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Low Buck Big Bang Evo

The price of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 has dropped considerably - we check 'em out from a second-hand buyer's perspective...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Japanese import Lancer Evo 7s
  • Now available for under AUD$50,000
  • Awesome handling and speed
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One of our all-time favourite supercars, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7, is now available at a price that puts it within reach of a new Subaru WRX buyer.

Since our first encounter with the Evo 7 in 2002 (see Today's Evolution), the go-fast Mitsi has been superseded by the Evo 8, Evo 8 MR and Evo 9. The Evo 7 can now be picked up for under AUD$50,000 – in the same ball-park as a new WRX with a couple of aftermarket extras.

Interestingly, the Evo 7 is one of the most unpopular models in the Evo range. If you want all-out performance, most people will tell you to go for the lightweight previous generation Evo 6. And, if you must have the later series, the Evo 8 MR or Evo 9 (with an aluminium roof and improved suspension) is the weapon you need.

But don’t be put off by misguided opinion – from its steering and suspension to its engine and brakes, the Evo 7 is a true performance car.

Click for larger image

The Evo 7’s biggest trump card is the phenomenal handling and stability that’s aided by its electronic-controlled AYC (Active Yaw Control) and ACD (Active Centre Diff) systems. The AYC system alters the torque apportioned to the left and right rear wheels while ACD (with 3 user-selectable drive modes) alters front-to-rear torque-split characteristics.

The Evo 7 is handles differently to most AWD turbos – it’s beautifully balanced, turns in sweetly and is easily flicked into oversteer. The chassis is extremely stable through the middle of a corner and, from there, the AWD system gives total traction for a fast, fuss-free getaway. Grip is ample thanks to 235/45 17 tyres.

The Evo 7’s surefootedness and handling balance are incredible.

Combine this with very direct power-assisted rack and pinion steering and the Evo 7 can be weaved through a series of corners with precision. Brembo is the name on the 4-pot front and 2-pot rear calipers. These give the Evo brilliant stopping power while maintaining excellent pedal weight and feel. Front cooling ducts ensure the front brakes don’t overheat when pushed.

And what lives under the bonnet?

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Well, the Evo 7 uses the 4G63 2.0 litre DOHC turbo that first saw light in the Japanese-spec Galant VR4 of 1988. In E7 guise, the 2 litre engine uses hollow camshafts, a big oil cooler, revised intake manifold, twin scroll turbine housing, a front-mount air-to-air intercooler with a triple nozzle water spray, and a large straight-through exhaust with a dual-stage muffler. Mitsubishi claims the engine makes 206kW at 6500 rpm and 383Nm at 3500 rpm. In reality the output is closer to around 230kW.

The Evo 7’s 5-speed gearbox contains very short, closely-stacked ratios that improve the on-road flexibility of the tuned 2 litre. The ‘box has a decisive shift feel and the clutch is relatively light.

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In our previous test of the (then new) Evo 7 we commented that the engine isn’t too bad when caught off boost – “the Evo isn't a total sad-case when lumbering off boost - it simply isn't performing at its absolute best.” In contrast, the second-hand example tested here felt quite doughy – almost as if the cam timing was incorrect. Note that when we picked it up, this particular car was also filled with normal unleaded fuel – even when filled with 98 RON fuel, the ECU might have been operating in a very conservative tune.

With a gentle launch and two people on board, our white test car could accelerate to 100 km/h in the mid 6 second range. With a well rehearsed launch, you should be able to crack into the 5s – Mitsubishi claims 5.3 seconds (on Japanese 100 octane fuel).

Slow? Not exactly...

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The Evo 7 interior is built to a higher standard than earlier models and offers good occupant space. The common GSR model is equipped with electric windows, analogue climate control, Recaro trim, dual airbags and an ACD switch and display. The motorsport oriented RS version gets a stripped interior with no airbags, stereo or climate control. It also uses a less sophisticated driveline.

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The Evo 7 GSR’s Recaro front seats are a tight fit but you get comfortable within a few minutes. But there are some obvious cost and weight saving measures that detract from the Evo 7’s day-to-day user friendliness – for example there aren’t any rear door switches for the interior light.

The ride is extremely firm but acceptable. Using sports-tuned MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear, you’ll feel every bump in the road - but it’s not crash-bang harsh. The body is also noticeably more rigid than the previous generation Evo.

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Visually, the Evo 7 is well coordinated despite the considerable number of aero parts. The blistered guards (which are necessary for wheel clearance), deep sport-spec bumpers and side skirts are well integrated with the original body shape. An adjustable high-rise rear wing, bonnet vents and a NACA duct further add to the E7’s sense of purpose. The kerb weight is kept down to 1400kg using a thin roof panel, aluminium bonnet and front guards.

Click for larger image

The Evo 7 – which was sold in Japan from 2001 to 2003 – can be purchased in Australia as a ‘grey’ import. The white example seen here is a fairly typical example with around 40,000km on the odometer and is offered for sale at AUD$49,990. Our test car was supplied by Sports and Luxury Cars through Grand Turismo Auto (see Contacts for details).

For around 50 grand the Lancer Evo 7 provides an incredible amount of performance hardware for the dollar. If you’re thinking about buying a new WRX with some enhancements, it’s a very worthy alternative.

Auto Version?

From early 2002 the Lancer Evo 7 was sold in Japan with an optional automatic transmission. The auto Evo 7 (known as the GT-A) is detuned to 200kW and the GSR’s standard Recaro trim fitted as an option. However, the GT-A does retain the magnificent AYC and ACD enhanced handling and compared to the manual version, is easier to drive on a daily basis.

Well worth a look.

See Evo with Auto?! for our test of the Evo 7 GT-A.

For further technical details of the Evo 7 see Dissecting the Lancer Evo 7


Sports and Luxury Cars +61 3 9753 5799

Gran Turismo Auto +61 3 9329 3335

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