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New Car Test - Today's Evolution

Driving the awesome Mitsubishi Evo 7...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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The Evo Lancer has grown bigger and better.

Just like the Subaru Impreza STi, Mitsubishi's latest Evolution rally gun has 'grown up'. The extra weight isn't great from a performance point of view, but - believe us - the improvements in everyday liveability and quality are immense. It doesn't feel like the Evo is based on a $20,000 production cheapie anymore...

There are two versions of the Evolution 7 - the RS (aka RSII) and the GSR. True to Mitsubishi's tradition, the RS model is the motorsport special with a stripped-out interior, 15-inch steel wheels (which, obviously, are fitted on the basis that they will be replaced) and competition-spec driveline. The generously appointed GSR is the 'common' road-going vehicle...

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Our drive of the Evo 7 GSR convinced us it's the best all-round hot four on the planet.

The Evolution 7 employs Mitsubishi's long-serving 4G63 DOHC, 2.0-litre, 16-valve intercooled turbo four. In current Evo guise, it features hollow camshafts, an up-sized oil cooler, revised intake manifold, twin scroll turbine housing, triple water spray nozzles for a massive front-mount intercooler and a large straight-through exhaust with a dual-stage muffler.

Max power is officially - and conservatively - listed at 206kW at 6500 rpm, while there's a STi-caning 383Nm of torque at a handy 3500 rpm.

Don't get blasé about seeing torque and power figures like these - they're still quite awesome from a 2-litre engine.

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Awaken the engine from its cammy idle and its level of tractability is pleasantly surprising. Then, once on the move, you'll notice the 5-speed Evo is relatively short geared - this helps the engine come up on boost earlier. And, no, the Evo isn't a total sad-case when lumbering off boost - it simply isn't performing at its absolute best. When boost does kick in - at around 3000 rpm - the super Mitsu explodes into action. It's not as nose-bleedingly quick as the lighter Evo 6.5, but there's no doubting she's a rocket ship - 0 - 100 km/h is officially listed at 5.3 seconds...

The Evo 7 GSR's driveline is probably the most sophisticated ever seen on a production vehicle.

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GSR models feature the AYC (Anti Yaw Control) rear diff that's been in service since the 1996 Evo 4 GSR. Active Yaw Control sees a computer controlled, hydraulically actuated torque transfer mechanism integrated into the rear differential body. Its purpose is to vary the amount of torque going to the left or right rear wheel depending on driving input and chassis attitude. This enables better cornering lines (by limiting oversteer and understeer), evenly distributes tyre wear and improves acceleration on slippery surfaces.

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In addition, the Evo 7 GSR packs a new ACD (Active Centre Diff) control system, which uses a central electronically controlled multi-plate clutch in place of a viscous coupling. This gives a centre differential limiting capacity three times greater than the usual viscous coupling, but - when required - it can go into a near free-spinning state. In addition to its on-going changes, three driver-selectable settings - tarmac, gravel and snow - are used to vary the amount of centre diff slippage.

Oh, and note that the differential is automatically free'd on application of the park brake - this enables rally-style tight cornering. Y-eah!

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On the road, the GSR's driveline performs faultlessly - and that's no journo trash. Turn-in is brilliant, the mid-corner sure-footedness makes you feel like 'nothing could possibly go wrong' and you can stamp on the power pedal very early; and all the while it holds a perfect cornering line. Provoke it, though, and you can get a nice oversteer happening - you can still play exhibitionist if you want...

Without question, the Evo 7 GSR is a virtually unbeatable point-to-point vehicle. Our only gripe is a small driveline snatch when you're on/off the throttle.

Interestingly, the competition RS version does away with all of the GSR's driveline technology. It simply exchanges the GSR's front helical-type diff for a mechanical one.

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As we said, the Evo 7 is bigger and better. Based on the Japanese-market Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia platform, the Evo is longer and taller than its predecessor - it's 4455mm long and 1450mm tall compared to 4350mm long and 1405mm tall. Note, however, its overall width remains exactly the same at 1770mm.

The suspension layout is MacPherson struts at the front-end and a multi-link strut rear. Its features include pillow ball rear bushes, aluminium lower control arms front and rear, aluminium trailing arms and aluminium toe control arms. Despite its obvious performance character, the Evo VII's ride is certainly long-term liveable - it's a mile off being a tiresome bone rattler.

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An obvious improvement over the previous Evo is in the area of body rigidity; the '7' employs a lot of reinforcing to good effect. Mitsubishi quotes a 50 percent increase in flexural rigidity - coming (partly) from stronger suspension anchorages and body frame joints, additional reenrolments, spot welds and brace bars.

On the road, the body feels more like a big expensive Euro than anything based on a soggy tissue box Lancer platform...

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Tyres are humungous for a vehicle of this size. Try 235/45 ZR Yokohama Advan tyres mounted on multi-spoke 17-inch alloys!

The GSR's braking performance is very strong with 4-pot Brembo calipers and '17-inch' ventilated discs at the front and Brembo twin-pots '16-inch' ventilated discs at the rear. (Mitsubishi quote these brake sizes on the basis of the diameter of wheels that they will fit in.) The latest ABS is standard and EBD has been optimised to suit. Optional cooling vents leading to the front rotors combat fade.

Mr Bishi's power-assisted rack and pinion steering is a delight - very nicely weighted and linear, though not quite as responsive as the Evo 6.5.

Inside, the Evo 7 has the feel of a quality car - not a tarted up boy-racer mobile.

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The latest Evolution offers a lot more cabin width, headroom and legroom than its predecessor - most notably in the rear. We'd suggest the amount of extra room is similar to that which separates the old and new-school Rex.

Standard Evo 7 GSR features include power windows and mirrors, analog climate control, adjustable seatbelt anchorages, Momo leather knob and wheel, Recaro front seats, dual airbags, and an ACD mode switch (with a status indicator in the tacho dial). The centrally-placed tacho is easy to view, all controls have positive feel and trim fit is to a high standard. The seats are supportive and 'breath' very well, the tiller is grippy and - down below - the pedals have obviously been arranged for easy heel-and-toeing.

As we mentioned, the basic RS version of the VII gets no stereo, climate control or airbags plus a smaller centre console, basic seating (with shorter backrests in the rear). There's no trimming to be found in the boot, either; it really is bare bones.

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Externally, there aren't as many obvious afterthought tack-ons as seen on the Evo 6 Tommi. The 7's blistered front and rear guards are nicely integrated into the body and the (optional) fog lights are incorporated inside large headlight clusters. Of course, there are still a number of add-ons - the front bumper extension, side skirts, bonnet vents and NACA duct, some rear badges and a high-rise rear wing (which feels to give plenty of down-force at speed). The overall look is 100 percent tough.

The RS looks the same but misses out on colour-coded mirrors and door handles, and - as mentioned - rides on disposable 15-inch steel rims.

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Thankfully, Mitsubishi/Ralliart hasn't allowed the bigger and better Evo to stack on too many extra kilograms. Certainly, not as many as the STi has...

Weight-saving measures extend to an aluminium power steering pump bracket, 'optimised shape' cross member and front centre member, thinner roof and door glass, aluminium front guards and bonnet, a wicker-less rear wing, magnesium valve cover, aluminium intake pipes and a straighter exhaust.

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The Evo 7 GSR weighs in at a moderate 1400kg, and - for all its dieting efforts - the RS special under-cuts it by only 60 kilos. In comparison, the previous Tommi Makinen Evo weighs 1360kg - so, really, there's bugger-all in it.

At the end of the day, there's 40kg separating the current Evo 7 GSR from its predecessor - big deal. It's a small price to pay for a car that's better in every other way...

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 Fast Facts...
  • At last - an Evo that doesn't feel like it's build on a sardine can platform...
  • An engine to easily out-stomp the locally-delivered Rex STi
  • The most sophisticated mass-produced AWD system in the world - and it works bloody brilliantly
  • Extremely quick point-to-point and very forgiving
  • Surely the best ultra high performance small sedan you can buy for the money!

Contact:

Sports and Luxury Cars
+61 3 9753 5799

www.sportsluxurycars.com.au

Buying an Evo 7

Brand new Evolution 7 Mitsubishi Lancers can now be bought fully complied and roadworthy through Bob Hughes Special Vehicles in Batemans Bay, NSW. A GSR-spec Evo 7 will set you back $85,000, while - depending on spec - the RS version sells for around $75,000. The Government's luxury vehicle tax is payable in addition to either of these amounts. Included in the price is a 2-year limited All States Warranty (which is similar to an insurance policy).

Bob tells us his company has parts back-up in Japan, while the Australian Ralliart agent (in Sydney) stocks all spares. Also, once the Evo 7 reaches 18 months old, Bob says he'll probably be able to bring in second-hand examples - that is, assuming Mitsubishi Australia decides not to import the Evo 7 themselves. At the time of writing, Bob had two brand new Evolution 7s waiting ready to go while another one was on-route from Japan.

Contact Bob Hughes on +61 2 4472 2222 or visit his website at www.bobhughes.com.au/

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