2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

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First Drive Review: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Michael Austin of Car and Driver

Updating an automotive icon like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is an unenviable task. After three generations and nine versions—only the last two have been sold in the U.S.—the ultimate interpretation of a rally-car-for-the-street theme is difficult to improve on, but it's also getting a bit old. To use the obvious pun, how can the Evolution evolve? The answer is here in the form of the 10th-version, fourth-generation car, known as the Evolution X in Japan. In the U.S. it will simply be called the Lancer Evolution, but for the sake of clarity, we'll use the Roman numeral that signifies all things extreme in referring to the car.

The Evo X is less communicative, larger, heavier, and slower compared with the previous Evo. It's the inevitable trade-off that occurs when a car strives for more refinement. The steering, for one, no longer has that high-tension-wire responsiveness that made the old car such fun. If you're an Evo fan boy, you can stop reading right now.

If you're still with us, you'll be glad to know that the Evo X drives like nothing else in the world. You simply point the car where you want to go, and the various elements of the all-wheel-drive system sort out how to make it happen.

Same, But Different
As always, the Evolution is based on the standard Lancer sedan, and it still has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. But it's an all-new powerplant, designated 4B11. Design changes from the old 4G63 include an aluminum block rather than cast iron, a timing chain instead of a belt, and variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts. The power figures of 295 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque are bumps of 9 and 11, respectively, and the new engine is lighter by 27.5 pounds.

The body is lighter, too, thanks to the aluminum roof, hood, front quarter-panels, and front and rear bumper beams. The new suspension uses aluminum as well. But the weight saving is more than offset by the new car's stiffer structure and 1.6-inch-wider body.

The Evo is due here early next year and will come as the base GSR and the uplevel MR. The base price for the GSR should hover around $30,000; the MR will be at least $5000 more. The GSR comes with a new five-speed manual transmission, and the MR has Mitsubishi's new dual-clutch sequential transmission, dubbed Twin Clutch-SST (Sportronic shift transmission). The MR gets Bilstein shocks, lightweight Enkei wheels (each 2.1 pounds lighter), two-piece brake rotors (each 2.9 pounds lighter), chrome exterior trim, and optional navigation and leather seats.

What Makes It Happen
The software on the dual-clutch transmission wasn't fully finished before our preview of Japanese-market prototypes, so we were only able to test the five-speed. The 100 or so pounds it gained means the Evo X is slower than its predecessor, but not by much. The 5.0-second 0-to-60-mph time we recorded is 0.4 second slower than the Evo MR we tested in May 2005 but quicker than the last Evolution Special Edition we tested for CARandDRIVER.com.

The dual-clutch model won't be quicker off the line than the manual car because the launch control doesn't use all the available power in the interest of safeguarding the driveline. But don't judge the MR strictly by its straight-line numbers—the Evo X is much faster along a curving road than the old car. Contemplate the staggering skidpad number of 0.97 g from 245/40R-18 tires while we explain all the abbreviations that make it happen.

They start with S-AWC, or Super-All-Wheel Control. S-AWC consists of ACD (active center differential), AYC (active yaw control), ASC (active stability control), and Sport ABS (anti-lock braking system). The center differential is an electronically controlled multiplate clutch. The normalpower split is 50/50 front to rear, but the system can send up to 80 percent to either end.

Differential Equations
At the heart of AYC is a trick rear differential that combines a traditional limited slip with two clutches that correspond to the right and left wheels. The result is that torque can be routed to either side under any conditions. For instance, the right wheel could have a braking force on it while the left wheel still receives power.

Stability control and ABS are nothing new, but the key to S-AWC is that it uses all four systems together to maximize the grip from the wheels and keep the car going where the driver points it. Combine that with the superaggressive S-Sport mode of the Twin Clutch-SST, in which gears are held right up to the redline and downshifts are timed better than if you use the paddle shifters, and the Evo X is the real-world version of a video-game simulator. The way the Evo X goes around corners is nothing short of incredible. You steer into the turn, and well, that's about it. There's no sawing at the wheel and no midcorner correction, unless you intentionally pitch the car into a turn to rotate the back, which the Evo X can still do.

So the Evolution has been forced to grow up, and like most coming-of-age tales, some of its raw purity was lost along the way. Sure, we'll shed a tear over what was left behind in the old Evo, but we'll be seeing it from the rearview mirror of the Evo X.

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BB04 - 4/18/2014 9:52:26 PM