Driving ImpressionsThe press event consisted of an autocross with Ralliart, Evo X, and GTS models on hand, a street drive, and road circuit driving in Evo Xs only. The autocross was the most telling. It was pure precision, a scalpel in the hands of a gifted surgeon. Its ability to rotate aggressively right where aimed, yet quickly recover its composure, was amazing. The Ralliart just didn't have the reflex speed, but its drivetrain allowed it to hold the line with tenacity. Like the X it was forgiving and predictable at its outer limits. The GTS was an entirely different dynamic, a commuter that felt out of place among all the autocross cones.

On the street the differences between the Ralliart and Evo were apparent before we got out of the parking lot. The Ralliart is much more compliant in the ride department. The Evo is not obtrusive but you certainly feel more of the road.

The Ralliart is an enthusiastic performer, remember it has 90-more horsepower than the GTS, so in this light it's a hot-rod. Using the paddles to keep the 4B11 in its sweet spot, you can really feel the whole car come alive. Away from the cones, the Ralliart suspension is certainly sporty with good lateral grip.

Tuning PotentialThe Lancer Ralliart has loads of aftermarket potential. The 4B11 is a turbo swap away from super stardom, however, it's the suspension that really needs to play catch-up here. Can a set of coilovers, stiffer sway bars, and some fat rubber close the agility gap? At $26,490, will you spend enough in upgrades to have afforded an Evo? Better still, how does the Ralliart stack up to the new 265hp WRX that retails for under $25,000? Right now it has some catching up to do because the Subaru hits harder under full throttle and is more agile, but the Ralliart is certainly one jigsaw puzzle that's worth putting together.