| First Drive | Cirencester, England| Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-400 |
Mitsubishi ups the ante on its Lancer Evolution X with its new range-topping FQ-400, boasting 403bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Never a shy-retiring car in standard guise
, the FQ-400 gets more muscular looks to match its enhanced performance. Ferociously fast, what's really surprising is its civility when you're not chasing a stage time, the FQ-400 proving to be more than just a maximum-attack car.
In the Metal
It's not the metal bits that attract attention on the FQ-400, but the composite add-ons. The FQ-400 builds on the visual head-butt looks of its FQ relatives and like the performance it brings there's little in the way of restraint. There's a carbon-fibre front splitter on the leading edge of the PIAA motorsport light-equipped (and lightened) bumper that could double as a snow-plough; a vortex generator on the roof directs air to a revised rear wing. Nine-spoke alloy wheels wear near-slick Toyo Proxes R1R tyres, those wheels also filling the FQ-400's arches better thanks to a drop in ride height - that effect increased with the FQ-400's unique side skirts.
Of all the FQ-400's visual enhancements it's the bonnet and rear diffuser that are the most obvious. More a collection of holes than a conventional bonnet, the numerous vents are necessary to allow the heat to escape from the seriously tweaked 403bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre nestling underneath it. Around the back there's a carbon-fibre diffuser within which a massive single trapezium-shaped exhaust exits. Not quiet looking then, but that's how buyers like them.
What you get for your Money
All that matters here is the headline power figure. With an astonishing 403bhp, the FQ-400 is an extraordinary machine. Like its FQ relatives it drives all that power through a five-speed manual transmission to all four-wheels. Some very clever electronics all bundled under Mitsubishi's Super-All-Wheel Drive - S-AWD - acronym allow the FQ-400 to use its massive output with remarkable ease. Stability, traction and braking controls are all featured within S-AWD. Traction is immense, even in the damp on those aggressively treaded tyres, the explosion forward that occurs when you plant your right foot to the floor being breathtaking. That's what people pay for, the FQ-400's kit much the same as its FQ-360 relative, save for the tweaking under the bonnet and the revisions to the styling. Inside you'll know you're in the FQ-400 thanks to a unique gear knob and model numbered handbrake handle - and the craning necks of bystanders as you drive past.
There's little drama when you start up, none of the commotion you might expect of such a highly tuned engine. Nope, just turn the key and the 2.0-litre settles into a steady idle. It feels much like any other Evolution X pulling away, the lower, stiffer suspension not so focused as to create significant compromises. With anything this potent it's nice to build up to the performance, not least to allow everything to warm up. Heat shimmering from the vents in the bonnet suggests the FQ-400 is warmed through, so I push the accelerator to the bulkhead. The effect is staggering: a slight pause as the turbo spools up then quite ridiculous force as the FQ-400's Toyo tyres dig into the tarmac and time itself is bent with its acceleration. Mitsubishi reckons the FQ-400 will reach 62mph in 3.5 seconds and at times that feels conservative.
Its accelerative brutality is enhanced thanks to its civility when you're driving sensibly. Short shift and the FQ-400 is an easy drive; there's no driveline shunt or jumpy accelerator to contend with, the FQ-400 remarkably docile and comfortable for such a highly tuned machine. Delving into the upper reaches of the rev-counter needle's sweep sees the engine reveal its more maniacal nature, its low-speed docility transforming into barking mad accelerative force when you want it.
Mid-range, the 2.0-litre digs deep, the 387lb.ft maximum torque it delivers coming at 3,500rpm. Keep the turbo spinning and you'll back off before the FQ-400 has run out of accelerative force. It's fearsomely fast, the explosion that happens when you ask for all the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit's force making it about the most accomplished overtaking machine we've ever experienced. Traction is phenomenal, though switch it off and it's easy to spin all four wheels. The steering is nicely weighted and direct, understeer being obvious at first through neutrality and even power oversteer if you keep the accelerator buried. Not much will keep up with an FQ-400 even when driven at two-thirds pace, though you'll pass it easily in the fuel station, the FQ-400's thirst as prodigious as its pace.
The FQ-400 is a seriously specialised Evolution X, the FQ-360 plenty quick enough for most Evo buyers. Indeed, the FQ-300 is more than rapid enough for most and will save you a good chunk of money to buy. That's unlikely to put off the handful of dedicated Lancer Evolution X fans who will put this madcap machine right at the top of their wish list. It'll certainly not disappoint them, though they'll need to be careful if they want to hold onto their driving licences.
Mitsubishi's fastest Lancer Evolution X surprises not just with its bombastic performance, but also its low speed friendliness and ease of use. What Mitsubishi has achieved with just 2.0-litres and a turbocharger is extraordinary. It's one perhaps best left to Evo X fans though, as the 'lesser' cheaper cars bring almost all the performance of the FQ-400 without the added cost.