the five-speed manual as standard and the four-speed automatic as optional.
Slow sales and financial difficulties for Mitsubishi had the Sportback canceled after just one year.
The Mitsubishi Concept X was unveiled to the public at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show; Concept-Sportback was shown a little while later at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The new lancer drew its design inspiration from both of these concepts, which was officially unveiled at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show. Sales for this generation of the vehicle went on sale in the US in March of 2007. it is available as a four-door sedan.By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2007