2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MRPosted on October 17th, 2008
Rally Cup performance for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The Evo is one of three Mitsubishi models based on the compact Lancer sedan. The Ralliart which I wrote about several weeks back bridges the gap between the GTS and Evo: more powerful than the base model, but a bunny hill compared to the Evolution.
Powered by a 291-horsepower two-liter MIVEC engine, the compact Evo begs to be driven hard and put away wet. Engineered to meet the rigorous demands of World Rally Cup racing, it’s big on low-end torque, with exceptional steering response, and a super-rigid chassis that stays flat in the gnarliest of corners.
The newest Evo, introduced for the ’08 model year, comes in two grades: GSR and MR. They share the same aluminum, turbocharged engine, but the newer MR features Mitsubishi’s twin-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission, compared to a five speed manual on the GSR.
The six-speed automatic gets slightly better fuel economy than the five-speed manual transmission: seventeen miles-per-gallon in the city versus sixteen for the GSR. The driver can shift the six-speed manually using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, or a floor-mounted shift lever.
Both grades offer a technology option that upgrades the standard audio system to a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate package, but on-board navigation is only available on the MR. The MR also comes standard with a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, that the driver can operate using controls on the steering wheel.
There are plenty of compact sedans on the market with compliant suspensions and a quiet ride. The Evo isn’t one of them. Eighteen-inch rims with low-profile tires and Bilstein shocks make it ride like a buckboard, and produce a significant amount of road noise. I find all of this completely acceptable, considering what the car is designed for.
In fact, I applaud Mitsubishi for staying the course: to compromise the Evo’s ride and handling would fly in the face of everything I love about the company.
Mitsubishi is a small car company: unable to match the volume or model range that larger automakers have. So the company focuses on its strength: niche cars with edgy styling and even edgier performance. The Evo is the epitome of that: it’s unlike anything else on the market.
Rally cup racing is all about quick turns, and bursts of acceleration. The turbocharged, intercooled engine produces 300 foot-pounds of torque, and is durable enough to withstand the heat and contamination that occurs during lengthy races.
An active center differential sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction, while front and rear limited-slip differentials help the driver to maintain directional control on slippery surfaces.
A front strut tower brace, along with front and rear stabilizer bars give the chassis exceptional torsional rigidity. The Evo has as positive an on-center feel as anything I’ve driven.
Forged aluminum control arms and wheels minimize unsprung weight. Curb weight for the MR is just under 3600 pounds, with front-to-rear weight balanced slightly biased towards the front. If the wheels come unglued, the Evo pushes hard in the corners: inexperienced drivers will find it difficult to resume directional control.
Ground clearance is just over five inches. The Evo’s low center of gravity enhances its high-speed performance, but makes it impractical for driving in deep snow or on extreme off-road trails.
Its large rear spoiler is a hallmark of Evo styling. It maximizes downforce to keep the tail end from breaking loose. The spoiler cuts the driver’s rear vision in half, but it doesn’t obstruct his range of vision.
The Evo’s interior reflects World Rally Cup’s requirements to have a driver and navigator: neither of whom have any prior knowledge of the course. The navigator’s ability to direct the driver quickly and without error is crucial to the team’s success.
Although hard buttons control the major audio and climate functions, a mouse on the passenger side operates the optional navigation system. An information screen in the gauge cluster gives the driver average fuel economy and distance to empty, altimeter, barometer, ambient temperature, and vehicle maintenance reminders. The driver controls the information screen using steering wheel-mounted controls.
The optional Rockford-Fosgate audio system includes an in-dash six-CD changer, and downloadable hard drive. The system, which is iPod and MP3 compatible, displays playlists in the large screen at the top of the center stack. The audio upgrade adds Sirius satellite radio with six months of free service.
The interior includes most of the comfort and convenience features buyers look for: a storage bin in the center console, cupholders in the floor console, and bottle holders and map pockets in the front doors. The glovebox is deep enough to hold map books or a small pack. A twelve-volt powerpoint at the base of the center console allows passengers to recharge portable electronic devices.
Second-row seats in the outboard position have adequate head and legroom. The center console and a floor tunnel restrict legroom in the middle. The Recaro seats up front obstruct visibility, making the second row less pleasant for longer trips.
The trunk is large enough for a week’s worth of groceries or a moderate amount of luggage, but it’s not well suited for larger items. Buyers who want to carry bicycles or other large cargo might want to look at the Outlander: a crossover vehicle with a more versatile cargo bay.
The Evo comes with front, side, side curtain and a driver’s knee airbag, vehicle stability control and antilock brakes. Standard keyless entry allows the driver to enter and start the car using a remote fob. The Mitsubishi system has a mechanical backup key stored in the remote fob if the battery conks out. Since batteries die quickly in the Phoenix summer heat, I think it’s a nice safety feature.
Base price is $38,290, not including a $650 destination charge. The technology option package that adds navigation and the Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade costs $2550. The Lancer Evo MR is waiting for test drives at Mitsubishi dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An exceptionally nimble sport sedan with excellent steering response and a lot of power.
Dislike: Lack of rear cargo space.
Model: Lancer Evolution MR
Base price: $38,290
As tested: $41,740
Horsepower: 291 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 300 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg city/highway
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