2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Edition Review
By Bruce Hidaka-Gordon
The Auto Channel
So I have to start by telling you that I am not really a “car guy”.
I never caught the car bug as a kid and that has followed me through to my adult life. Don't get me wrong, I admit that there is certainly something sexy about a sleek race car, something manly about a big SUV and most certainly a twang of “I've got to go fast” when a sleek motorcycle zooms by, but the fact of the matter is that when I drive a car it’s all about comfort and feel.
Because of this I think my somewhat unique take on automobiles gives me a chance to write unbiased and un-emotional reviews….but let me tell you that this is just not the case this time as I give you my impressions of the Mitsubishi Evolution MR, a race car for the highway.
I have lived in Japan for nearly 17 years and I have driven some really amazing high horsepower vehicles, but this is the first chance I had to spend a week with a race car made for the American highways.
First impressions are very important in life and Mitsubishi has made sure that your first impression of the EVO will stand out. The rather large rear wing and very shark like hood of the EVO give it the absolute look of fast. If you take a step back and blur your eyes a bit you can still see a Japanese 4 door sedan, but for those with corrected vision this car simply says “speed”.
I was lucky enough to have a friend along for the first test ride, I only say that so the narration of my experiences below don't leave me looking like the happy guy walking down the street talking to himself.
We walked around the car after the Valet stepped out with a grin on his face, a grin that we both didn't yet understand as we eyeballed this physically small but as we were soon to find out emotionally enormous vehicle.
Putting 2 large pieces of luggage in the trunk was no problem, so with all of the EVO’s sleekness, Mitsubishi was kind enough to leave enough utilitarian purpose to convince the one you love that you are really buying it for the trunk space.
Entering the car for the first time was similar to a ride I took in a NASCAR car at a track in Florida. The Riccaro seats hug your body and start the special ride even before the key is in.
Getting acquainted; I found the steering wheel to be comfortable, stick shift at just the right location and level for race style shifting and the seat adjustments adequate. Of note is the fact that I am only 5'7” and unlike other racing style cars I have driven I did not feel like I had to look up to look out. The EVO’s driver’ seat was high enough to provide the comfort level I desire.
The pedals all have metal trim which looks very cool, but did prove to be a bit slippery on a rainy or snowy day, so if you like to use the side of the clutch beware that you could have your foot slip off which could result in a less than productive drive.
One other note is that the stick shift is made of brushed metal, which adds to the cool factor of the car, but in 13 degree weather its also added to the “cold” factor on the shifting hand. Perhaps a leather shift knob would be a better choice for cold weather drivers, or maybe I need to leave sunny San Diego more and get used to the frigid East.
Fire it up....
Getting ready to start the car I pushed the clutch in and noticed right away that it was not too tight. While set to certainly give the tactile feel of engaging the clutch it was not so tight as to cause discomfort at the many lights of a big city. I cranked the key and it kicked right over. The rumble of the car was just that, a rumble.
Most of today’s sedans engines are so silent that you can't tell that their on at idle, this is not the case with the EVO, you can hear it and feel it and it purrs with anticipation, as if it is really uncomfortable standing still. This provided my first burst of adrenaline as a new to EVO driver, but after a week of normal city driving it can become a bit of an annoyance, but than again, this is not a car meant for stop and go.
Driving out of the airport parking lot was fine, with nothing noticeable about the power of the car, a slight let down from the rumble…but true enlightenment came as we left the parking lot, and I hit 2nd gear and gave it a bit to much gas, the turbo kicked in, the wheels took hold and our grins turned to smiles so big it hurt. I must say that it was a rush, and I could add a bunch of analogies about foxes in the hen house and kids in a candy store but they would never explain this feeling.
So this is where I discovered how “car guys” are made. Wow. After that initial G-force experience my friend and I looked at each other and could really only laugh. It was an unexpected power burst that would be put to the test a few more times during that initial drive. Being from California where the commute is always near 80 miles an hour, speed is not really exiting for me. This car's allure for me was not that it goes fast but how fast it gets up to speed.
Not wanting to get a speeding ticket, I was nearly 100% within the speed limit at all times, but getting from a stop to that limit never took very long. This initial experience was a purely fun drive, no distractions and no desire to stop, but it was late at night and I had the rest of the week to test.
So obviously I can't give this car any higher accolade for fun, speed, handling and all around excitement. I will tell you though that this is not a car I would personally want for a commuting car or day to day driver. As I said before I never really got the car bug and so for me a car like this is more of a diversion than a desire.
The seats that hug the body and make you feel like a racer can get uncomfortable on long drives, in my case because I could not adjust the angle of the seat my lower back hurt after an hour of non-stop driving. This is really not a complaint, but more of an observation about the fact that my driving comfort was not outweighed by the adrenaline rush. I would recommend test driving this car in different style of clothing if you intend to use it as a daily driver. Dress pants, jeans, skirts and shorts all may ride differently on your lower back as this seat really hugs you, which can cause pain if things are not just right.
In normal city and highway conditions the car was great. The power is really nice when you need to pass on the highway and with the power burst always comes some adrenaline…so if you can find somewhere where everyone drives slowly it will be a lot of fun.
Snake streets as my kids like to call winding roads were a blast and the wheels never felt like they would slip, nor did the car present itself as wanting to get out of control. If you like the idea of being able to drive a race car every day than the EVO should be on the top of your list. If you are looking for weekend fun and can have this for the Sunday drive, than go buy one today. If you want a fun commuter car you will really need to feel out the seats for comfort, but if they work for you this will give you driving pleasure to and from work.
A powerhouse of a car... it looks great, makes you feel great but BEWARE. When you use the key fob to remotely lock the car doors the horn sounds and it’s the beep of a small import not the tiger the EVO is…It was strange to step out, feeling very proud of the car and than lock the door to a loud but very “weak” beep. Perhaps an aftermarket horn is in order.
Gas mileage is claimed at 18 City and 24 Highway. I believe that if drivers of the EVO are like me and they like the 0 to 60 driving style that this car allows, the actual results will be MUCH lower. The gas tank seemed small and the dial goes down quickly so unless you drive very conservatively (not really a possibility with this much power) than beware of the pump.
The one push power window setting only worked to lower the window, so driving a stick shift and paying tolls proved challenging, trying to hold the steering wheel, shift and put the window up at the same time was not easy. Hopefully car makers will include a safe auto up feature in the future.
At $37,424 as tested, this is not a cheap car…but the fun factor makes it worth the money, but for someone on a budget they would really need to be in love with driving this vehicle to pay that much.
All in all this was the most fun I have had driving. The first 20 minutes had me convinced that I was entering a mid-life crisis and this was the way out. I had the payment calculations done, the trunk space story concocted for my wife and I was getting a pen ready to sign the loan. But after a weeks driving I realized that for every-day driving this is just not the right choice of car for me.
Would I drive it again, in a heartbeat, if I had extra space in the garage would I buy it, absolutely! I think Mitsubishi has hit the mark and the target audience is going to be VERY HAPPY.
With no major flaws, a significant WOW factor and fun driving. This latest version of the EVO continues Mitsubishi’s long running hit car.