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Evo X on track. Image by Mitsubishi.

Evo X on track
After our brief introduction to the Evo a few months back we were left wanting more time in it; Mitsubishi obliged.

   



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| First Drive | Prodrive, Warwickshire | Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X range |

Getting behind the wheel of the Evo X has been just about as long and drawn out process as the unveiling. But the Lancer Evolution X has now officially landed and we've been lucky enough to sample the new SST transmission and also the higher output FQ-330 version on a track drive at Prodrive in Warwickshire. Prodrive might be a name more commonly associated with Subaru, so Mitsubishi holding an event there is rather like the time when the Welsh hijacked Wembley to play rugby with the Scots in 1998, but Prodrive's track facilities are perfect for demonstrating the Evo X's abilities.

In the Metal

We were getting rather bored here of seeing the Evo X in concept guise on motor show plinths around the word, so it's refreshing to see it in the metal and in natural light. And it has been well worth the wait. The standard Lancer that it's based on is a good-looking car, but the Evo's added visual aggression gives it the perfect amount of menace without being overtly brash. We'd actually be tempted to remove the rear wing to turn the Evo X into an even more effective Q car. The blistered arches, vented bonnet and front wings, twin tailpipes and the dark front grille look great, but Mitsubishi hasn't just concentrated on the exterior styling. Inside, the interior is a major leap forward; existing Evo owners will be amazed at the improvements in quality and design.

What you get for your Money

The Evo has always been about over-delivering in the performance stakes at sensible prices. This car is no different. The entry-level Evo X GS FQ-300 costs just £27,499 - for a car that's got 290bhp and can sprint to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds. That's quicker than a 911 Carrera. Spend £30,499 for the Evo X GS FQ-330 with 325bhp and that time drops to just 4.4 seconds -around 911 GT3 pace, the FQ-360 with 354bhp not far off the 911 Turbo for sprinting ability with a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds. Remember, that's in a four-door saloon. Factor in an additional £400 if you're buying one with Mitsubishi's MSP, a servicing plan that covers servicing costs for the first three years. While you're at it you might as well blow an extra £2,500 for the GSR spec which comes with a hard-drive satnav system, a 30Gb music server with premium audio and an auxiliary socket among the additional kit. Go for Mitsubishi's trick SST twin-clutch paddle-shift six-speed transmission (only currently offered on the FQ-300 version) and you'll pay £31,999.

Driving it

We've driven the standard FQ-300 on the road already so we blagged some time in both the FQ-300 SST and the FQ-330 around the track. The SST uses a twin-clutch arrangement much like that in VW's DSG transmission, the heinously complicated system effectively pre-selecting the next gear to make for the smoothest and swiftest changes possible. And it works very well indeed. It can be left to its own devices, but where's the fun in that? Shifting yourself is taken care of by large steering column mounted paddles, or by using the gearstick - we can't see why you'd ever want to do so over the paddles. Three shift modes are offered: Normal, Sport and Super Sport. They vary in speed and aggressiveness, Mitsubishi suggesting Super Sport, with its maximum speed changes at 7,000rpm are really best left for the track, though Mitsubishi also highlighted that SST failures due to track use aren't covered by the warranty.

Left to make its own decisions, the SST can be caught out occasionally, but for the majority of the time it's quicker and smoother than a manual-equipped car. Some 70% of customers are said to have opted for it and they won't be disappointed. Clever as the SST is we're big fans of manuals here, and if you're after a FQ-330 or above the SST is unavailable anyway. And the FQ-330 would be our choice. Increasing the power by 29bhp drops the 0-62mph time by 0.3 seconds to 4.4 seconds and adds some fury in the mid-range. The boosted performance has been achieved by improving the engine breathing and fitting a re-programmed ECU.

Like all previous Evos, the new X in either FQ-300 or FQ-330 guise feels sensationally fast; even so, the new car lacks some of the ferocity of the old Evos. It's a friendlier daily driver as a result. The ride is composed, the grip and traction phenomenal and the brakes fade-free even after hard track use. What is obvious, however, is that some of the on-limit playfulness of the previous Evos has been dialled out with the X; it's difficult to adjust its attitude on the throttle like the IX, understeer being the predominant stance when pushed.

Worth Noting

The Evo has grown up a good bit in X guise. Those track day fans of previous generation Evo Xs might find its on-limit behaviour slightly unusual, the old trait of powering through understeer, or a judicious lift to induce a big lairy oversteer slide is very difficult to achieve in the new car. That unquestionably makes it a faster, more effective road car, but there's no doubting the Evo hardcore might not enjoy it as much. Their loss is everyone else's gain though, the Evo X a far more friendly road car. It's remarkable that Mitsubishi can coax 325bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit and make it so tractable and so friendly to drive. The 290bhp of the standard car with the SST transmission is perhaps the best all-rounder though; easy in traffic and quick on the road, yet devastatingly effective on track, too. The perfect car for the Playstation generation who have grown up driving Evos on their parents' TV screens, shifting gears with buttons and now having the cash to buy a real one.

Summary

The Mitsubishi Evo remains a ridiculously competent and wickedly fast road car. However, it's unquestionably matured, Mitsubishi hoping the Evo X will appeal to a wider audience than it has in its previous iterations. New customers will be blown away by the performance, while existing Evo customers will find the vastly improved interior to their liking. Ultimately it is a less hardcore driving experience at it's extreme limits, but still a demonstration that Mitsubishi's engineers laugh in the face of physics; the countless acronym-toting transmission, traction, engine management, stability systems and turbocharged power combining to create one of the most extraordinary performance cars you can buy.

Kyle Fortune - 29 Feb 2008



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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X specifications: (GS FQ-330)
Price: £30,499 on-the-road
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Combined economy: 11.1mpg
Emissions: 257g/km
Kerb weight: 1560kg

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by SMMT.



2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Image by Mitsubishi.
 






 

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