2002 Mitsubishi Lancer

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2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Impressive, youth-oriented street version of an outstanding race/rally car.
Pros:
  • Extremely fast
  • Superb all-wheel-drive grip
  • Practical
Cons:
  • Heavy clutch
  • Awkward front seatback adjusters
  • Oversized rear spoiler

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution accelerates much like a Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette, offers impressive grip with its sophisticated all-wheel drive and has the practicality of a nicely designed small sedan—all for a reasonable price.

One need not live in a warm-weather climate to enjoy driving the Evolution all months of the year, thanks largely to its all-wheel drive. Besides its blistering performance, the "Evo," as it's affectionately called, has a solid race-rally heritage. That's a fact especially well-known to members of the young go-fast crowd.

In fact, the Evolution and Subaru's Impreza WRX are the only cars sold in America with a strong international race-rally reputation. They're featured in hot-selling video racing games, often played by persons too young to drive.

Prime Image Car
Mitsubishi, whose only U.S. assembly plant is in Illinois, promises to make a comeback with such vehicles as its slick new Eclipse sports car and solid new Raider pickup truck, and it doesn't hurt to have an "image car" such as the Evolution in showrooms.

Unfortunately, Mitsubishi showrooms aren't visited as much as those of better-known Japanese rivals, such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan, which sell nothing comparable to the Evolution.

Technical Prowess
The Evolution shows that Mitsubishi is very technically proficient. How else could it get 286 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque from a small, reliable (2.0-liter) 4-cylinder engine?

The turbocharged and intercooled engine has dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves and Mitsubishi's Innovative Valve timing and Electronic Control (MIVEC) system. MIVEC is a mouthful, but helps optimize valve timing for more torque and horsepower while improving fuel economy across the engine rev range and moving the tachometer redline to a lofty 7000 rpm.

More Horsepower
The engine has gained 10 horsepower, thanks to such items as a revised turbocharger, improved muffler and the variable valve timing, which also provides more linear power delivery.

However, Mitsubishi says more power wasn't its top priority. Rather, the automaker was shooting for what it describes as "the intricate coordination between engine output and handling performance."

My test Evolution was lazy for a few seconds when moving from a standing start, which means it probably won't be the first vehicle to cross an intersection. And acceleration is average in stop-and-go traffic.

Transformation
But the car turns into a tiger when the road opens up. High performance sets in at about 3500 rpm, and the MR goes like a rocket from then on as a driver upshifts through the 6-speed manual gearbox, which has short shifter throws but works with a stiff clutch. (The other Evolution versions have a revised close-ratio 5-speed manual.).

No automatic transmission is offered, but there's so much power and torque that a driver need not constantly shift to get the best acceleration. Even a 65-80 mph passing maneuver doesn't take very long in sixth gear, although a downshift to fifth or fourth gear provides extremely quick passing.

Practical Daily Use
The Evolution has a modified version of the body of the Lancer 120-horsepower economy model, which means it's got comfortable room for four adults, four doors and a decent trunk. Practical daily use is no problem.

The front Recaro performance bucket seats with substantial leather side bolsters hold occupants in place during quick maneuvers, but it's very difficult to adjust the seatbacks with the doors closed because their controls are set too low and too far back. Main gauge markings don't stand out in bright sunlight, but climate controls are large and radio controls are clearly marked.

The trunk is fairly large, but has a rather high opening that's somewhat narrow.

The "Evo" comes as the $28,679 RS, midrange $31,399 IX and top-line $35,189 IX MR, which I tested.

Sizzling Performance
If the MR seems costly, consider that it does 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds and can hit 100 mph in 12.7 seconds, with all tires grabbing the road via the full-time all-wheel-drive system. Top speed is an estimated 155 mph.

Estimated fuel economy is 18-19 mpg in the city and 24-25 on highways.

The revised front end of the Evolution gives it a ferocious look, but its huge rear spoiler "wing," which provides more stability at high speeds, occasionally led me to momentarily think that a car was closely following me when I glanced in the rear-view mirror.

Fairly Well Equipped
The 3,219-3,285-pound Evolution has a fair amount of comfort and convenience equipment. It includes air conditioning, a height-adjustable MOMO race-style steering wheel, a 12-volt accessory outlet and (except for the "track-ready" and thus ligher RS) power windows and door locks with keyless entry and a 140-watt CD audio system with 6 speakers.

Safety features include the all-wheel drive, which relays engine power and torque to the road with an active center differential and front/ rear limited-slip differentials.

Stopping power is impressive, with anti-lock brakes that have good pedal feel and electronic brake force distribution on the IX and MR. All trim levels have wide tires on restyled, high-strength 17-inch alloy wheels.

Cat-Like Agility
The steering provides good road feel and is so quick that inattentive drivers can inadvertently let the Evolution wander into an adjoining lane. The car has cat-like agility, and its all independent suspension provides a firm-but-decent ride because it reacts quickly to road imperfections.

A light aluminum roof, which is a "first" for a Japanese production model, lowers weight and the center of gravity for crisper handling.

No Tricks Missed
Mitsubishi doesn't miss a trick, with its race/rally experience. For instance, the trailing edge of the Evolution's roof has eight small color-keyed fins to increase the flow of air down the rear window, placing more downforce on the window and reducing the resistance of air passing over the roof.

Average motorists wouldn't appreciate such esoteric stuff, but the Lancer Evolution isn't aimed at them. Rather, it's a niche vehicle for car enthusiasts who love fast, high-tech autos.

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BB04 - 9/23/2014 6:01:40 PM