Driving the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

I had a chance to test drive a new Mitsubishi Lancer SE during our last trip up to the mountains this season. Luckily we were greeted with snowy, cold conditions to give the AWD sedan a fair shake.

Driving in Town

In my limited experience, this exceeded my expectations as a high-powered Japanese car. It was a lot of fun to drive around, quick to accelerate, and handled smoothly. In fact, I rarely felt cracks or imperfections in the road and even went over speed bumps with little trouble. Though, the car is low to the ground and would presumably get pretty close to a parking block or a curb.

I saw around 25 MPG around town and it was very easy to drive, park, and turn as you’d hope a 4-door sedan would be.

Driving in the Mountains

But the fun part is driving in the mountains. This car has some pickup and we made it up and down I-70 with no complaint from the Lancer. In fact, on Saturday night we saw nearly 8-inches of blinding white snow fall on the roads. We were in Breckenridge and had to drive back to Silverthorne in the dark. The 4WD LOCK mode handled well (according to Mitsubishi: this setting directs up to 70% of the engine’s available power to the electronic control coupling that controls the rear wheels) and made me feel very confident (maybe over-confident) in my ability to handle the unplowed snowy road. I felt no slippage anywhere from the banked turn near Lake Dillon to stopping at lights through Frisco.

Worth mentioning, the fog lights worked fairly well at illuminating the road out in front while snow was coming at us from head-on. As with any car, comparing “full beam” lights versus fog-lights means the difference between flying through a “Star Wars” movie (all you see is a black background and white stars flying by) and simply driving in low visibility conditions.

Technology

Unfortunately I did not get to try the full navigation package with all the bells and whistles. The sound system was nothing to write home about.

Worth noting, we did drive with the optional “exterior package” which has a rear wing spoiler. This was a bit troublesome because it blocks a good 10% of your rear-view mirror and is actually a pain to clean snow off of and around.

As mentioned, fog lighting is ideal for weather conditions and good to see and it did come with heated seats. One thing missing that I’d like to see is the Bluetooth remote-entry key (while it did have Bluetooth for ‘hands free’ calls). Though, according to the manufacturer, you can get an optional “remote start” kit to warm the car up on cold snowy days.

Style

The interior was nothing special. The seats felt great (especially with the warmers on) and the dashboard was average (I could turn on the radio and see how fast I was going). But, the manual climate control was a bit of a bummer. I found myself spending more time tweaking hot/cold than I’d care to.

The exterior looks slick and the added “exterior package” with the wing certainly gets some added attention. In my experience it ended up being a superfluous flare and not to my taste (something else to get dirty and snowy).

Storage

Overall we fit a snowboard and my pair of skis with a seat folded down. Boots, jackets, helmets and a backpack all fit with no issue in the trunk. I’d say you could comfortably fit three people with gear, four would be a tight fit.

Pricing

It turns out (I would’ve have guessed by looking at the exterior) this runs around $20,000. I’d say that’s more than I would want to pay for a car that doesn’t quite meet some of my picky needs.

Overall

For an all-around Colorado (mountain car), I’d say it would be manageable and plenty of fun to drive while remaining safe and capable on the roads. While the technology, interior and features left something to be desired, the speed and ‘drivability’ didn’t quite make up for it for me.