2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR First Test
You'll Be Missed, Mister Evo
Seven years ago, I unwrapped my fingers from the thin-rimmed steering wheel of the original 2008 Lancer Evolution MR and sat back. Wow. Its engine was hot and ticking and its tires were feathered after a three-day weekend of epic driving. Yet despite being beaten up by the paint-shaker ride and ear-ringing noise, I was already looking for excuses to hang on to the keys longer.
Flash-forward to now, as my fingers once again curl around the Evo's familiar steering wheel -- this one belonging to its virtually unchanged 2015 edition, the Evo's last. Weird. Here I am sitting in a car with the badge "Evolution" on its rump, yet all around me this cabin might as well be an automotive time capsule. Kind of ironic.
Of course, the Evo's competitors and my own maturing discernment of them have evolved a lot in the last seven years. Will I enjoy driving this final model year of the legendary Lancer nearly as much? Gripping that old wheel again, I'm not so sure.
Except for the Touring Package's ($2,000) wide leather seats and the Navigation Package's ($2,375) 7-inch touchscreen, the space remained mostly as it was in 2008. Which, in a word, is p-l-a-i-n. Within the simple gauge binnacle, a dated drive mode indicator bisects the aging tachometer and speedometer, and some pretty chintzy-looking plastics frames the trio of old-time climate control knobs. And sadly, one of its old highlights -- its Recaro sport seats (some of the best ever offered by an OEM) -- have been axed. Win some, lose some; time to fire up the engine and set off.
Meandering along L.A.'s avenues, I no longer need to crank the 710-watt Rockford Fosgate system to subdue the earlier tire noise of the Yokohama Advan A13C's and the din of the 2.0-liter turbo engine. The Touring Package's additional sound deadening has made the little rally car noticeably less clamorous.
But after a mile or so in Santa Monica, the ride already starts to tire my passengers. "It still rides better and is quieter than the (long-term) STI," my girlfriend, Tiffany, observes, trying to be positive. (As my primary shotgun, her ride judgment is as keen as they come.) But it's an oblique compliment. The Bilsten dampers, Eibach springs, and 25mm front/23mm rear stabilizer bars still jostle your innards and telegraph the pavement's every pebble.
The Mitsubishi's six-speed Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST) still dislikes mundane speeds. "Smooth" has never been one of its traits, especially when transitioning from brake to throttle in traffic. But then I venture onto a back road. I engage the gearbox's Sport mode and slide the gearshift into Manual. "Tarmac" shows on the Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) screen. I sit up and impale the throttle.
In a split-second, all gripes vanish. Exciting speed happens. Louder noise happens. The quad pipes jettison tinny vocals that perk my ears and sharpen my focus. Shifts become quicker. I tilt the wheel off-center. The hydraulically assisted helm tugs back in a smooth, hefty manner.
Then the Evo's footwork takes center stage. Its sure-footedness gives me pause because of its immediacy. Talk about abundant grip. The Evo flourishes in the esses. It took 24.5 seconds at an average 0.94 g to conquer our figure eight (the quickest tenth-gen we've sampled). On the skidpad the Evo averaged 0.98 g, which means it's also the stickiest.
All 300 lb-ft feel immediate and forever available. Beautiful. Putting its torque, plus its 291 horsepower, on pavement means ridiculously speedy corner exits. In a straight line, it needs just 5.1 seconds to get to 60 mph. Curbing big momentum requires no big effort. The 13.8-inch front, 13.0-inch rear Brembos annihilate it. From 60 mph, the 3,600-pound Evo needs 105 feet to halt entirely. They fade not in the least bit during my mountain road attack.
True, the Evo MR is an aged dog. Its equipment is antiquated. Its fuel economy is laughable. It's barely comfortable. It now has hideous chrome portholes on its front fenders. It's pricey. Yet throughout all this time, it has stayed true to its roots. That in itself is its brilliance and downfall. It is also telling of the company that it comes from.
The Evo MR remains a highly capable athlete. Turn up your own excitement level, and it never fails to respond. One can only hope Mitsubishi's engineers are busy evolving the Evolution in all the right ways because to kill off this bloodline would be a massive disservice to a future generation of car enthusiasts. Until such a fantasy car arrives, I'll continue to hoard this Evo's keys whenever given the chance.
|2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$41,805|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/291-hp/300-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,613 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||177.0 x 71.3 x 58.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.8 sec @ 99.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||105 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.98 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.5 sec @ 0.94 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/22/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.02 lb/mile|