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Five years ago, Mitsubishi launched the tenth generation of its track-tuned Lancer, the Evo, in Japan. And at last, it’s also now available here.
Over the past few years, Mitsubishi’s previous importer, Mercedes-Benz SA, had held off on bringing in the Evo X (X is the Roman numeral for ten, so say “Evo ten”) while unfavourable exchange rates and other complicated business dealings meant cost would be pushed through the roof and it probably wouldn’t sell enough units to make it worthwhile.
But when the Imperial group took over Mitsubishi rights last year, it put this car high on its list of priorities, and by hell or high water it would sell Evo X locally.
So here it is, finally.
Not that unfavourable exchange rates and complicated business dealings have gone away.
EYE-WATERING PRICE TAG
The Evo X’s eye-watering pricetag of just under R700 000 will see many Japanese performance sedan fans not only flinching, but U-turning to Subaru dealerships where the Evo’s arch nemesis, the R121 000 cheaper WRX STI, is sold.
Mitsubishi’s current caretakers are cool with that however, and say that the limited numbers available are enough to appease its most brand-loyal customers. The first shipment of 20 cars is already sold, and there’s enough stock in Japan to supply order-only customers from here on.
Just like the STI, the Evo X gets a four-cylinder turbo to power all four wheels permanently. It is slightly less endowed kilowatts-wise with 217 to the Subaru’s 221, but when compared spec for spec the Evo does have more torque with 366Nm to the equivalent STI’s 350. Manual STIs get much more torque, but the Evo only comes with automatic transmissions in our market.
It’s a good automatic though, with a modern dual-clutch setup that shifts gears faster than most human hands can and, for what it’s worth, the steering-mounted paddle shifters are made of magnesium. Mitsubishi South Africa says it will try to assist local customers hell-bent on manual gearboxes, but insists the six-speed TC-SST (Twin Clutch Sports Shift Transmission) is the better package.
The Evo, also similarly to its rival STI, gets an active centre differential that’s adjustable by a switch in the centre console and will send different amounts of drive to the front and rear wheels as needed. There’s also an Active Yaw Control (AYC) system that adjusts the power split between left and right wheels at the front to pull the car straight when sideways – although most drivers (myself included) will prefer this function turned off.
Buyers looking to justify the R700 000 they’ve spent will no doubt mention the turbo’s titanium impeller blades, a set of cossetting Recaro buckets up front, Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs, big Brembo brakes, 18” BBS wheels with Dunlop semi-slick tyres, a booming factory-fitted Rockford Fosgate sound system, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing xenon headlights that bend around corners.
QUITE A PERFORMER
The Evo X’s launch drive involved only a series of rally-style tarmac special stages, so I can’t comment on how the car feels in normal road-going conditions, but I can say that it’s quite a performer when pushed to its limits.
As in most all-wheel drive performance cars, understeer is always ready and waiting to push the front out wide if driven sloppily, but flick it Scandinavian-style and there’s an impressive amount of drift action to be had.
We’ll give the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X a proper evaluation when we road test it soon.
THE LAST OF ITS KIND
There is no Lancer Evo XI (or eleven) planned, so there’s no risk in having an outdated Evo next year if you were to buy one now. Mitsubishi is undergoing a metamorphosis from performance to green orientation.
It no longer supports motorsport where it once dominated WRC and the Dakar Rally, and is turning attention to electric vehicles such as its i-MiEV.