As a youngster, Mitsubishi's Evo was the quintessential junkyard dog; a car of unparalleled cred that cared not a whit for polite society.
In the intervening 25 years since the first of the Lancer-based rippers smoked-up on a street near you, not a lot had changed. A touch more refinement, a little brushing up on the showy bits but on the whole the Evo remained a street scrapper.
This time it is going to be different. The Evolution X (as in 10) is on the way and while it remains, arguably, Mitsubishi's key object of desire, maturity has wrought change.
Explore the 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer range
Middle-age spread has seen the new car put on some 100kg, lose its raw edge but little of its performance capability, gains a new range of electronic control wizardry and improve ride comfort to an acceptable daily-drive level.
“The key to developing the Evolution X was to produce a car that everyone can enjoy driving,” says C Segment product development manager Hiroshi Fujii, the man given the task of marrying the refinement of the all-new Lancer to the performance of the Evolution badge.
“Driving pleasure was crucial to the new Evolution, but so was improvement in handling, performance and ride comfort.”
At the international launch of the car in Hokkaido, Japan, Fujii said; “Since the third generation of Evolution (Evo VII, VIII and IX), the car has become a world car rather than just for the Japanese market. That means satisfying a much wider range of expectations.”
To that end, the Evolution X (although the jury is still out on how the car will be badged worldwide as Mitsubishi Motors is insisting the generational X will not be available to any market outside Japan) will be sold in two trim levels.
It will make its Australian debut on the Mitsubishi stand at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney next week.
“We will launch in Australia early next year with two specifications of cars and two gearboxes,” says Mitsubishi Motors Australia's Lenore Fletcher. “The entry car will be the GSR while MR will gain the additional equipment from the Japanese high-performance model.”
Pricing is yet to be settled but you can be assured there will be a considerable increase over the current model's $56,789. The best estimation is that two models will span the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
Fletcher says neither of the two levels for Australia will follow the Japanese style of a stripped out performance model; but the MR will come standard with the package of Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs and a ventilated two-piece front brake disc on the Brembo stoppers. It will also get lighter BBS forged alloy wheels instead of the standard Enkei 18-inch rims.
The GSR will arrive with the five-speed manual as standard; selected over a six-speed because of its 15kg weight advantage. Mitsubishi's new twin clutch sports shift automatic will be offered as an option on the GSR; while likely to be standard fare on the MR.
“We are expecting the uptake on SST to be high, especially in the initial orders,” Fletcher says. “At this stage it is unlikely that the manual will be available on the MR cars.”
There is still no decision on whether the leather racing seats will be standard in both models.
The six-speed SST is similar to the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) from Volkswagen, where the odd and even gears are independent of each other; with the next gear pre-selected to enable lightning fast changes.
Mitsubishi offers full automatic operation or manual selection via wheel-mounted paddle shifts or the console-mounted shift lever.
SST has a three-mode operation offering the driver the choice of Normal, Sport and S-Sport performance with each level sharpening the aggression of the car through shift mapping, throttle actuation and steering input.
Normal mode is suitable for daily driving with seamless shifts earlier in the rev range to preserve fuel economy and general comfort. While Sport holds gears a little longer and offers a more enthusiast approach to road driving.
The S-Sport holds changes to over 6000rpm with maximum shift speed and throttle aggression. For both gearboxes drive is through all four wheels but is now moderated by Mitsubishi's latest-generation AWD system, Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC).
The system is a generational extension of the Super Active Yaw Control from the Evo VIII and IX; an application which remains in the new car but with some additional assistance.
The AYC is a clever technology with an active rear differential using planetary gearing to direct torque through the rear diff, working to settle the rear of the car as the steering input works to force it out of shape.
The active centre differential (ACD) introduced in the Evo IX carries over while active stability control (ASC), anti-lock braking and dedicated private networking to shift information seamlessly between the controllers, which means the outcome is a car that clings harder than a vertigo sufferer atop the Harbour Bridge.
With the ability to select a diff program for tarmac, gravel or ice through a dash-mounted switch, the performance envelope is huge.
Providing the power is a new aluminium block turbo 2.0-litre engine with MIVEC variable valve timing technology. The official power claims for the engine are 206kW, in keeping with the Japanese convention of not exceeding that standard, but by any measure there will be plenty left to extract for those who like to tinker.
Not so easily improved will be the huge 422Nm of torque in both the manual and SST configurations. While the Japanese engineers would not confirm the maximum torque is bound by the ability of the SST to deliver the urge, they were reticent about tuning possibilities.
Reluctantly the MMC team offered up 0-100km/h times of 5.2 seconds for the SST and 5.0 flat for the manual. Totally unscientific attempts to match those at the Tokachi proving ground produced a 5.8 for the SST and 5.4 for the manual; close enough to suggest the Mitsubishi figures are no exaggerations.
From behind the wheel the Evo X is difficult to fault. Dynamically it is a car that takes serious intent to unsettle. Any 'normal' driver aberrations are quickly identified and moderated by the bank of electronic controls.
“S-AWC can control all situations from stable through to critical vehicle instability,” says engineer Kaoru Sawase. “It allows an average driver to gain a control ability expected of a professional driver.”
Steering is beautifully weighted with precise feedback whether tooling around the streets or on a track. There remains a little push understeer but it is only at the ragged edge and most owners will never experience it. In fact, setting the controls at the gravel option gives the car a rear bias and an impression of rear-wheel drive control.
Suspension control from the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear is excellent with ride quality improved over the outgoing model with revised damper and spring rates.
Squat and dive under acceleration and braking has been all but eliminated while body roll is difficult to induce. The body-shell stiffness and chassis/suspension interaction is at the better end of the scale.
The models driven at launch in Japan were all stripper spec with no radio or unnecessary comforts but the general materials were reasonable, the plastics a little harsh but stylish and fit and fitment appeared good.
The leather sports seats were supportive but obviously designed for the smaller body shape.
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