Oh no. Not another Evo X concept?
Afraid so. Mitsubishi has really been rinsing this one out. Hot on the heels of the Concept X, this Prototype X is a very lightly disguised version of the Evo X production car that will finally be shown at the Tokyo Motor Show this autumn. The Prototype X looks production ready; those 20-inch alloys will probably shrink for production, and the LED indicator stalks on the mirrors may be toned down - but what you see here is what will roll into a showroom near you in a year's time. It's a more elegant incarnation of the Evo; it's still a focused, bespoilered brute, granted, but with slightly more style this time round, to our eyes at least. There's also a deeply sculpted rear diffuser for the first time.
So what's under the bonnet?
The Prototype X is based on the new Lancer saloon, which in turn shares its oily bits with the new Outlander. So there's a four-wheel drive system and a high-output four-cylinder engine - continuing the stock Evo recipe. The 2.0-litre unit is turbocharged and, although Mitsubishi refuses to say how powerful it is, it says 'it will yield the highest power rating ever in an Evolution model'. Bet on at least 280bhp.
Will it be as good to drive?
The new aluminium four-pot engine is claimed to weigh 20kg less than the old Evo's, so handling should benefit. It's also mounted lower in the engine bay, to lower the centre of gravity. As is the wont of Japanese manufacturers, the four-wheel drive system has attracted a veritable alphabet soup of new acronyms. The Super All-Wheel Control system (S-AWC) combines with an Active Centre Differential (ACD), Active Yaw Control (AYC) and Acitve Skid Control (ASC) to hone the Evo's legendary handling. Strip away the marketing nonsense, and the Evo is designed to be driven hard. Engineers talk of retaining the Evo IX's pointy handling, but without ruining the ride and refinement. We'll know for sure when we drive the car this autumn.
What's all this about the Evo growing up?
Mitsubishi has tried to broaden the appeal of the new Evo, toning down the lairy boy-racer spec a touch. So there's full climate control, a 650-watt sound system with steering wheel controls and LED lighting along the centre dashboard among the creature comforts. Also confirmed at the Detroit show was a new automated manual transmission; there's no clutch pedal and drivers flick between ratios using the gearstick or aluminium paddles behind the wheel. The new Evo shouldn't be too sensible, though. There's an electronic lap timer built into the dashboard and Alcantara bucket seats, suggesting that Mitsubishi doesn't want to lose its track-day focus entirely.