#02#Déjà vu for us here at The Car Enthusiast
, for this isn't the first time we've written the following sentence: the car tested here is the last in the line of the Evolution version of the current Lancer. I reckon we're on about take four of this story now, so much so that we promise never to say it again. Regardless, here we are once more, for the last time...
The Evolution IX MR FQ-360 (to give it its full title) shares much with the FQ-360 we drove last year
with a few of the usual evolutionary tweaks to the package to mark it out as something different. On the latest car, the new wheels make an instant impact - finely spoked numbers rather than the usual chunkier style - and we liked these lots. Another interesting change is the suspension that governs their movement, with recalibrated Bilstein shocks taking over the unenviable task of further enhancing the Evo's ride, handling and body control.
It looks as aggressive and purposeful as ever. The Evo truly wears its heart on its sleeve and the interior too leaves little doubt about the car's intent. Gripped firmly in the bucket seats, wheel pulled in to the chest and pedals perfectly placed, it feels like a very business-like environment, assuming you ply your trade in the dismantling of sinuous strands of bitumen...
As it happened, our week with the car involved many miles of driving in environments that aren't necessarily those where it's most at home. And unfortunately it showed; the Evo's motorway manners are marred by a booming exhaust; additionally, the limited range due to the small fuel tank was a pain. In practice it was the former that, in most conditions, dominates. It's just plain loud - anti-socially so - only quietening down at higher engine speeds, by which time there's a strong chance you may be speeding. At motorway cruising speeds the temptation was to change down a gear, at the expense of fuel economy, to get away from the rev range where the resonance was at its worst.
In all honesty, even as an Evo fan and hardcore car enthusiast, this aspect would require a serious change for me to consider owning this car. It almost spoils it for me and I'd gladly swap a few kPa of exhaust back pressure and some compromise in terms of turbo efficiency to preserve my sanity, hearing and public image. Putting this to one side as something we would insist on changing if it were our own money being spent then you really have to marvel at the rest of the car.
The physics-suspending dynamics remain hilarious and utterly mind boggling to the uninitiated. For me, having driven quite a few of these cars now, I find the clever electronics perhaps just a little too smart, a little too intrusive, preventing an ultimately smooth and satisfying drive. Unquestionably, the car is quick and clever, but not as fun or gratifying as it should be.
But let's face it; we're moaning here and probably unfairly so. Yes, the car could be more refined and have better manners, but the world would be a worse place if it weren't for the Evo's existence. The brand probably peaked in 1999 with the Evo 6, a car that blasted into our collective consciences in the hands of Tommi Makinen; those electronic gubbins and tricky diffs proving altogether too much for the competition and instantly making it the
quick road car to lust after.
Driving through the Yorkshire Dales, reading road signs for places such as Grisedale you reminisce about those halcyon days of rallying and thank it for the homologated road cars it spawned. Without the Evo and Impreza, a generation of car enthusiasts would be somewhat lost; it's hard to imagine what they would have driven as an alternative.
The MR is a fittingly capable farewell to the genre. The Evolution X will have to be a deal more refined and rounded to sell well in today's market and will be all the better for it. The Evo has had its day; it's slightly irrelevant as a new car offering now, but we can't help but have a lot of time and admiration for it. If you want an example from this generation then, assuming you can live without the (200 only) run-out edition, I'd recommend a lesser-powered version - the value for money quotient is much better.
For the record, I personally think that the finest offerings of Evo-dom were the uber-lairy Evo 6 and the more humble Evo VIII 260
. The Evo 6, particularly the Makinen edition, was really a rally car for the road. Every version since has been a watered down version of this to be honest. However, for me, almost at the opposite end of the scale, that 260bhp Evo 8 offered as much pace as you could ever need with the AYC chassis and the five-speed 'box (the newer six-speed item is not as slick), wrapped in a more subtle package. It even had decent road manners. The fact that it was not much more than £20k new is astounding and for me the deciding factor that makes it my favourite ever Evo.
The Evolution X has a lot to live up to. The Lancer Evolution is dead. Long live the Lancer Evolution!
2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution UK range overview
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX FQ-300: £28,129
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX FQ-320: £30,129
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX FQ-340: £33,129
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX FQ-360: £35,629
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX MR: £35,629
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 Turbo Evolution IX MR Non Leather: £34,629