Meet Mitsubishi’s Muscle Car: The Lancer Evolution | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 June 2012 14:17

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The Lancer Evolution takes the sharp looks found on the Lancer and adds an aggressive homologated race car look.

 


By Steve Schaefer

San Leandro Times

I got my chance to drive the enormously powerful, rally racing inspired Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution recently. It’s an interesting product, because it’s powerful and firm-riding while being based on a plain four-door sedan. You might call it a Pontiac GTO for today. The big difference between the GTO and the Evo, though, is that this modern muscle car uses a 2.0-liter engine (that’s right) that puts out, thanks to turbocharging and intercooling, 291 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque!

Yes, this compact dynamo comes with the goods young performance-car enthusiasts want: Brembo brakes (that you can see through the 18-inch alloy wheels), and a huge rear spoiler that “spoils” the view behind while looking cool (or ridiculous, depending on what you care for). The body ground effects panels below the doors stick out like running boards — very cool, but make sure you don’t step on them (there’s a warning label on them to make sure you don’t).

The EPA gives the manual-equipped Evolution ratings of 17 City, 23 Highway and green scores of a mid-pack 5 for Air Pollution and just a 3 for Greenhouse Gas. All that power tends to drop the environmental grades — a normal trade-off.

There’s always something entertaining about a car that pulls you ahead vigorously when you step on the gas. This one does — and sounds fiercer than you might expect with just two liters under the hood (which sports two vents and a NACA duct for the intercooler, by the way).The engine runs at just over 3,000 rpm at 65 mph so you’ll hear it a lot on the freeway. My tester sported a five-speed manual with a 0.761 overdrive fifth gear. You can also order up a six-speed automatic.

Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) keeps all four wheels gripping the pavement. It’s a combination of Mitsubishi’s All-Wheel Control and Active Yaw Control, meaning that it sends engine torque to the outside or inside rear wheels depending on available traction, so the wheels with the most grip on the road receive the most power. In addition, three driver-selectable modes let you choose the surface: Tarmac (the road), Gravel and Snow. I ended up using only the first.

062812a2There are sporty Recaro buckets inside with hard bolsters to keep you in place during the antics you’re sure to perform with this beautiful beast. My wife didn’t care for them — especially when one bolster surprised her while she was getting into the car. Also reminding you of the sportiness you get with the Evo is the billet metal emergency brake handle with “Lancer Evolution” inscribed into it.

The Evolution comes standard with automatic climate control, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, side mirrors and door locks. You also get a six-speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with a USB auxiliary jack. The Mitsubishi FUSE Handsfree Link System™ accepts your Bluetooth®-enabled cell phone, iPod® or USB drive.

My Wicked White GSR model’s five-speed manual felt solid and mechanical — not the best but rewarding in its authentic feel. I stalled the Evolution a couple of times starting in first gear; however, if you lived with the car for a while, you’d learn exactly where the sweet spot of engagement was in the clutch and that wouldn’t happen anymore.

The Evolution is designed for safety, with a unibody that incorporates Mitsubishi’s next-generation Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE). In case of a side or rear impact, the RISE design safely disperses energy away from you, your passengers and the fuel system. The supplemental restraint system with occupant sensors can deploy up to seven air bags: two front, two seat-mounted side-impact air bags, two side-curtain air bags and a driver’s side knee air bag. Of course, you hope you don’t need them, but they’re there in case you do.

Step up to the MR model and get a 6-speed Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST). The racecar for the street has a long list of performance-oriented equipment, adding lightweight two-piece front brake rotors and BBS forged-alloy wheels, upgraded Bilstein shock absorbers and Eibach springs, and High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps.

The Lancer is a pretty nice looking car overall, even without the go-fast add-ons, although the huge air intake up front is a little frightening. I drove the non-turbo five-door Sportback a while ago and it was very pleasant.

The Evolution is fast and fun, and, with all-wheel-drive, really grips the road. It stands out in the crowd. The issue, if there is one, is that for $35,000, the folks who most covet the car (young guys) may not be able to afford it, and the people looking at $35K sports sedans may prefer the image and feel of a car like the BMW 3 series. But for a week it was big fun, even with those occasional stalls.

 

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