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What's The Least Convincing Performance-Branded Version Of A Car?

Manufacturers really wanted these cars to come off as something they weren't.

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Photo: Mitsubishi

Marketing is a hell of a drug. And in the world of cars, where a manufacturer might build five different versions of the same vehicle each differentiated by its own arbitrary alphanumeric signifier, marketing becomes especially influential. Today, we’re going to talk about the most disappointing cases of an automaker giving a particular model a designation it didn’t deserve. What’s the least convincing performance-branded version of a car?

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart up there was actually a decent little baby sport sedan, with a number of tweaks to the suspension and powertrain that made it a respectable cheaper sibling to the Evo. The Ralliart isn’t the most egregious of the misbadged Lancers — that award actually goes to the earlier O.Z. Rally Edition, which I couldn’t find an official photo of. That variant added five-spoke O.Z. rims that looked good in fairness, plus a little spoiler... and nothing else. In every other way — even down to the 120-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder — it was a standard Lancer, which was not a great thing to be in 2003. Or really, ever.


Of course, it didn’t help that the Lancer Evolution also existed, and started being sold in the States around the same time. Sort of like the Civic Si today, the less-spirited Lancers may have been overlooked for the top dog in the lineup. Mitsubishi’s questionable naming conventions have also made me scratch my head over the years. Ralliart was to Mitsubishi what STI is to Subaru, yet the Ralliart designation belonged to the middle child in the range, rather than the Evo.

But there are loads more examples to cite, and I don’t want to spoil any more of them ahead of the comments section. What sporty-badged cars have you found to be more about show than go?