August 19, 2006 By Kevin C. Limjoco

MITSUBISHI EVO

 

The World Rally Scene is one of the most exciting and entertaining forms of motorsport to watch. The brutally powerful competition cars bristling with wings, mud flaps, and wild livery; spewing gobs of horsepower while systematically being driven to the ground by extremely talented drivers doing exactly what not to do under normal driving conditions – in some of the worst possible driving conditions imaginable. That’s part of the appeal. Then there’s the level of competition: the World Rally Scene is one of the most competitive and dangerous forms of motorsport. Drivers are determined to put in the fastest times despite the perpetually unpredictable driving conditions – no amount of reconnaissance can completely map out a stage safely. Just the skill of the drivers, accuracy of the navigator (especially his pace notes), his rally car and a lot of luck are the only things that stand between a successfully fast rally stage – or falling off the side of a cliff. Despite all that, every Rally driver in the world will insist that this is what he loves to do.

Amazing isn’t it?

While Rally is an extremely Driver-focused sport, the cars that the drivers use also enjoy celebrity status. Veteran rally marques like Renault, Lancia, Ford Cosworth, Peugeot, and Audi were some of the superpowers from the west. Later on, the Japanese began to flex their muscles in the form of Toyota, Nissan, and of course, Mitsubishi. The evolution of rally car is a fascinating progression to follow. Its history is marked by many significant technological developments in driving dynamics, safety and power plant development. These innovations have benefited both rally drivers and common road users alike in such that the technologies applied for the purpose-built rally cars eventually find themselves among the driving gear of common road cars. Much to the delight of car enthusiasts.

 

 

Probably one of the most important innovations in the world of Rally driving is the introduction of ALL WHEEL DRIVE (AWD). Probably the most significant car (and the car that most sticks out in wiser people’s memory) that utilized this traction-grabbing drive train was the Audi ‘UR’ QUATTRO. It was a monster of a rally car. Unwidely and heavy, the Quattro was nonetheless a formidable weapon of rally stage obliteration despite its intrinsic handicaps. The Quattro effectively put AWD among the ‘list of new words’ in the motorsport dictionary. Far from being just a mere acronym or word, AWD was no less than a powerful statement to those who really understood what it meant. Normally relegated to the otherwise logistically ( and perhaps neurotically) exciting world of utility transport, the application of AWD to other completion cars – especially Rally Cars – dramatically changed the way people viewed the standards of traction performances. Suddenly, cars were doing things that were impossible to do under the law of physics and more power could be effectively applied to the road ( or off road) stage. In short, the cars were getting frightfully quicker.

 

EVOLUTIONARY MITSUBISHI PERFORMANCE

Rally cars are a continually evolving species. One company that kept coming back to the rally scene and developing potent machines for competitions was Mitsubishi. People may recall the early rally days of Mitsubishi in the form of L-type Lancer, which was a compact and robust little rear wheel drive car that was a reliable and effective campaigner. It was especially popular with privateers who found them relatively accessible in terms of performance and running costs. One popular image of the L-Type is from Rally Kenya where it proved stubbornly enduring through the rally stages, but it did not end there though. In the eighties, the Lancer Box – Type Intercooler Turbo brought more glory to the marque. Also with rear wheel drive, it gave us an early glimpse of the potential that Mitsubishi’s 4G63 power plant was capable of delivering.

Fast forward to the nineties and Mitsubishi gave us the Galant VR4. It had good power from the un-updated version of the mighty 4G63 engine and more importantly, it had, for the first time in a popular Mitsubishi Rally Car, ALL WHEEL DRIVE. The car’s weight and relatively long wheelbase were a handicap but Mitsubishi gleaned many important lessons from the rugged Galant. Eventually, it was the VR4 that led Mitsubishi to develop their deadliest rally weapon: The LANCER EVOLUTION.

 

The early Lancer EVO 1 was a revelation in performance and agility. It had the torque necessary to fling the car through the stages at a blisteringly rapid pace but, unlike its older VR4 brother, it had the agility that the Galant did not possess. The Lancer was an ideal platform: lighter, smaller and simpler to work on than the comparatively complex Galant. Power was easier to dial in because –  being smaller – the Lancer had a better power to weight ratio. You could now get more from less. Improvements to the first generation of Evolutions followed in the form of the EVO 2 and 3. By this time, Mitsubishi was already established as a formidable contender in the world rally circuit. The little Lancer was wildly successful in achieving cult status while placing its drivers on the podium with almost routine regularity. The later generation of the Evolution has become more sophisticated and refined to match the changing times ( and the evolution of people’s tastes) but the car nonetheless retains its most basic formula: All Wheel Drive, outrageous Lancer bodywork and the mandatory turbo charged inter – cooled 4G63 providing prodigious power.

LOOK AT ME

When they first appeared, the early Evolutions were odd-looking machines. The Lancer, (basically) a four-door sedan, had a clumsy looking front fascia grafted on to where the front bumper ought to be. It looked like the design team really took the saying ‘form follows function’ too much to heart. The front was a morass of mesh screened intakes and vents in severe doses, flanked by a pair of large driving lights – the visual front view calling card of Evolutions to come. In fact, the front of the car looked like a giant symmetrical vent network shaped to look like, well, the front of the car – but more like an afterthought; there is also the inevitable complement of side skirts to aid the aerodynamic department in keeping the car planted when the pace picks up. Finally, there’s everyone’s favorite; the outrageous rear wing that would become the trademark of the Evolution. Evidently, the car was not designed to look pretty in the conventional sense – they just needed to homologate it to make it fit for completion. You could almost imagine the shop floor at the factory where a big sign says: JUST MAKE IT WORK. Write in Japanese, I suppose. To the eyes of the faithful, however, the Lancer’s menacing appearance and in your face styling is just plain beautiful. And people will look at you when you drive by.

 

TAKE ME HOME

The driving dynamics of a Lancer Evolution (any Lancer Evolution) are a revelation. The car’s layout, All-Wheel Drive and the power produced by the turbocharged inter-cooled engine is a combination of pure genius: you have a car that can go really fast and still be able to take some of your friends – even family – out for a very quick romp to the supermarket. The best part of it all is your last name does not have to be Makinen. The car is relatively easy to drive; it is a thrilling drive without having to push the car to the limit – the sheer straight-line acceleration alone is insanely addictive.

Living with your EVO is a pleasant experience as well. It is commuter car reliable – just be mindful of your service schedule; it is after all still a rally car dressed up in cities. However, having said that, Evolution will not break easily. The car has loads of character – you are not in danger of losing interest in it anytime soon – and you get better at driving it over time. Learning to drive your EVO is a rewarding (and occasionally scary) experience. Having an engine that produces an average of the high side of 250 bhp in a car that was not originally designed to handle more than 150 bhp is an extremely entertaining prospect. Moments of bravado are not uncommon. Over exuberance often leads to trouble, but a good driving clinic can easily sort things out for even the most ham-fisted and lead-footed of an enthusiast. Safety is the key.

 

There are, however, hopeless cases. Yes, you know who you are. You’ll need a bit more work. Meantime, just try to keep from ending up as part of the scenery. Cheers. Get it right though and you will feel like a hero every time you drive the car. The four-wheel drive is revolutionary and the engine so tractable making it absolutely delightful to drive fast.

Rally Stage Fast.

The EVO 1 is the very first of the EVO line. It broke new ground for Mitsubishi and helped lead the way to championship victory after championship victory. But what has happened to this early beast? What is it like to drive? During its early campaign, few people could own the Evolution 1. The market was not yet aware of the car’s potential. The demand was not yet there. Yet, the fact remains that the EVO 1 must have been a remarkable car. It proved that the formula – all-wheel drive, big wings, and turbo power – worked for the Lancer Evolution. Fortunately, the EVO (magazine) team managed to get its hands on one example of the first of the EVO line. We put it through some of its paces to see exactly what the beginning must have felt like to Mitsubishi.

 

(VERY) FIRST IMPRESSION

The EVO 1 in our test is a seasoned campaigner of many motorsport events and suitably scarred but the car is nonetheless as, er, rich in character as its competition career suggests. At any rate, the car has all the prerequisite external visual cues from the rally-inspired fascia, skirts and finally that beloved REAR WING that NASA would be proud of. And that’s just the outside.

It’s quite hard really to say what variant our EVO 1 is due to the worn appearance of the car’s interior, which seems has also seen some attempts at having been reworked. However, if I were to wager a guess, I’d say that our test car was an RS. Wind down windows, no original radio and most likely no sound system out of the box. At the time of testing, however, the EVO 1 was already in the state of post-competition domestication. It had a radio, air conditioning, and regular seat belts. No problem.

But there is one thing though. I learned that the car had been used in Drag Racing Competition rather than Rally Competition as logic would suggest. I learned also that the all-wheel-drive had been disabled and that the car is running on a two-wheel drive only. My first reaction was utter disbelief. Why would anyone want to disable one of the most important components that make the Evolution the formidable motorsport machine that it is? Well, those Drag Racing types obviously thought that was a good idea so they went ahead and did it. At any rate, they manage to utilize the other most important aspect of the Lancer Evolution: its fabulous turbo-charged inter-cooled engine. Apparently, the Dragster Boys decided that it would be easier to disable the all-wheel-drive train of the EVO than to do an engine swap; the existing differential of the EVO is probably the most suitably robust mechanism for handling launch torque during a drag race without having to perform severe automotive surgery anyway.

So there you have it.

 

 

DRIVING THE ONE

Driving the car was an exercise of ease and rhythm. You had to drive it progressively to feel the car’s limits. Once you have suitably become acclimatized to the machine, you can start pushing harder and harder. The lack of all-wheel-drive robs the car of traction in the corners causing you to take a more careful line as you enter and exit each turn.

The power of the car, however, remains intact and is as potent as ever. With instant 4G63 turbo power under your right foot, launching the EVO 1 is as uncomplicated as… opening a door. There is little lag. You only become aware of the traces of lag when the boost finally builds to peak level whipping the needle on the rev counter towards the inevitable, nirvana-inducing red line. The power delivery is very progressive. It punches when you slam the pedal to the floor but if you try to drive it smoothly, you can modulate the torque (to some degree anyway) making forward acceleration a more progressively insistent event.

Our makeshift road course in Manila Southwoods was an interesting mix of long sweeping turns and sudden tight corners. Driving the EVO 1 through it was best achieved in a smooth manner. You took the car a notch higher every time you made a lap eventually driving to a point equivalent to about 8/10 at the most – this is just a road course after all. The traction shortage requires more attention from the driver and throttle steering ( or some semblance of it) became more the order of the day. You learn the technique after several laps.

Then you begin to have fun. The car’s massive power is an addictively entertaining panacea for on-road boredom. Throw in the car’s character and post racing personality and what you have is a uniquely satisfying driving machine. I did say uniquely satisfying didn’t I? Go figure. All the while, you remember that the appeal of this car not only lies in the driving but that fact that you are sitting in one of the few existing Evolution 1s in the country. The knowledge that this generation of rally cars began what would become an unstoppable force in the highly competitive world of rally competition. You just can’t help but smile. So this is what spawned one of the great Gran Tourismo legends that have become a permanent fixture in the collective vocabulary in a cult car following.

 

And I got to drive it. Wowee.

  YEARS AFTER the first EVO, Mitsubishi was advancing to its fourth generation Lancer and one of the most celebrated Evolutions. The stakes were high, as the Evo III was very successful on and off the Rally Circuit. The Evo IV has given the platform of the New Generation (1996) Lancer. With improved balance through the dramatic reconfiguration of the transaxle and engine placement, the mighty turbocharged engine now had a more dynamic platform. The amazing 4G63 turbocharged engine was given the usual power treatment of over 200+hp and generous torque that is the inevitable output of all those horses. The engine truly is a work of art – it should be displayed in the automotive equivalent of the Louvre. It pulls like a jackrabbit on speed, but still, acceleration is very smooth and linear with virtually no turbo lag. The sound of the 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine chewing up the tachometer is breathtaking, with the sound of the exhaust echoing the furious induction from what is basically a ten-year-old engine. Very tight for a ten-year-old motor though.

Meet the FourThe Evo IV sold in two variants, the RS and GSR. The RS was a completion-inspired variant with a limited spit differential in front and a friction type limited slip in the rear. It was a stripped down model with just a heater – no AC, manual windows, had an option for thinner body panel and glass to save on weight. The car was quite raw but completely potent. Its rally competition-inclined engineering meant that the body had an extra strengthening behind the front grill and across the floor of the trunk. The RS was also equipped with standard GLX 16 inch wheels, as they were routinely replaced during competition events depending on the stage.

 

The GSR, in retrospect, has a bit more luxury as compared to the RS, like AC and power windows. What truly separates the GSR with the RS and the Evos that came before them is the introduction of Active Yaw Control which regulated that application of rear torque in order to improve cornering through the increase of power to the outside wheels helping to reduce understeer and improve steering response – driver aids, in other words.

 

THE LOOK

The Evo IV is aging well which means that it doesn’t look dated or boring. The car has a muscular look especially when you look at those gargantuan round fog lights. The side skirts add a little drama to the pretty ordinary sides of the car, then there’s that tail: huge, gaudy, (arguably) beautiful and extremely functional. Rounding out the look are those simple, but striking OZ wheels.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the interior but of course, it was never anything flashy, to begin with. The specimen we had was an Evo IV RS, so this thing was pretty bare. The only things that stood out were the beautiful sports seats and the Momo steering wheel. The rest of the interior was pretty ordinary and looked quite dated. Even the white-faced gauges, which were the thing back in the day, looked relatively dull, but they were large and efficient.

 

 

GETTING CLOSE

Sitting in the Evo IV for the first time, the first thing that hits you are how extremely supportive the seats are, almost too supportive your behind definitely isn’t going anywhere and with the things you can do with this car that’s a good thing. The Evo IV started up in one click, idle was smooth, no signs of those 10 years of existence. Drive the Evo IV around and you would not think there was a monster of an engine lurking under the hood. Even the suspension was tuned intensively for performance while keeping the ride relatively civilized. Of course, once you start pushing the wondrous engine all the other marvels of the Evo IV start to greet you. The transmission is in perfect harmony with the glorious engine, the suspension – a rock solid affair – eliminates body roll when cornering, and braking is dive-free. The vented disc brakes have plenty of bites to handle the gobs of power from the engine and are free of fade. Although who needs brakes when the all-wheel-drive system keeps the Evo IV plated through every corner as if it was velcroed to the asphalt. It almost seems like you have to do something completely stupid for something to go wrong. Even without the driver aids, the Evo IV’s handling was simply incredible.

I’m getting addicted.

 

THE LANCER Evolution V is interesting and – from a cult car point of view – one of the most desirable of the Lancer Evolutions. While it doesn’t have the hype of the EVO VI (due largely to the Makinen Edition), it has all the qualities – it has the looks and the performance. That’s the appeal of the Five: it just hits the spot.

 

THE EMPEROR’S NEW STANCE

While the form clearly follows function, the car cannot be accused of being overdone. The wider stance and bigger wheels look every part the biz on Mitsubishi’s fifth iteration of their monster Lancer. It almost makes you think: that’s what the car needed all along. Visually at least. It is a strong visual statement that successfully echoes the performance potential of the EVO V – a promise that you are not driving an ordinary car. One look at the five and you know that it is not just a modified Lancer – it came out of the box that way. Its presence on the road evokes menace to onlookers and lesser cars tend to give the five a wide berth – despite the color being an immaculate, almost innocent white. Correction: that would be Championship White. Even in its unassuming color, its intrinsic character still represents aggressive completion.

While the car remains (relatively) civilian, – with none of that ‘look at me I’m a rally car’ paintwork and livery – you begin to realize that the Five has been tuned a notch higher when you spy the little BREMBO badge at the rear. If that doesn’t send a clear (but subtle) message to you, well, the phrase ‘dense as the Amazon’ would apply perfectly.

Inside, it is more basic. It is pure Lancer until you begin to notice the differences: the sporty shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the fabulously large RECARO sport seats. Pure rally attire for everyday use. Sitting in the Five is an invigorating experience despite the lack of interior design. Ergonomics were focused primarily on going at it hard – nothing will distract you from the business of going fast – very fast. You know you can really push this car to the limit the moment you get behind the wheel.

 

 

 

 

 

FIFTH PLEASURE

Start the car and you feel the engine right away. It feels alive and potent – even at idle. While I wouldn’t describe the EVO of having a soul-stirring soundtrack, you immediately remember the turbo waiting patiently for its chance to spool up and go boost. And boost it will, once you engage the transmission into first and let that clutch grab. One of the great things about the Five ( the same goes for all other Evolution actually) is that you can easily upgrade it according to your preferred level of manic. It is an amazing canvass on which to paint your ideal portrait of brutal All-Wheel-Drive performance. There is a good choice of parts and devices you can install. It is relatively affordable for something that’ll go like a Porsche. Our particular Five was wearing a set of amazing CUSCO coil over suspension. It was set at a relatively soft setting yet body control and handling were not compromised for the comfort that the supple ride provided. Of course, you could always tune it to a firmer setting if you really want to get primeval with the car – but that would most likely be when you go on a track day or a competition event.

The gearing is just right. Long enough to use the power realistically and close enough to really make the Five leave in a blistering hurry. Although in a straight line, the gearing will run out once you begin to approach autobahn speeds – but the car wasn’t designed for that anyway. It feels so sweet that you almost drive the car intuitively from the very start. The wider stance and wider rubber keep you in touch with the ground – and you can clearly feel the car talking to you through the steering wheel when turning. Absolutely wow. Pushing the Five through esses is utterly engaging; it is so easy to keep the car on the boil – the engine, coupled with those amazingly congruent ratios, is so tractable. You don’t have to work too hard so you tend to feel calmer, more relaxed with your mind kept clear, thus making you capable to pilot the car faster.

Going through turns is a surreal feeling in the Five. You have the suspicious feeling that the car shrinks every time you pick up the pace. Driving at 8/10, you begin to see just how it must really like to be in a car like this during a rally stage. The car’s agility becomes more augmented every time you increase your pace. The harmony of gearing, steering, and traction all come together to work for you and before you know it, you’ll be smiling helplessly. So make your sure your teeth are straight before you get one of these things.

ON THE STREET

It is amazing how Mitsubishi was successful in translating the Lancer Evolution from competition stage into a reliable streetcar that practically everyone can drive – there’s no special driving clinic to take when you purchase one of these things. But then again, it wouldn’t hurt to sign up for a really good racing clinic to enhance your performance driving. These cars are no joke despite their ease of use – it is very easy for something to go awry if you lose restraint.

Agile, nimble, quick and awash with feedback, driving the Five is always an enjoyable experience. The combination of aggressive looks, commuter car reliability, massive performance, and fabulous character is the perfect formula for satisfying the need for obliterating twisty back roads. The Evolution V is an amazing car that can do wonders in the hands of a novice and absolute miracles in the hands of the master.

In the driver’s seat or nothing should be the attitude.

THE TOMMI  Makinen Edition Evolution VI was launched on December 10, 1999, as a limited series to commemorate the fourth straight WRC Championship that Mitsubishi’s mighty Evolutions have accumulated since their introduction into rally competition. The Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition later went on sale January 8, 2000, which was also known as the EVO 6.5. To further unite the Makinen Edition with Tommi Makinen’s achievement, they replicated the Tommi Makinens WRC color scheme, which was red with livery graphics running on either side of the car.

THE LAUNCH PAD

Before we can go deeper into the EVO 6.5, we have to first examine the car it was based on, the EVO VI. As with every EVO before it, Mitsubishi has constantly improved on their creation, and the main priority for EVO VI was to improve cooling and engine ruggedness. This was achived by installing a bigger intercooler and oil coolers, pistons with channels for cooler operation and an improved coolant system. Improving airflow into the engine was also a concern, so adjustments were made to the front air dam as well. These entailed reducing the size of the fog lights and moving them farther to the sides of the car, the license plate was moved to the right (Jap-style) just in front of the driver and the larger intakes were created.

The EVO VI generation was a crowded bunch with a total of four variants, which are the RS, GSR, RS2 and RS Sprint – quite a bit of VI.

THE MAKINEN VI

The Makinen Edition was available in both the RS and GSR variants with the GSR being slightly lower, wider, heavier and coming with larger Brembo brakes. The Makinen Edition set itself apart from the EVO VI with the addition of Tommi Makinen labeled red and black Recaro seats, Momo steering wheel and Momo shifter for the interiors. The performance aspect was kicked up with the addition of the titanium-aluminide turbine found in the RS, upper front strut brace, a suspension that is stiffer and lower and quicker ratio steering. Finally, the looks department brought white 17-inch Enkei wheels. Oh, and the paintwork is just spanking hot.

Aerodynamic changes are few, other than the changes to the front air dam, a new regulation regarding aerodynamics meant changes to the rear wing. Mitsubishi compensated for the regulated volume (actually a reduction of wing volume) of the wing by simply adding another level to the redesigned wing.

MOTION IN LIVERY

The EVO VI is already radical, but the red paint job – practically the only thing that distinguishes it from the regular VI – with the Rally graphics on the side just scream to the high heavens: LOOK AT ME! Inside, it looks like you’re getting in a competition racecar, minus the roll cage of course. It is quite intimidating to enter the cockpit  (especially when everybody is watching) with the Recaro seats complete with three point seatbelts beckoning you in like an evil spirit.

Once inside your mood changes, the Recaro seats embrace you and suddenly you get energized – almost possessed by the vehicle. I put the car in gear and instantly I noticed the clutch being firmer than the EVO’s I had tested before. This is my only complaint though because the manual transmission was simply stellar.

The moment you drive the Makinen edition you realize that it is not a regular EVO. The ride is more firm – well above civilian standards – and sometimes harsh. However, the agility of VI cannot be denied. The Makinen Edition handles just like a true Rally car. The suspension is so beautifully tuned the steering so spot on and the all wheel drive system absolutely impeccable – it’s like the precision of a Swiss Chronograph. You completely forget just how harsh the ride is and smile out pure joy as each approaching corner get closer. While I didn’t really notice any power increase from the previous EVO (the V), the engine feels just as delicious as ever. I just love the power.

The Makinen Edition is a great car, but what made the EVO’s so desirable was their everyday drivability. Frankly, the Makinen Edition threw that out the window – its all about the business of performance. Naturally, if the Makinen Edition is your second or third car, then you got the idea exactly. It’s the perfect car for a spirited drive on and even better off the track.

 

IN 2001, Mitsubishi switched classes in the World Rally Championships, leaving behind the Group A class to join the WRC class where Mitsubishi was no longer constrained by homologation rules. Now based on the new CEDIA platform, the new EVO was bigger, and heavier then EVO’s of the past.

While purists were violently skeptical, Mitsubishi clearly intended on making the car better because the chassis had been stiffed 50% more than the previous model’s. In addition, they put the EVO through their own version of liposuction by using aluminum for some body panels, reducing the thickness of the glass and roof panels, using lightened engine internals to name a few weight watching measures – they even used special lightweight Recaro seats. This brought the weight difference of the new VII to form the out going model by just 40kg.

The second drastic change was the styling, and when I say drastic, I mean drastic. The change to the Cedia platform had a lot to do with it, but it seems the design philosophy had changed as well. The EVO  VII seems conservative (a relative term) compared to its predecessor, but to call the EVO VII conservative becomes quite a stretch of the imagination if you try to drive it – and there’s still that huge wing at the back. The car still looks like a mean machine, but no longer seems obnoxious. It boasts all the EVO eye candy such as frint air dam, side skirts, rear wing, and even wheels, but all seem more polished while still maintaining an air of aggression. A well mannered gentleman with a mean streak has replaced the neighbor hood bully. The inside of the EVO VII has undergone some cosmetic surgery as well. The interior now is bigger, thanks to the changed of the platform. The interior has been upgraded to a level that previous EVO’s could only dream of. The plastics are of better quality, the whole dashboard is laid-out better with improved ergonomics and the instrument cluster is very attractive and extremely functional. The seats in the previous EVO’s were already nice, but the ones on the EVO VII are just stellar, and so is the leather wrapped Momo steering wheel.

 

MAGNIFICENT VII

The sheer pleasure of driving is what has made the EVO’s so popular, and the EVO VII may just be the most pleasurable. Even if the EVO VII has packed on some pounds since the VI, it is still an absolute thrill to drive. The engine is the same 4G63 engine, which has been such a workhorse for the EVO franchise, has seen some improvements. These include a freer flowing intake system, and reworked exhaust for improved breathing; the turbo’s efficiency was enhanced by designing a revised housing for the twin scroll turbine and the addition of a larger intercooler. Despite the increase in power, the VII is still rated at 287bhp @ 6000  rpm, but it really should be rated well over the 300 horsepower mark. The engine improvements help this stellar engine overcome the cars added poundage.

DRIVEN SEVEN

The EVO VII still possesses the psychotic acceleration of it’s predecessor, but the EVO VII’s acceleration feels cleaner and smoother because the power has been better distributed through the rev range. The EVO VI does beat the EVO VII in straight line acceleration, with half a second separating them to 100km/h, but with all other advancements to the EVO VII, the EVO VI better savor this victory, as it maybe it’s last.

The EVO VII is much more of a pleasure to drive now, well the interiors have a lot to do with it, but there are many other things that stand out. The EVO VII rides more comfortably now, the harshness of the past is practically gone. The EVO is also less tiring to drive, your arms, ass, and legs don’t feel like they all got a work out. One reason for this is the clutch no longer requires the ability to leg press five hundred pounds. The five-speed manual is still as good as ever, but a six speed would have been a nice touch. The new chassis and its improved stiffness make the car easier to drive at high speeds, as the car feels more stable and confident, making it less taxing for the driver to control the car. The handling of the EVO’s has always been exceptional, but the EVO VII takes it a step further. The EVO VII now sports an active center differential or ACD, which actively controls torque sent to the front and rear axles – this system replaces the viscous system in the EVO VI and works in conjunction with the current AYC. Sensors throughout the car monitor and adjust the system to improve cornering ability and this result is an increased ability to maneuver through corners with surgical precision.

The steering is still precise as ever, but the weighting seemed a little light. Stopping the EVO VII remains the job of the Brembo four-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS and EBD, which as usual performed superbly.

FIN

The EVO VII is definitely a much better car than its predecessor, but is it better EVO? There may not be an answer to that question, because it’s a matter of preference. If what you are looking for is a comfortable everyday cruiser that’s easy to drive, styling that makes a statement but not a vulgar one, solidly built while still being able to accelerate like a Ferrari 360 Modena or carve through a corner with a Porsche Turbo’s laser like accuracy. Then I have a car for you, the EVO VII. The EVO franchise has evolved through the years, but the VII is a sort of rebirth and only the beginning of a greater legacy for the Mitsubishi Evolution. The future looks bright, doesn’t it?

LANCER  Evolutions are a continually developing species. They progress with technology and they adapt to people’s tastes. While there is some danger of the car losing its intrinsic cult car qualities, the performance is still all in there: fabulous 2.0 turbo charged inter-cooled engine with absolute All-Wheel-Drive. It still is an EVO no matter where evolution takes it.

 

 

BREEDING PROGRAM

In the Eight, there has been an upgrade of refinement both inside and outside. The lines are smoother – albeit more blistered than the (very) slightly more edgy Seven – and the interior more comfortable. Mitsubishi has made an Evolution that will appeal to more people’s tastes. Today, it isn’t too far fetched to find a GT-driving enthusiast to be behind the wheel of an Eight. It has become more pleasant inside and less of a chore to look at outside( in a conventional sense anyway) – it has become less of a monster and more of a gentleman. Imagine Hyde in a nicely tailored suit. Imagine Hyde with some Breeding.

When you sit inside the Eight, you will find a rather big change from early Evolutions. The level of refinement is absolutely commercial and you can’t help feel that you are driving a regular modern mass production car. There is quality, however. While the fit and finish of the interior are not up to Audi standards, the Lancer still manages to exude a sense of being well put together.

The design is refreshing and decidedly modern. It’s just perfect for those who live an upbeat, active driving lifestyle – people who enjoy speed and performance and like to look good going fast: looks and a certain level of comfort are now a new factor in the formula as clients tastes evolve in preference and level of sophistication. The modifications and characteristics that make the Evolution an Evolution are now better incorporated into every aspect of the car interior – and exterior as well. Nothing looks bolted on anymore.

 

 

EIGHT DRIVE

Driving the Eight is a combination of the familiar mixed with the unfamiliar. The familiar bits will be comprised of the basic formula of power, traction speed, and the sound and feel of the 2.0 turbo-charged, inter-cooled petrol engine. The unfamiliar? Well, the interior is really different from the early cars (you tend to feel younger inside the newer models) and the gearing and introduction of driver aids give the Eight a completely new perspective. It’s no longer enough that the car can to fast sprints – it should also be able to go very fast in a straight line comfortably, ride well, and have better spaced ratios to accommodate a wider spectrum of drivers.

The longish gearing seems more designed for relaxed motorway driving than short back road sprints with its longer top gears but still, the closer lower gears are still potent enough to deliver the pleasure when the driving becomes more ‘rally inspired’.

While the car has the heart and soul of a rally car, there is very little of the rawness that people have to come to associate with early evolutions – once again, a sign that time is moving on. Having said that, the car is still a blast to drive. The power is as available and as tractable (despite the more varied ratios) as ever and the addition of driver aids has allowed the Eight a higher threshold in its performance limits. Regardless of preferences, it can be said that the Eight has become a better car – objectively speaking from an engineering point of view. As for the more subjective aspect of how people like their trills delivered, there is always the avenue (pun) that leads to the tuner shops. The Eight is a broader performance canvass – but you have to learn a lot more of the art to paint your performance portrait because the Eight is a more complex machine than those that have come before it. The wrong upgrade can do as much damage as a benefit.

NEW BEAST

Start the engine and you are greeted by the prompt 4G63 snarl coming from the front of the car. Step on the clutch, engage first then let the car surge forward gently at first, feeling for the clutch grab. Once you’re fairly confident of the feel, you can now increase the pace till you work the car up to a boil. The way to drive is not to rush the gears. The car is powerfully fast – just let the torque and horsepower carry you forward. It is the best way to effectively maximize the power band of the Eight – just keep that gear to squeeze every last bit of torque. There’s a lot of it to exploit. It may feel more sedate than earlier Evolution but you will be going extremely fast.

The traction on the Eight, while basically (yawn) phenomenal, is a more modern and subtle tool in the physics of car control. You tend to drive the car in a more fluid manner – seems the newer Evolutions tend to prefer to be driven that way – the pace is still blistering fast. Passengers will grab hold and heart rates will soar. There is a feedback from the sport steering wheel and it seems to have said – more than once – under steer. It is possible that when Mitsubishi pushed the performance envelope, under steer was produced as a resulting by-product. It certainly makes the car friendlier when you push it hard. Higher limits are attained.

The prodigious power is readily available but the delivery is no longer as raw as the earlier species: the boost is more steady and silky smooth allowing for a more refined creature. Turn is as engaging as ever, albeit with more finesse. While the Eight is as potent as ever, you can’t help notice that the Evolution is growing up already.

 

THE EVOLUTION of the Evolution is a never-ending process which promises the absolute in performance and sheers on-road (and off-road) aggression. The amazing little lancer has gone a long way in the engineering department and continually impresses with surreal regularity. Now in the ninth iteration, the EVO is just as potent as ever.

 

NEW FACE, OLD SMILE

The new bumper is punctuated by a pair of smallish round inlets on either side of the lower intake in front of the (big sign) large intercooler – probably the most distinct style cues of the IX. The skirts and requisite giant rear wing remain as an indicator of the performance potential that the car has. The styling is somewhat more refined – by Evolution standards – and the car now appears sleeker. Looking back to the very first Evolutions, the change will be very evident. Having said that, the car has lost none of its ‘in-your-face’ character and visual impact. The EVO IX still is a formidable sight on the road. It can still cause goose bumps to the initiated.

Internally, the car now benefits from more electronic gadgetry – all designed to enhance the car’s handling and performance limits. The power is all there. Inside the cockpit, the feel is more comfortable – that is until you get your hands on the controls. The feel and heft – although smoother and somewhat more refined – still convey the promise of performance and power. The feeling of anticipation is as palpable as an impending storm. You cannot wait for the onslaught to begin. Your smile will be as genuine as the very first time you’ve seen an EVO.

 

HORSES

The IX has a peculiar personality in such that, while you feel cosseted inside the car, you can also feel the raw power and boost that the turbo charged engine puts out. The perfect combination of comfort and rally-car performance? Very possible.

While the Japanese spec sheets will say that the horsepower rating is well within the 200+ range, driving the car makes you think that there are actually more horses underneath the bonnet. Maybe they’re draft horses. Anyway, you will have to adjust to the car – not a difficult thing when you think about it – in such a way that you will want to attune yourself in such a way that driving it becomes as natural as, say, walking.

Getting the engine started is a simple task with little drama. That’s part of the appeal though: you don’t always want to feel like you’re driving a Lamborghini Murcielago on uppers. This is a car what you can drive sedately until you decide that you want to meet Mr. Hyde – a meeting easily arranged by simply pushing the gas pedal deeper into the floor with some exuberance. The turbo takes care of the rest.

 

 

GOING FOR A DRIVE

Sedately speaking, getting going is really easy in the IX. It feels deceptive like driving a regular sedan. The clutch is smooth on the up take with just that bit of heft to remind you of the car’s performance. Keep the revs low (about 2500+ rpm) and you can have some semblance of civilized commuter style driving. Shifting is easy as long as you remember to keep it smooth – the turbo is an eager device with a hair trigger urge to spool.

But this is an Evolution. You don’t buy a car like this because you want to go gently in the sunset – what you actually want is to vanish violently into the sunset. First gear is the launch pad. You get the boost going then pull into the second. By this time your lips are already being pulled involuntarily into that endorphin-induced smile that the manufacturers intended and you know what you are moving at a rate that goes beyond the standard concept of go. The gearing is just right. It is not too frantic – you can really modulate the power on the IX (unless you opt for a short ratio upgrade) – but it can still be pretty scary if you don’t let off. You’ll love that part too.

Smooth shifting is the best way to feel the car’s power. You feel like you are floating on a BIG cushion of torque that is only kept in check by the car’s driver aided AWD system. The gearing is long enough for you to ride that torque cushion to the very seems.

 

TURNING FAST

The steering is pricise. You can turn with pinpoint accuracy – but you have to get used to the feel first. It feels a little sedate and occasionally vague because of the lightness but load the outer wheels in a corner and the feels sharpen progressively. The steering is most likely matched to the car’s gearing. Get the rhythm right and you can drive the car faster and harder with each turn. You also notice that, by the time the driver’s aids start to kick in, your pace will be frighteningly faster than you can imagine. And that’s a good thing. The thing about the car is its pace is not only about acceleration. Speed now becomes a new factor in the equation. You don’t only leave quickly. You will be maintaining your pace at dramatically higher speeds.

The driver aids are not that intrusive. But if you get your kicks from, kicking the tail out, then this car might not quite be your thing. Having a tricked out four wheel drive system just isn’t quite what the car was made for. Its mission is to get you from point A to point B in the quickest possible manner. No frills or drama. Just pure speed and a constant adrenalin rush. You’d have to be doing something frightfully unadvisable if you actually get the tail out on a car like this. Then it could get real scary. You have to respect the power and performance of this car. Don’t let its composure and suppleness deceive you. The EVO IX is every bit the performance car that its name suggests – no matter how you intend to drive it.

Banzai.

 

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