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2011 Mitsubishi Lancer EVOlution Review and Road Test

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Relevant Connection: Mitsubishi Buyers Guide

An Everyman’s Rally Racer
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

We’ve spent much of our time these last few months evaluating mainstream, practical cars so we’re thrilled to find in the driveway this week something truly exciting – the new 10th-generation Mitsubishi Lancer EVOlution.

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While the EVO is sibling to the tepid, sedate Lancer sedan (which has a starting price of just over 15 grand) they seem to have different progenitors. Yes, the family resemblance is visually obvious but the basic Lancer is the unexceptional skinny brother to this body builder commonly called EVO. The unique functional air extractors in the hood may be the most obvious hint of the special character of this car.

Both Lancers have a gaping, gulping, exaggerated grille wth the profile of a common 4-door economy car. But the EVO has subtle body trim, painted brake calipers and a few other details to hint at its special character. Hood, front fenders and top are aluminum for weight savings. Undistinguished dual exhaust with chrome tips and a small flare at the trunk edge contribute to the stealthy demeanor of the EVO.

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The sticker price on our EVO is $36,550 including the $760 destination charge. No options show on the sticker, as all the speedy bits and subtle trim are included. At more than twice the price of the plain Lancer EVO it is packed with performance goodies: Bilstein shocks with Eibach coil springs, ventilated Brembo brake calipers on two-piece rotors, twin scroll turbo charger with intercooler, front strut tower brace, all-wheel drive, helical limited slip differential, a coarse six-speed, dual clutch automatic (or automated manual, some call it) transmission, paddle shifters, BBS wheels with Yokohama performance 245/40R18 tires, forged aluminum control arms, Recaro front seats, and HID headlights.

The twin-scroll turbo on this all-aluminum 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder does not eliminate lag but certainly mitigates it. Acceleration, as you might guess, with 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet or torque, is lusty.

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That screamin’ engine revs smoothly to 7,500 in spite of the indicated red line on the tach of 7 grand. The six-speed automatic, dual-clutch transmission shifts firmly but not smoothly. It really feels like a racing unit. On deceleration the downshifts feel exactly like we’re doing it ourselves using the engine to slow the car. The transmission also has three modes to accommodate your mood or purpose.

The EPA estimates the EVO will get 17 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Though we had little opportunity for serious performance driving we put it through its paces pretty well on our country roads and I expect our mileage was near the bottom of the EPA range. Premium fuel is required as is full synthetic oil. With only 14.5-gallon fuel tank our range will be less than 300 miles.

Suspension is a conventional MacPherson strut design in front and multi-link in the rear. The all-wheel drive system is integrated with yaw control to direct torque where needed and it also has three settings that allow the system to maximize itself for various road surfaces – pavement, dirt, snow. Steering is hydraulic rack-and-pinion with reasonably good feedback.

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The interior is nothing special. A simple layout with intuitive controls and mostly nice readable gauges make it convenient. Edging my ample tush into that narrow Ricaro seat over those stiff, high bolsters was a struggle. Slim, trim folks won’t have that problem. The plain, plastic dash panels do not fit as well as we have come to expect from modern automobiles. After all, this is at its core an economy sedan. We liked the large paddle shifters that stood out and away from the leather wrapped steering wheel. The leather shifter grip reflects the performance image of the EVO.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty covers the EVO for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the high-performance drive train for 5 years or 60,000 miles. While I did not scan the fine print of the warranty document I’m guessing there must be a disclaimer for racing.

The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO is designed to be driven enthusiastically, and that’s where it shines. It’s as energetic and jittery as a hyperactive teenager. From a dead stop it leaps raucously away shifting quickly but not smoothly. It really feels more like the immediate, positive engagement of a manual transmission as it runs through the gears. On full throttle the revs run quickly up to redline and beyond without making us feel like we’re abusing it. This is a really sweet engine in a fun, high-performance machine.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved