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Tested: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

Published Sep 21, 2012

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Earlier this month we brought you news of the long-awaited launch of the Lancer Evo X in South Africa, brought in by the Imperial group which has replaced Mercedes-Benz SA as the Mitsubishi importer.

Now it was time to haul out our Vbox testing equipment and see how fast the tenth generation of this iconic sports sedan really is, and how it shapes up against its arch-rival, the Subaru WRX STI.

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The rivalry began in the World Rally Championship in the ‘90s with both companies creating street-legal high-performers employing rally-bred technology, and road versions of the STI and Lancer Evo continued to be produced in ever more powerful and high-tech iterations to feed the hungry cult market they’d established.

FINAL EDITION

This latest (and last, according to Mitsubishi) version of the Lancer Evo is gunned along by a two-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine wielding 217kW and 366Nm and capable of a governed 250km/h top speed, driving all four wheels through a dual-clutch auto gearbox. No manual is available in SA.

To suit varying driving conditions there’s some rally-bred trickery in the chassis, including an active centre differential controlling the percentage of power being directed to the front or rear wheels, activated by a switch in the centre console. Active yaw control, in turn, adjusts the power split between the front wheels.

Trick suspension comes in the form of Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs, stopping power is courtesy of Brembo and several body parts, including the roof and bonnet, are made of weight-saving aluminium. Keeping it all stuck to the road are Dunlop semi-slicks wrapped around 18” mags , while the styling’s as subtle as a tsunami and includes a surfboard-sized boot spoiler.

But, without further ado, how quick is she?

At our Gauteng test facility the Evo X clocked a 6.3 second 0-100km/h time and a 14.6 second quarter mile. This is suitably quick and places the Mitsubishi in the same performance ball-park as the manual Subaru STI we tested, which achieved six seconds flat and 14.1 secs – the STI’s sprint advantage not coming as a big surprise given the superior 221kW and 407Nm outputs made by its larger 2.5-litre turbo engine (although the automatic STI is governed to 350Nm).

The Evo’s automatic transmission creates some initial frustration in that you can’t employ any clutch gymnastics to overcome an initial dead spot in the turbo engine’s power delivery. But once past that lag, the Evo X acclerates very briskly - more than quick enough to paint a large grin on any enthusiastic driver’s face - and the dual-clutch transmission’s a delight that makes rapid-fire gearchanges.

TRACTION MODES

As with the previous Lancer Evolution, this model offers three driver-selectable traction modes, changeable while the car is moving using a switch on the centre console: Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. There are also Normal, Sport, and S-Sport settings to choose from, which change the gearshift characteristics from mild to wild.

We flung the Evo X around a handling circuit to put that race-bred chassis to the test, and it didn’t disappoint. The part that ‘real’ drivers will like best is that the car doesn’t go into premature, joy-killing understeer like some all-wheel drives, and there’s some tail-happiness to be coaxed out of it. In hard driving you can feel the diffs and electrickery doing their thing, and power being fired back and forth between the various wheels. Along with quick-action steering and a low centre of gravity, it all adds up to a car that clings to curves like a negligee to a Victoria’s Secret model.

Notch up another one for practicality.

Apart from its athletic heroics, the Evo X doesn’t rate too badly as daily transport. The ride’s firm, as you’d expect, but not in a harsh spine-jarring way that will necessitate a visit to your chiropractor. It’s a fairly happy commuter with the auto gearbox making it effortless to creep along in slow traffic, and forward progress is smooth, without any snatchy throttle feel.

The cabin’s roomy and will easily swallow four full-sized adults, and it’s stuffed with the full list of comforts and gadgets including a cool Rockford-Fosgate audio system and see-around-corner headlights. The boot’s quite cramped, however, and carries a full-sized spare that takes up a lot of space.

Speaking of cramped, the body-hugging Recaro sports seats aren’t for the cholesterolly-enhanced. They also offer no height adjustment, and together with a steering column that has no reach setting, efforts to find an ideal driving position can prove elusive.

VERDICT

Overpriced? Hell yeah. At R699 900 the tenth-generation Evo isn’t for bargain hunters, given that its main rival, Subaru’s WRX STi, sells for R579 000.

But this is apparently the last of Mitsubishi’s high-performance Evo cars as the Japanese brand is turning an eco-friendly page, which makes the Evo X something of a collector’s item with good resale value.

The first 20 units in South Africa have already been snapped up by eager buyers, while further units will be brought in on customer order from now on. - Star Motoring

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