2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS

The thing about the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS: There are two kinds of people in the world.

The thing about the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS: There are two kinds of people in the world. And this will ID you as one of them.

The two types are these: (1) Those who want to buy a car that looks pretty much like the cars that everyone else buys. (2) Those who want to buy a car that looks different yet not like something that might be otherwise found in the “Oddities” section of a carnival.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS is for those people who don’t want to see their cars coming and going. (Which, admittedly, is good for them, but not so good for Mitsubishi, as it would undoubtedly like everyone to buy one—or at least a major fraction of that set of people.)

The Sportback, as its name implies, takes the roofline of the Lancer sedan and arches it back such that it is a bona-fide five-door, yet one that doesn’t necessarily resemble a hatch. Hatches tend to be more diagonally slab-like in the rear. This has a nice, well, boot(y).

2

While walking toward the Sportback in a parking lot in the company of an automotive professional (i.e., a guy who works for a car company and who pays close attention to the competition), he remarked to me, “I thought you said you had a Mitsubishi, not a Volvo.” And he meant it. In a good way. Presumably because like Volvos, there aren’t a whole lot of these in parking lots (at least not in the Detroit Metro), and because it does have a distinctiveness of styling.

2

As we began to investigate the ins and outs of the car, he had a keen observation, one that you might want to take into account in your own automotive analyses: The cargo area in the back (which would otherwise be considered the “trunk” were this not a hatch) is nicely trimmed out. Heck, trimmed out in a way that cars costing at least a third more sometimes aren’t. Clearly, someone was paying attention to an area that customers pay attention to, as well, especially given that when one has a hatch, part of the rationale is having good cargo space. So why shouldn’t that space be nice?

2

The Mitsubishi Sportback is a crafty compact crossover, despite the fact that it is a straightforward variant of the Lancer sedan.

The GTS trim falls in the middle between the entry ES and the hold-on-to-your-hat Ralliart. Here is a sensible, yet well-equipped, ‘tweener.

The vehicle has a 2.4-liter inline four that produces 168 hp, which gives it, again, ‘tweener fuel economy: 23/29 mpg. The engine is fitted to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Mitsubishi has exceedingly clever powertrain engineers who have developed the INVECS-III system, which uses sensor inputs from the driving conditions to select the right “gear” (i.e., a CVT uses belts and pulleys, not meshing gears). There are column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters for those so inclined (there are six simulated gears, in effect). While these are laudable and notable (often, vehicle manufactures deploy plastic paddles), I found them to block the writing on the stalks that provide information on lighting on the one hand and the windshield wipers on the other.

It has a sport-tuned suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link setup in the rear, but I suspect that most drivers will not avail themselves of the capabilities. More to the point, there is electric power steering, which really shines when parking. (Did you ever notice that most reviews complain about electric steering systems not providing sufficient “feel” when driving at speed, which, in most cases, is driving in a straight line, which means that as long as the system makes the car go straight, it is doing its job? As most people don’t drive on coned courses, the more pertinent measure is how well it allows you to park—or not.)

The Lancer Sportback GTS comes with a long list of standard features, many of which are expected nowadays (powered windows, locks, mirrors) and some not-so (leather-wrapped steering wheel).

Not to be left out of the infotainment race to audio bliss, Mitsubishi offers as standard on the GTS its FUSE HandsFree Link System, which combines voice control and Bluetooth so you can do everything from making hands-free calls to selecting your tunes.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is not a design that will appeal to everyone. But isn’t that the point of distinctive design?

Selected Specs

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC in-line four with VVT

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 168 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 167 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Wheelbase: 103.7 in.

Length: 180.4 in.

Width: 69.4 in.

Height: 59.3 in.

Base curb weight: 3,076 lb.

EPA: 23/29 mpg city/hwy