It makes sense that the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution would grow up.
Its core audience was youthful when it first arrived 16 years ago as a tribute to Mitsubishi's legendary Rally car. And now, those teenagers are in their 30s, have decent paying jobs, a family and a sense of style. The previous Evo was only something to dream about. It may have been respected on the race track, but too many people giggled at its giant spoiler, which looked like a remnant from a prototype Cessna. There was always a Bondo feel to it, as if a bunch of teenagers testing out their Bondo skills got a hold of an old compact and went to work on it.
This is the Evo for grown ups.
Its looks are much more refined and inline with Mitsubishi's Lancer family, which includes the base model Lancer and the mid-level Rally Art Lancer. The new Evo looks sophisticated and fast. There's also an unassuming quality to it that probably stems from its sedan status. If it can carry a young family, it can't be that quick, people might thing.
But they'd be wrong.
My first 20 miles in the Evo actually took place at Waterford Hills Road Racing Course in Clarkston, Mich. There's no better place to drive the Evo than on a race track.
First, I tried out in the Evolution GSR. The five-speed manual with its little turbo charged in-line four blisters around the curvy track. The all-wheel drive system lets you go faster through every turn. The high revving engine bites off chunks of speed and lets you top 90 mph on the back straightaway before you slam on the brakes and make that difficult right. On the S turns, the Evo laps up the curves and if I could heal-toe shift better, I could come out of the turns with better speed.
Then I tried the Evo MR with Mitsubishi's all-new Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission, affectionately known as TC-SST. Acronyms tend to scare me because they start to sound complex. But the MR's transmission is so good, I'd suggest buying this vehicle over the manual -- and I rarely say such things.
The dual clutch system shifts faster than a person can, adjusts to your driving and comes with three settings: Normal, Sport and S-Sport. It also blips the throttle on downshifts so you don't lurch forward. While there are magnesium paddle shifters on the steering wheel, don't use them; my fastest times in the MR came when I touched only the steering wheel, the brakes and the accelerator. It was like magic.
Driving it around town, I found myself going faster and faster. I didn't mean to, but the Evo doesn't want to go slow. The ride is surprisingly smooth, as many Japanese racers seem to ride like turbocharged pogo sticks with a loud, rough ride. Compared to the new Subaru WRX STi (the only true head-to-head vehicle), the Evo rides like Cadillac. The road noise is minimal and the Recaro bucket seats squeeze you into place for racing but are just as comfortable on daily commutes. The back seat is small (33 inches of leg room) but comfortable. The trunk may be its only weak link, offering a mere 6.9 cubic feet. If you're buying groceries, leave the kids at home and find the curviest route to Meijer.
The new Evo looks sophisticated and fast, while playing the role of the unassuming sedan -- though the curvy spoiler on the back does serve as reminder to this car's heritage and continues to block half of your vision through the rear view mirror -- an Evo tradition.
The front end looks great, with its big air intakes below the bumper and the intakes for the brakes near the fog lamps. Mitsubishi gave the Evo a much cleaner profile with lots of window space and a delicate curve along its roofline. The big 18-inch wheels are not pushed too far to either edge (though the wheelbase and track is increased on this model.)
This is an athletic-looking sedan that doesn't need to take its shirt off to prove its prowess. It's not about brawn, it's about ability. The surefooted Evo delivers 10-fold.
So does the engine: the 2-liter I-4 with a turbocharger that ramps up the horsepower to 291. It produces 300-pound-feet of torque that kicks in at 4,400 rpm. The launch is quick, though some of that may be held back by its portly weight of nearly 3,600 pounds. That may also contribute to its rather lackluster mileage of 16 miles per gallon in the city for the GSR and 17 mpg for the MR.
But none of that matters really. This is a performance car. It was created to blister race tracks. It's going to use lots of gas. That's normal.
The real measure of this sedan is that it can play multiple roles for a family. The Evo is one of the few cars that could go to the track Saturday afternoon, waste any of the current muscle cars available, then pick up the kids and take them to the movies.
For the man or woman who wants it all -- this is one great vehicle that offers it.
Reviewed By Scott Burges at DetNes.com
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.