Which is good for most cars because my first impression is often "This is horrible," and then softens as we grow accustomed to each other.
The Ralliart, however ...
Love at first drive: The souped-up version of the small Mitsubishi really delivers on the promise of thrills.
The supertight handling makes the car a joy to maneuver from the first turn, and the turbo boost from the 237-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine takes a split second but then quickly pushes you back in your seat. And the twin-clutch SportTronic automatic shift has normal and sport modes to help release all that power in just the right doses.
On the second day of Ralliarting (Rallying Art?), I took a morning fall tour through the pastures of West Marlborough Township in central Chester County. I felt like the ubiquitous "Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt" zipping along Upland Road, as colorful leaves scattered and horses watched from behind their fences.
Off-road: The Ralliart also suits West Marlborough in other ways, as the township has begun ripping the pavement off many roads to add to its bucolic beauty. The Ralliart offers a full-time all-wheel-drive system, plus an active center differential with selections for tarmac, gravel, and snow. So life is fun, even in the soft lane.
The hard-to-take part: But take the Ralliart out of the beautiful scenery and into a Philadelphia traffic jam and its shortcomings are revealed.
The joy of SportTronic transmission (or the various other shiftable Tronics that different carmakers offer) is being able to relax in automatic mode when fun time is over. But in Ralliart automatic mode, the shifts are abrupt and the downshifts are striking, coming much too early for my tastes. Though turbo lag abounds when racing from 0 to 60, only the slightest of accelerator taps seems to push the vehicle much too quickly in stop-and-go situations. And no other transmission is available with the Ralliart.
I give points to Mitsubishi, though, for telling drivers which gear they're in even in automatic mode.
Roaring turbo: If you like attention from boy racers, the downshift exhaust note from the Ralliart will certainly help provide it.
On the curves: The aforementioned super-tight handling makes the Ralliart a blast on winding roads. Its steering lands somewhere above the Civic Si's techno city-street precision and the Mini Cooper's supple countryside artistry.
Slowing down: The power of the Lancer Ralliart is easy to rein in, as well. The brakes do an excellent job of bringing drivers back down to Earth.
Driver's Seat: It's a pretty comfortable ride in the Ralliart. Leather seats come as part of the $3,050 Ralliart Touring Package, which also heats the seats and adds a Rockford Fosgate sound system, sunroof, rear camera, and more.
Friends and stuff: The rear accommodations are not bad. The trunk is pretty tight, though.
Shortcomings: It costs $34,000? Sure, that price includes a $2,000 navigation package, but it doesn't have power seats? Or a telescoping steering wheel? This might be overlooked if I could adjust the wheel to see the cruise control "set" light or the turn signals, but no such luck.
Fuel economy: I got as much as 24 m.p.g. and as little as 20 driving around the Philadelphia region, which is kind of dismal. And feed the Ralliart premium, please.
Where it's built: Kirashiki, Japan.
How it's built: J.D. Power puts the predicted reliability of the 2012 Lancer in the bottom of the barrel. The 10-year/100,00-mile power train warranty might help ease some worries.
In the end: For the same money, I can get an Acura TSX, a well-loaded Mini Convertible, or a variety of other cars that offer better accommodations, more features, and lots of fun. But none will offer the handling and straight-line acceleration of the Lancer Ralliart. It depends how much of a hurry you're in.
Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.