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Saw this article in the Toronto Star today, if any Canadian is waiting for the EVO, you better be patient. It's nice to know that at least Subaru was willing to make a slightly different version (lights, stereo, mats etc.) for Canada but Mitsu won't.

The subcompact Mitsubishi Lancer wasn't all-new last year, but it was new to Canada — as was the entire Mitsubishi lineup.

So Lancer was eligible for last fall's Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Car of the Year competition. It sufficiently impressed the jurors that it was chosen Canada's Best New Economy Car for 2003.

Laurel-resting doesn't seem to be part of Mitsubishi's makeup, so 2004 sees significant changes to the Lancer lineup.

The biggest is the addition of the 2.4-litre-powered Sportback, which Mitsu prefers to call a "sport wagon" since "station wagon" is still the marketing kiss of death in the United States.

If it walks like a duck, etc. ...

Next up in the significance sweepstakes would be the Ralliart editions — also powered by the 2.4 L — of both the Lancer sedan and Sportback.

"Ralliart" is to Mitsubishi as "M" is to BMW, "AMG" is to Mercedes-Benz and "STi" is to Subaru — it's the firm's in-house motorsport division.

As the name suggests, Ralliart has made its reputation in rallying — in the World Rally Championship (which, oddly, Mitsubishi is not contesting this year) and the infamous Paris-Dakar trans-Sahara rally raid.

Mitsubishi is now about to attempt to capitalize on this motorsport heritage by introducing Ralliart as a new sub-brand.

The other Lancer sedan variants — base ES, up-scale LS, and OZ Rally (named after the Italian Formula One wheel supplier who also makes the alloys for this model) — all receive the classic external face-lift: new front and rear bumpers, hood, front fenders and deck lid.

Inside, new trim materials give a richer look. Additional sound-deadening reduces noise, vibration and harshness.

The ES, LS and OZ Rally are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, producing 120 horsepower at 5500 rpm, and 130 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.

The already-impressive standard equipment lists, such as air conditioning across the Lancer board, have been further boosted.

For example, Lancer LS now comes with a power sunroof, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob.

"So what," I can hear you motorsport freaks crying. "What about the Evolution?"

Not available in Canada, I'm sorry to report.

It seems the below-bumper intercooler on this 271 horsepower all-wheel-drive ball of fire sits directly in harm's way for the Canadian front crash test, which is more stringent than that used by the United States.

Pierre Gagnon, president and CEO of Mitsubishi's operations in North America, told me three days ago that he would love to have the Evolution VIII — as it's called in some markets, but not U.S. where it's just plain Evolution — in Canada.

But he said it would be very expensive to re-engineer the current car for the small number of units they'd sell in Canada, and that we'll probably have to wait until the next-generation Lancer arrives.

That schedule isn't cast in stone, but it's probably calendar year 2006 (model year 2007) for the bread-and-butter cars, with the next Evo — Evo IX, anyone? — perhaps coming along several months to a year later.
 
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