With a seemingly never-ending string of Mitsubishi Evolution Lancers it’s easy to become dismissive. Another year, another Evo... But don’t be fooled. Step into the current Evo 9 (or any late-model Evo for that matter!) and you’re in for the ride of your life.
And that’s nothing to be blasé about!
The Evolution 9 is, at the time of writing, the current Evo model in Japan and is available locally through Mitsubishi Australia. Retailing for AUD$56,789, the E9 is the direct competitor to the Impreza STi. On paper, there’s not a lot to separate the pair except the STi has the advantage of a 2.5-litre engine while the Evo hits back with Super AYC to improve handling.
The biggest evolutionary development in the Evo 9 is the introduction of MIVEC. But don’t get too excited – it doesn’t alter valve lift, just inlet valve timing. Evo lovers will also note that the turbocharger has been modified for greater response, a stronger timing belt has been employed (to accommodate the MIVEC system) and there are a few other minor engine changes. The result of these changes is increased power and torque over the previous Australian-spec Evo 8 - there’s now 206kW at 6000 rpm along with 355Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. Ninety-eight RON fuel is necessary to achieve these outputs.
Driving through a relatively short ratio six-speed manual gearbox, the Evo 9 engine offers good flexibility in urban driving. Low rpm torque is not particularly strong (below about 3000 rpm you’re left waiting for meaningful turbo boost to arrive) but there’s more than enough mid-range torque to sit you back in your seat. Continuing to around 6000 rpm, the Evo is sensationally quick.
Overall, Evo 9 engine feels very similar to highly tuned 2-litre turbo engines of the mid ‘90s. But it’s the way the Evo uses every available kilowatt that really impresses.
With constant AWD and sophisticated electronic driveline control, the E9 gets its power down regardless of conditions and, with the right launch, it can be shatteringly quick. Mitsubishi claims 0 – 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and a 13.6 second quarter mile. No torque-steer, no tramping and no misbehaving – the Evo gets down an’ goes!
But it’s through corners where the Evo stands out. With its electronic driveline controls – Super AYC (Active Yaw Control) and ACD (Active Centre Differential) – this is a car that gives responsive turn-in (a trait not normally associated with constant AWDs) and a degree of mid-corner control and flexibility that’s beyond belief. Oversteer and understeer is part of the Evo repertoire and it’s wonderfully progressive transitioning to each. And don’t think you need to be a professional driver to string together a series of quick corners – the Evo makes even the most mediocre driver feel like Makinnen.
The steering – an often underestimated aspect of a performance car – is spot-on given the Evo’s sporting abilities. It’s well weighted, direct (at just 2.2 turns lock-to-lock) and, above all, inspires confidence. So too the brakes – Brembo four-pot front and two-pot rear calipers with sports calibrated ABS and EBD. The suspension – now with an inverted MacPherson strut front-end and a multi-link rear - provides a very firm ride.
The interior – while more comfortable and refined than the previous generation Evo – has the feel of a car costing around AUD$20,000 less. There’s no cruise control, trip computer, folding rear seat and the cabin plastics are pretty cheap. On the other hand, the Evo’s wrap-around Recaro seats offer plenty of lateral support and the cabin offers decent overall space given the Lancer’s external dimensions. Standard equipment includes aluminium pedals and sporty trim highlights, a Momo wheel, climate control, intercooler water spray switch, a six-stack CD audio system and twin airbags. An immobilser, GPS tracking system and Data Dots protect this ever-appealing hoon machine falling into the wrong hands.
Visually, there’s not a lot to identify the Evo 9 from the Evo 8 – just a redesigned front bumper, rear diffuser and a choice of 17 inch wheels. The standard wheels are made by ENKEI while an optional Performance Pack comprises ultra lightweight BBS wheels together with Bilstein dampers. Mitsubishi has also incorporated 200 additional spot-welds to improve body rigidity and employed an aluminum roof to lower the centre of gravity and overall mass. The side intrusion bars, bonnet and front guards are also made from aluminium while the rear wing is moulded in carbon fibre. Mitsubishi claims a kerb weight of 1410kg – 60kg lighter than the previous model.
Interestingly, the Evo 9 is the first Evolution model to be adopted as part of the ‘mainstream’ Mitsubishi Australia line-up – it’s no longer a limited edition special. This means you get the full benefit of Mitsubishi’s standard 5 year/130,000km warranty coverage – a major advantage over the Subaru STi with only a 3 year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Evo also has plenty of interesting accessories available – like an earthing cable kit, a Gurney flap for the rear wing, vortex generators for the trailing edge of the roof and an adjustable weight gear knob.
The Evo 9 might be just another number in a blur of Evolution models but make no mistake – this car is awesome!
The Evolution 9 was loaned for this review by MRT Performance. www.mrtrally.com.au