So this is the tenth new version of the Evo – why should I still take any notice?
Sure, some previous new Evos had differences that only its diehard fans could spot or cared about. Not this time. The Mitsubishi Evo X is new from the wheels up. It reignites the rivalry that has raged on streets and rally stages between Mitsubishi and Subaru since the ‘90s; both the Evo and the new Impreza STi will be launched at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show, but CAR Online has driven the Evo first and exclusively at Mitsubishi’s Tokachi proving ground in northern Japan. And most importantly, it aims to broaden the Evo’s appeal away from just those diehards to the huge numbers of buyers who will happily spend £30,000 on a sports saloon and love the idea of the Evo’s supercar performance, but who just couldn’t live with the old car’s hard ride, cheap cabin and lack of refinement.
First things first – it’s still insanely fast, right?
Right. The new engine (more of which later) officially makes 280bhp and 311lb ft, and boots the stripped-out RS version to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds. The heavier GSR (around 1520kg, or 100kg more than the IX) carries all the kit that will be fitted to the FQ-badged version we’ll get in the UK and takes just 5.2sec when fitted with the SST twin-clutch paddle-shift manual. Mitsu admits privately that its power and acceleration figures for the new car are a little conservative. The UK importers will offer the standard car as an FQ300 (its true power output) with uprated FQ330 and FQ360 versions that will take the 60mph time back under five seconds.
And it still corners like an angry bluebottle?
Oh yes. The Japanese love an acronym and the Evo X now gets Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) which unites the ABS, AYC Active Yaw Control and ACD Active Centre Differential of the old car with the new ASC Active Stability Control. The result is TBC? Totally Bonkers Cornering. Just as before, you’ll need a 911 Turbo (or an Impreza) to keep pace with an Evo over wet, badly surfaced British roads. You can feel the car sensing which wheel has the most grip and can take the most torque; it’s weird, slightly artificial but devastatingly effective and - for some - central to the Evo’s appeal.
Same acceleration, same handling – what’s changed?
Everything – although Mitsubishi has been careful to keep as much of the old car’s dynamism as possible. There’s an all-new aluminium engine; still turbocharged and two litres, the 4B11 replaces the much-loved 4G63 which has powered all road and rally Evos until now but couldn’t be made to meet new emissions regulations. The six-speed manual has been dropped in favour of the lighter five-speed manual, or a new six-speed SST twin-clutch automated manual, which only adds around 20kg. The latter works in the same way as the VW group’s DSG gearbox, offering both a seamless fully automatic mode or instant manual shifts with virtually no interruption to the flow of torque. And, most visible of all, there’s a completely new bodyshell, based on the new Lancer four-door but bespoke for the Evo with some aluminium panels.
So will an Evo tempt me out of my 3-series?
It just might. Although the acceleration and grip are the same, it’s all delivered in a more refined fashion. The ride is calmer, although body control is still tight. Noise levels are lower; the new engine sounds angry and engaging but it’s neither as distinctive nor as intrusive as the old unit. Some will mourn the 4G63’s passing; most will be happy to leave the headache pills at home. And the steering is still quick and direct, but loses the old car’s nervousness just off-centre and its bloodhound-like desire to hunt out and follow every rut and groove in the road. This new Evo is way more refined than before.
I don’t like the idea of electronic stability control in an Evo…
Don’t worry – you can switch it off in two stages. The first stops it cutting torque if it senses slippage, which is just frustrating, but still allows the system to brake individual wheels to keep you glued to your intended course. The second disables it completely, but leaves the yaw control and active centre diff working, and allows the same ludicrous oversteer that is part of the Evo DNA. A switch on the wheel offers three settings for the diff – tarmac, snow and gravel, as before – and the SST box offers three shift-speed settings, controlled by a switch on the compact leather and aluminium shifter. ‘Super-sport’ mode is pretty brutal.
And will I get 3-series luxury inside?
Not quite, although the materials and build quality have improved considerably, with softer, more expensive plastics in the new Evo X. Same lairy Recaro rally seats though, and the seat’s H-point and the small steering wheel diameter are unchanged. Proper, integrated, hard-disc sat-nav, keyless go and Bluetooth will all be options, as will a premium Rockford Fosgate stereo. Boot space is reduced slightly by shifting the battery and washer fluid bottle into the boot to improve weight distribution.
So when can I start humbling Ferraris in one?
March 2008. Full UK specifications and pricing haven’t been confirmed, but UK cars will get the uprated chassis package with Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, lighter two-piece Brembo brakes and lighter, split-spoke BBS wheels as standard. Prices are likely to start at around £30,000 for the FQ300, with each power upgrade adding between £2500 and £3000. The SST twin-clutch ‘box will add around £1500 as an option, while the premium pack with the sat-nav and uprated stereo will swell the bill by an estimated £2000. Dealers are taking orders now.
It’s amazing that Mitsubishi has changed everything with this car, yet kept so much of the old’s car’s trademark dynamics. What’s been lost – the rawness and nervousness – might be missed by the diehards, but more drivers will welcome the X’s new refinement and maturity. It seems just as warp-speed fast as before, both in a straight line and around a bend. But what we’ve always loved about this breed of car is that – despite being designed and built on the other side of the world – they have always worked uniquely well on British roads. So the final verdict will have to wait until we’ve driven one on the B4561 on a rain-soaked Thursday morning. And we can’t wait.