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Review: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

September 10th, 2008
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Ev·o·lu·tion: a process of gradual, progressive change and development.

This car re-writes the rule books for sport cars, no bullocks it really does. The Evolution X is more intimidating than you would think, this time round Mitsubishi has done it dead right.

The X does not mean adults only, its roman numerals for the number ten; however this ride will get most blokes excited. Previous Evo’s were mostly an upgraded Lancer from a technical side, whilst the new EVO X has been redesigned and styled to isolate itself from the standard Lancer range as much as possible. The car tested was the entry level EVO X with the five-speed manual transmission priced at AUD $59,490 plus the usual on-road costs.

Speed, acceleration, cornering, handling and braking, this vehicle ticks all the boxes and we’ll explain why.

Mitsubishi Evo X Mitsubishi Evo X

The front fascia is noticeably different from a Lancer. Inspired by a fighter jet, the design starts with a black grille insert, un-painted cross bar, and beneath; a mesh grille with the intercooler skylarking through. The bonnet resembles a shark nose finished with three intakes, two being functional. The body-kit is aesthetically appealing and doesn’t look like a rice burner with bolted on plastics, its also practical enough for a variety of driving conditions, providing a ground clearance of 135 mm for when you want to go dirt, 5 mm lower than its predecessor. The rear spoiler - which due to its size qualifies to be called a wing - provides oodles of downforce at high speeds keeping those 18 inch ENKEIs on the Tarmac, Gravel or Snow. Aerodynamics played a key role in the development of the EVO X, enhancing its looks, providing downforce and promoting cooling of the turbocharged engine.

Walking up to the EVO the car doors unlock and engine immobiliser is disabled via a proximity sensor that you can leave in your pocket. Getting in the car requires a little maneuvering since the Recaro racing seats have raised side bolsters and they’re not made of foam – so don’t get them caught between your cheeks. They offer great side support – which comes in handy for those high speed corners – but are comfortable enough for every day driving, a compromise not always available is sports cars.

Mitsubishi Evo X Mitsubishi Evo X

The interior trim is a bit plain, with not that many bells and whistles to keep the kids entertained. The dash features an aluminium look finish, the instrument cluster is filled with a sporty red illumination, the tacho starts to redline at 7000rpm and the speedo points to 300 km/h.

The 3-spoke sports steering wheel which housed controls for the audio, Bluetooth and cruise control, is covered in leather which could have provided a little more grip. The built-in Bluetooth handset is voice activated and can only be set-up whilst the vehicle is stationary, it can be a bit confusing so resort to the owners handbook.

The first time you press the clutch pedal in makes you realise this is a tough machine, over the course of the week I donated 5 dollars to the stall jar. The turning circle of nearly 12 metres leaves a lot to be desired, but at the end of the day we’re testing an EVO not a smart car.

The acceleration delivery is smooth compared to its predecessor, minimising turbo lag and whiplash to the neck. Step 1, when sprinting through the gears, your body moves forward and then gets shoved straight back into its seat again, repeat step 1 for maximum enjoyment.

Mitsubishi Evo X Mitsubishi Evo X

Under the bonnet is the 2.0 Litre turbocharged engine from the MIVEC family with an authoritative 217kW at 6500rpm, work it out, that equals 108kW per Litre. The intercooled water spray system can be used manually or automatically to cool the air intake. The water tank and battery is located in the luggage compartment to better distribute weight.

The EVO X drinks 98 RON fuel, and considering its performance capabilities it still only uses 10.2 Litres per 100km – that’s not bad for a car of its caliber. Of course when the right foot is hard-pressed, wipe that figure out of your head and enjoy it for all its worth, after all; when we’re old we’ll be reminiscing about these cars as we drive our electric scooters.

The five-speed transmission gave us no troubles at all throughout the test drive, shifts through the gears are quick enough without jamming through the synchros.

Two words sum up the cornering and handling, Point and Shoot. The project manager for the EVO X, Hideyuki Iwata states “Our focus was on achieving safe directional performance where the vehicle turns precisely in the direction it is steered regardless of the road surface and without relying solely on the degree of lateral acceleration”. After a week of various driving conditions and road surfaces we would say they’ve succeeded with flying colours. This car must be treated with respect and taken very seriously, when tested on a dry day with a coarse bitumen winding road, you’re doing significant speed before the tyres start making any noise and the suspension starts to give. There is virtually no body roll, and when there is you’re going that fast you shouldn’t even be thinking of it. The front suspension uses a MacPherson strut and the rear an articulated multi-link set-up. Surprisingly the ride in everyday traffic was fine, sure it was a bit stiff but you don’t feel every crevice in the road and your coffee remains in its cup.

To provide further assistance to the cornering and handling and improve levels of safety is the Active Centre Differential (ACD) and the Helical-Type Limited Slip Front Differential (HFD). The ACD splits torque up to 50:50 between the front and rear wheels using an electronically controlled hydraulic multi-plate clutch. The three options are Tarmac, Gravel and Snow; admittedly this feature would be used more on a Playstation, however we’re proud to say we evaluated two out of three. Helical-Type Limited Slip Front Differential constantly biases torque to the wheel that has more traction. While cornering or accelerating out of a turn, the helical LSD directs power away from the inside wheel and toward the outside wheel, allowing the driver to begin accelerating earlier and exit the turn at a higher speed, without losing traction. In Tarmac mode – and after a few minutes of warming the brakes and tyres up to a warm temperature – this professed road-car feels like it has rails beneath the chassis linking it to the road. Unlike other vehicles it the same category, which have all go and no steer, this car has no trouble staying within the road lines whilst maneuvering through corners.

Keeping the revs above 3000rpm accelerating out of a corner feels like hanging onto a wizzy dizzy at the local park, before you know it the next corner is approaching. The Brembo brakes are not only big but prove to be useful, the physics are simple, this car can go from zero to 100 km/h in around 5 seconds and hold onto corners like Hillary can hold on to an presidential campaign, at some stage this car will have to come to a stop, and it does it well. The sound of the rotors gripping the large ventilated discs as you hold your body back in the seat is just overwhelming.

Mitsubishi Evo X Mitsubishi Evo X

Many cars are built to go hard on bitumen, but not many are built to go equally as hard on gravel as well. If the EVO didn’t get so dirty, I’d say this is where this car really shines. Getting traction is not a problem with this sophisticated all wheel drive technology, inspired and developed as a result of Mitsubishi’s involvement in motor sport, particularly the World Rally Championship (WRC). The EVO VI Tommi Makinen edition is still the most talked about version of the Lancer Evolutions, the closest to a rally car.

Set in Gravel mode the dirt can be less forgiving than the road so oversteer is apparent, a sacrifice having the Dunlop SP Sport semi-slick tyres. Having said that, even during oversteer as the tail gets a bit happy, it still remains in some form of control, - kids do not try this at home. The anti-lock brakes are a must for this type of car when driven on dirt, rest assure they take some time to kick in as the Brembos do most of their job. One criticism is the position of the handbrake; it seems it’s intended to be used by the passenger.

One thing you don’t notice driving is the sound of the twin exhaust; but standing outside as the EVO drives past is an experience in itself. At one stage I think I looked up because it resembles a fighter jet when the crankshaft really gets going.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X provides enough grin that even botox can’t compete with it. This car would be perfect for the weekend adrenaline junky whilst also being refined enough for the daily commuter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Competitors
Audi S3
BMW 130i Sport
Mazda RX-8
Nissan 350Z
Subaru Impreza WRX STi
Volkswagen Golf R32

 


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