The Mitsubishi Evolution is aimed squarely at drivers who value speed and handling more than anything else. Known in such circles as the Evo, this compact sedan is purpose-built for those who love to drive hard and fast. The Evo features a 291-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder paired with either a five-speed manual in GSR models and a six-speed twin-clutch automatic in MR models. All-wheel drive, of course, is standard on all.
Although the Lancer nameplate goes all the way back to 1973, the sedan didn’t become the high-performance vehicle we all know today until the early 1990s. It was 1992 when Mitsubishi launched the Lancer Evolution to compete in the WRC. The road going version was a beefed-up version of the standard Lancer originally intended for the Japanese market. However its immediate success prompted Mitsubishi to sell the car globally and the Lancer Evo legend was born.
Launch control gets the Evo to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and through the quarter in 13.7. The Evo includes technology designed to keep you on the road with a torque-vectoring rear differential, and launch protocol. Super quick steering reacts to every twitch and likewise sends feedback in amazing fidelity. As long as the turbo is spooled up, the amped-up turbocharged engine ensures there’s always plenty of power on tap and pulls strongly to redline. And the brakes bite hard. Evos however are not meant for traffic or for commuting, instead Evos are built for tracks, canyons, mountain roads, and, yes, even drag strips.
The Evos transmission options underscore its high-performance pedigree. The GSR model’s conventional five-speed manual gearbox may be one cog short of the norm in this segment, but it compensates with a precise feel that should leave purists satisfied. The MR’s automated six-speed manual, meanwhile, is one of the best of its ilk, providing instantaneous shifts via shift paddles mounted on the steering column. And for moments that call for more than heart-pounding thrills, the Evo offers a generous array of available features, including Rockford Fosgate audio and a touchscreen navigation system.
All models are equipped with the company’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), an all-wheel-drive system developed to deliver enhanced traction and handling. This system is a combination of AWD and Active Yaw Control that directs engine torque to the outside or inside rear wheels depending on available traction. The Evo also includes an Active Center Differential, which comes with three driver-selectable modes: tarmac, gravel, and snow. Talk about having a rally car for the street.
In other areas, however, there’s no doubt that the Evo demands sacrifices. One side effect of its outstanding handling is a stiff ride on city streets, which again doesn’t help those long Los Angeles commutes. The big disappointment however was the outstanding Recaro front seats from previous years are not available for 2015. Lastly, the trunk offers just 7 cubic feet of space, a roadster-like figure that makes the Evo a very impractical choice for shopping trips.
Still, while the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution may lack certain graces, there’s no denying its performance chops. It’s a worthy choice for die-hard enthusiasts who place speed and handling above all else. Regardless of which version you choose, you’ll have an immensely fun car, with all-around performance that’s tough to beat for the price.
An example of this is when I venture onto a back road. I engage the gearbox’s Sport mode and slide the gearshift into Manual. “Tarmac” shows on the screen. I press the loud peddle and as the revs rise in a split-second, all gripes vanish. Exciting speed happens. Louder noise happens. The quad exhausts produce a symphony of sound. Shifts become quicker and most importantly smiles appear.
Even though 2015 is its final year of production, the Evo is still one of the most thrilling sedans on the market. Sadly, this icon is to be discontinued at the end of 2015 and will be replaced “in spirit” by a high performance SUV.