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  • October 1, 2014

WHEELS--Sport Sedans - Ladue News: Lifestyle

WHEELS--Sport Sedans

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Posted: Monday, October 24, 2011 9:57 am

If you love the performance, speed and thrill of driving a sports car but need a functional back seat and/or trunk, a sport sedan may be the perfect solution.

One attractive option is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR. Born on the European rally circuit, the Evo is an aggressively styled small sedan with the performance of sports cars costing twice as much.

The Evo is powered by a 2.0 liter, 291-horsepower, 4-cylinder turbocharged power plant that distributes power to all four wheels via a 5- speed manual transmission. An automatic with paddle shifters is available, but if you want to drive an automatic, this probably isn’t your type of car. The three available all-wheel-drive modes are snow, tarmac and gravel, so it’s even good in adverse weather or slightly off-road. Gas mileage is 17 city, 23 highway. Acceleration is very very quick, with hardly any turbo lag, but the ride is very stiff, and not for everyone. The payoff is phenomenal handling prowess. For those of us who value performance over comfort, it’s an easy trade-off to be able to carve through corners at high speed like it’s on rails. The Brembo brakes are equally aggressive and pull the Evo back down to earth with aplomb. Bottom line is that the Evo is a blast to drive and perfect for the guy who wants a really fast, good-handling sports car but has to drive carpool during the week. When I got a chance to drive an Evo on the track at Road America, it was almost too much fun.

From a practical standpoint, the Evo fills its role as a five-passenger sedan adequately. Highly bolstered front Recaro seats keep you in place during spirited driving. The trunk is a bit small, thanks to the placement of the battery in the rear for weight balance, but it’s still bigger than you’d get in a two-door sports car. There are plenty of modern amenities, such as automatic climate control, power windows, an available navigation system and a nice audio system.

“The Evo GSR is a fun, sporty, all-wheel-drive turbocharged fivepassenger screamer. It’s good in all weather and even looks good doing it,” says Kirkwood Mitsubishi general sales manager Michael Procost. Prices for the Evo GSR start at $35,000 and can touch $40,000 with options.

Another appealing sports sedan is the Volkswagen GTI. Though not technically a sedan (it’s a 4-door hatchback), the GTI can haul more than just people.

The GTI is the latest iteration of the original ‘tuner’ car that created a sporty performance vehicle from an economy car base. Little touches—such as red accents throughout—highly bolstered heated front seats, a flatbottomed steering wheel and cool sport wheels with horseshoe-shaped cutouts, remind the driver and tell the world that this is no ordinary Golf.

The interior is dominated by a black/white/red plaid cloth that will take you back to the ’70’s. Ventilation controls are simple, and the sound system is easily operated with a touch screen in the center of the front console. There is plenty of headroom, and a tall greenhouse, so you don’t get that ‘scrunched in’ feeling you get in some low-roofed sports cars. Rear-seat room is surprisingly good, and rear seat passengers even get their own air vent. The cargo area is a bit small with the rear seats up, but fold them down and there’s tons of cargo-carrying capacity. Basic modern amenities such as power windows and locks are included, but nothing too fancy, which is good for keeping the weight and price down, thus the fun and value up.

Power comes from a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 200 horsepower to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. In such a light car, this creates plenty of power to scoot the GTI with authority. Quick acceleration with minimal turbo lag, combined with strong Brembo brakes, tight steering, and a nice stiff suspension make for a very tossable vehicle that’s really fun to drive, whether you’re at a track or driving carpool. Mileage with the manual is 21 city, 31 highway; with the 6-speed automatic it’s 24 city, 32 highway.

“The GTI is an enthusiast’s car. With its flat cornering, superior handling and visceral driving experience, the GTI is a performance car that’s also functional,” notes Bommarito Volkswagen’s Patrick Williams. Prices for the 4-door GTI start at $25,000 for the manual, or $26,000 with an automatic transmission.

Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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