By on November 9, 2006

lancermr06_06.jpgThere’s an industrial road outside Chicago that has more Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions per square mile than anywhere but the factory in Mizushima, Japan. There’s the drag race shop with several 600+hp, carbon- paneled versions vying for space. There’s the tuner shop where literally dozens of Evos flock to dyno. And there’s the rally shop that is widely considered the finest American skunkworks for this type of car. And as I stand in that shop, my own flame-spitting Evo IV rally car sitting on the hoist behind me, I stare at a brand-new charcoal Evo IX MR – the even-higher-performance-spec version – that has only 70 miles on it. And the perfect impression of a tree trunk, molded into the passenger’s side.

The sight is sobering. I mean, I’ve been driving my own Evo on dirt and snow rally roads for years, at speeds regularly over 120mph, and I’ve never hit a tree like this poor schmuck did. But then I’ve been rallying for a long time and have enough stupid crashes on my permanent record to know better than continue down that path (and over the forest and into the tree). Fortunately, there’s another near-new Evo IX MR sitting outside, and the owner foolishly throws me the keys.

lancermr06_inter2.jpgI’m not a boy racer. I’m not even a boy. But boy, the IX MR is quite a car. It’s not particularly elegant; the best you could say is that the fender flares, sharp nose, deep chin, and hard-edged wing make it handsome and sinewy. The interior is downright plain for a $35k sports sedan (OK – the Recaro seats are awesome). Unmodified, it actually sits a little too high on its wheels. Unless you know what it is, you’d probably think this bewinged extrovert is like your little brother: high on bluster but slow on the delivery.

But this is your little brother who becomes the school track star and steals your girlfriend. Specs never tell the whole story, but 286hp, AWD with an active center differential, huge Brembo brakes, and all-aluminum suspension arms make for a good opening paragraph. The story continues when you fire up the 2.0L intercooled turbo engine – in the IX for the first time with variable valve timing – and it settles into a contented purr. It’s not until you really get into the throttle that the thing takes off like a scalded cat, albeit a scalded cat with its claws dug about two feet into the pavement.

lancermr06_07.jpgI can tell you with some authority that this is one of the five best handling cars available in North America. Certainly it is one of two for less than $35k, and it has four doors and a trunk to boot. It’s better than the Subaru WRX STi – tighter, better balanced, transitions faster, feels lighter. The Subaru actually has a better drive layout, with the engine mass lower and the transmission further back, but by sheer bloody-minded suspension engineering the Evo wins hands down.

Yes, the ride is harsh and the appointments spare. But the turn-in is astonishing – sneeze and you’ll change three lanes – and once you’re sliding, you can drift the car in fourth gear, tires smoking, the world coming at you through the side window, correcting with your fingertips. Wanna feel like a superhero? This is your fastest ticket.

Except physics is a hard mistress, and trees are hard objects. Even the Evo can’t give you more run-out room when you simply went in too fast. In fact, it sort of cheats you: it allows you to go so close to the edge – even over the edge – then gather it all up again, time after time. Except that last time when nothing – not your skill, not your pleas to the heavens, and not even the Evo – can save you from being an idiot.

lancermr06_12.jpgAnyway, the IX MR is that kind of car: a machine that goes so bloody quick so bloody easily that thoughts of death are necessary to prevent its occurrence. And no wonder: the IX MR is an evolution of an earlier Lancer and, before that, the Galant VR4 of the early 1990s. The Evo is, essentially, a Japanese Porsche 911, constantly honed with one thing in mind: dominant performance for a given drive layout. It’s amazing that a company still struggling to find its place in the North American market can produce a single model that is so focused, desirable and damn near perfect that they hardly need to market it. 

And so, after having driven perhaps a dozen Evos in anger over the last few years, there’s a new Evo IX RS – the even-lighter-weight version – sitting in my shop, taunting me, about to be built into my next rally car. So much for trying not to be an idiot.

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40 Comments on “Mitsubishi Evo IX MR Review...”


  • avatar

    This will probably be my next car….

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    The closest I get to this is a friend had an STI that he wants me to buy because he has a son who is fast approaching driving age. He wants me to buy it so he can still come here to drive it occasionally, but the boy can’t. I might do it too. The Evo and the STI are thoroughbreds; the STI is a wonderful car… except…
    1 – It is ugly in the extreme.
    2 – It gets lousy gas mileage, worse if u drive in the manner it is intended to be driven
    3 – Insurance is expensive.

    Nevertheless, it is a blast to drive even at slow speeds. And having all that uumph at your beck and call is exhilarating. He even swapped the obnoxious flying wing for the more sedate WRX one. It’s a cool car, like the Evo. I understand the attraction to these machines. I would probably take it to a rally. God help me.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    The Evo is more focused that the STI, but the STI is widely considered the more liveable car for daily use. The Evo doesn’t even have cruise control! And order the STI in Spec. B form and it almost looks like something a grown-up wouldn’t mind being caught driving.

    It all comes down to what you use the car for and/or how hardcore you are.

  • avatar

    Great review, ACR! And my sympathies to the owner of the charcoal Evo IX MR with the dent in the side.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I really want the wagon, which will probably never hit US shores. Yes, I’m a broken record. There are about a half dozen cars I like, but just won’t consider because I really have that much need for SUV space with car dynamics. I love DIY and sedans just don’t cut it (easily).

    I thinks it’s kind of funny and ironic that two of the hands-down best performers at any price are small 4-door sedans. You would THINK that somebody would offer a 2-door coupe with even more superior performance. I’m curious to see if the new 4-door R32 closes the gap at all. IMO, that’s always been the car you choose if you want 90% of the performance and 200% the “liveable quality” vs. the STI or Evo.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    ash78: absolutely, I have a 4 dr VW Golf now – it is a blast to drive, great chassis, can haul stuff easily. A good combination.

    Claude Dickson: Yes, i’ve seen it, it looks less boy racer. i await the next gen STI, supposedly a hatchback ala VW.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    I was in the market for an R32 (2004) and I really wanted to like it, because obviosly it is the least obnoxious looking of the trio, and the seats are awesome… but it just wasn’t in the same performance league with the STi and Evo. I ended up going with the STi. I got over it’s ugliness at about 5000 rpms.

    The Evo and the STi to be pretty neck and neck, it just comes down to personal preference. I wish I had those Evo Recaros though.

    And I wish it was a wagon. Damn you Subaru.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Hutton
    The R32 really just needs a stock supercharger and to add $3,500 to the price and I think it would remain competitive. It’s hard to overcome that insane ~3,200# curb weight. But man, that interior, those seats…

  • avatar
    Hutton

    It’s a nice car for sure… I just think VW convinced themselves that they aren’t in a performance competition with Subaru or Mitsubishi because of the R32 subdued looks, excellent interior, and more liveable ride. Much to their dismay, I think most people cross-shopped them anyway and found the VW to come up short. The R32 is fast. But the STi and Evo are scary.

    The Haldex system in the R32 is also not really a high performance system. It’s front biased, like the Mazdaspeed 6.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Also, why wouldn’t Mitsubishi take all this technology and shove it in the Eclipse?

  • avatar
    phil

    andrew, very nice write up. i’m curious to know which cars you think are the other best handling cars in north america.

  • avatar

    I drove an Evo VIII and a STI back-to-back a couple of years ago, and don’t entirely agree with the convetional wisdom that the Subaru is more livable. At least not with the circa-2004 cars.

    The Mitsubishi did react more sharply to bumps. But the STI had a bouncing motion over highway expansion joints that would drive me insane if experienced for more than a few minutes. The Evo did not have this problem–much less body motion despite the sharper reactions.

    Both cars are very loud inside. The 2007 STI Limited is supposed to address this potential issue.

    Turn-in was much quicker with the Mitsubishi, while the Subaru had far more low-end torque. Buckets of it.

    The main problem I had with the Mitsubishi was the interior, which is too cheap even for a $15,000 car. The next gen Lancer/Evo probably won’t have this problem.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I will be watching the 2007 NAIAS closely. The more or less production version of the new Lancer and Evo X will be there. This is the car I’m most interested in owning next, a picture of the concept is on my wall in my office now (or if Mistu would make it the Sportback concept from Frankfurt 2005). It has everything performance, handling, looks and practicality.

    I looked at an Evo IX before I bought my RX8. Performance wise nothing else beats the Evo in its price range; it’s a beast as well as being practical. It just looks so dated and so cheap both inside an out. Mistu might loose some of the faithful with the new Evo X but they will gain many more who would never have bought one to begin with. It’s going to be some good times for performance cars in the next few years.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    that Sportback concept would be killer.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    What’s the purpose of those fins at the top back of the roof on the IX MR? I was next to one (in stop and go traffic) the other night and got a good look at them. Great exhaust sound, esp. for a 4 cylinder.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    As a previous owner of an STi, I can attest to the fact that it is a more liveable daily driver. The performance is incredible. I agree that these cars are as quick as any sold here. Great cars.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Bfg9k

    They are called Vortex Generators and are there to provide greater downforce to the back of the car, specifically the back glass. You may also notice a small flap on the wing of an MR which also is to provide more stable handling at high speeds.

    If Mistu had just dropped a body similar to an A4, 330 or even a legacy on the chasis and cleaned up the interior I would have bought one.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    bfg9k: What’s the purpose of those fins at the top back of the roof?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vortex_generator

  • avatar
    ash78

    And the rear wing can accommodate a block of Havarti, a box of Kavli, 8oz of sliced Prosciutto, and a fine bottle of Cote du Rhone. You have to keep your target market in mind.

  • avatar

    Andy Carter: This will probably be my next car…
    Do it! If you go through South Coast Mitsubishi, you can get an MR for under 34k.

    I don’t regret for a second buying my MR, despite the horrible interior and even worse mileage; it got me onto the track, where my mileage is about 4.5mpg.
    As ash78 mentions, the wing is often referred to as the “picnic table” by some of us. The car is just so astounding, day in and day out, that driving anything else now feels like utter garbage. Thanks a lot, Mitsubishi!
    I think you should have mentioned the low cost of modifications too: 4-6k will get you at least 150hp over stock!
    Also, in case anyone is curious, the shop mentioned in the article is AMS- home of the 1100hp drag evo.

  • avatar
    Andrew Comrie-Picard

    I agree the wagon is ludicrously desireable – as much for the unobtainability as the possibility of all-wheel drifts with boxes of groceries.

    Livability is all relative. I used to daily-drive a car with no insulation, no heater, and a roll cage. You make compromises for the ones you love.

    As to the five best-handling, in no order: Evo, STi, Elise, M3, Cayman S, Z06. Yes I know that’s six. Granted I have never driven an S7, Koennniggseggerater, or a Veyron. I did touch all three in quick succession recently and enjoyed a certain _frisson_. I’ll keep an open mind if anyone wants to lend one.

    ACP

  • avatar
    eslai

    If they’d just wrap this car in a sexy package, I’d have bought one years ago. :(

  • avatar
    Jim H

    We only live once…and hopefully for a long, enjoyable life. If you haven’t had the chance to either drive or own an STI or EVO, get out there and live a little. :) I test drove and STI and was actually a bit frightened by the power…so I toned it down to the Legacy Spec-b…phenominal car, incredibly refined, yet still a sports-sedan (if you believe in such a thing!). I haven’t read much about the 2007 spec-b, but if you have the chance to buy/drive a 2006 spec-b, I highly recommend it. I haven’t enjoyed driving a car this much since I first learned at 16.

  • avatar
    JJ

    The Haldex system in the R32 is also not really a high performance system. It’s front biased

    Exactly, but the Audi S3 isn’t. It has the same engine as the GTI, but then tuned to 265 HP and quattro AWD…

    What’s more, rumour has it that there’s going to be an RS3 as well, with a supercharged R32 engine and approximately 350 HP.

    Don’t know if it will be shipped to the US though, it will be one expensive “little” car.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    JJ: Exactly, but the Audi S3 isn’t. It has the same engine as the GTI, but then tuned to 265 HP and quattro AWD…

    For it’s price, that’s the configuration the A3 should have. The S3 is likely going to be over $40K, and with 265hp, probably won’t perform as well as the Scooby or Mitsu. (I know the numbers don’t always tell the story, but it seems like a fair assumption) Yes, the interior will be gorgeous, but that’s not enough to earn my extra $10k.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Between your review of the Evo IX and Lieberman’s review of the Audi RS4, this would certainly put a reader in a bind. What should one spend their hard earned dollars on, Violence reincarnated as a family sedan, or The Sum of All Physics reincarnated as a family sedan?

    Also, why wouldn’t Mitsubishi take all this technology and shove it in the Eclipse?

    Mitsubishi fans have been asking that question ever since they yanked it out of the Eclipse in 2000.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Terrific review, and there’s no one better qualified to write it.
    Good luck at Tall Pines!

  • avatar

    Stout car and definitely a respectable piece of machinery. It is probably more fair to compare the MR to the WRX STi with a SPT suspension upgrade, but there is no arguing that the consensus is EVO IX out of the box, as far as handling is concerned. Sadly, I haven’t ever gotten the chance to drive one. Enjoy that RS. I would be curious to see how a factory RS would stack up to a US spec(2.5L) STi Spec C, though we will probably not ever get the opportunity. Either way, I have been the in the AWD turbo fanclub for a while now and have no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

  • avatar
    Andrew Comrie-Picard

    AWD turbos I know something of. I have the 1996 Escort Cosworth in my shop I rallied this summer, I’m still recovering from the Lancia Delta Integrale I borrowed in June, and just yesterday I was bombing around in an R32 Skyline AWD. I’ve even driven a Group B Audi Quattro in anger.

    And the Evo – _any_ Evo – is lengths better than any of them. The main problem is that the only place for me to really enjoy it is on the rally course. So I drive a 1988 Saab. Hey – you feel like you’re going pretty fast just keeping up with traffic…

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Nice piece indeed this is. I loved the mention in the lead of the tree impression in the door – that’s speaking literally, I assume. It seems the thing that some people forget, when coming to either the Mistubishi Evo or the Subaru WRX STi, after playing with them, only in a figurative sense, via a computer screen, is the fact that in real life, there is no reset button. Would that there were.

  • avatar

    Collision Losses:

    http://www.iihs.org/brochures/ictl/pdf/ictl_0906.pdf

    Average normalized to 100.

    1. Evo: 428
    2. M3: 291
    3. SRT-4: 284

    It appears they should offer free driver training with the Evo.

  • avatar
    LastResort

    As they say, AWD just gets you to the scene of the accident faster.

  • avatar
    pharmer

    I’m not an owner of either an Evo or an STI. I always found the styling of both to be way too extroverted for me.

    That said, both are clearly amazing cars. Even the most jaded enthusiast has to admit that. I recently was next to an STI with an aftermarket exhaust at a stoplight, and the sounds that car made were intoxicating. There is nothing like the lumpy exhaust note of a flat engine.

    It’s a great time to be into performance cars, that much is certain. The rivalry between the STI and Evo is a great one…

  • avatar
    blautens

    If only I could squeeze my frame (painlessly) in and out of one….*sigh*

  • avatar
    finger

    Evo is the epitome of ugliness. Can’t wait to see one drive by with coffee can exhaust and 10,000 watt stereo thumping the drivers’ slicked back head.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    ^Ugly on the surface, yes. But there’s a beauty in its’ purity. When you see an Evo, you know the person behind the wheel is in love with driving. You don’t buy it for status, for comfort, or for economy. You buy one of these cars because you just love driving, and the incredible feel you get from a balls-out, batshit insane feat of engineering. Nothing ugly about that my friend.

    p.s.. owners of $35k rally-bred performance cars probably aren’t that eager to infect them with pep-boys mods, or the weight penalty of a big stereo.

  • avatar

    Wow, first off great article. Basically glorifing (and making me more envious) of my #1 and #2 realistic dream car.

  • avatar

    The thing is, with the STI (and I’m sure the Evo as well) about a grand or so of mods will boost the performance considerably. Now that’s scary (and fun).

  • avatar
    gderian

    I have a EVO 8 RS. I have owned all kinds of cars before this car (Porsche, VW, Audi, Mercedes, GM/Ponitac, Isuzu, an other Mitsubishi, and a Chrysler), and all I can say is … I LOVE MY EVO.

    I love this car so much, I can’t wait to up every morning and drive it to work. I wish there was a mountain between my home and office.

    I must admit, I am a automotive enthusiast and enjoy sport over comfort. But even if you only compare the EVO to other pure sports cars, there is no comparison.

    The only time I will get another car is replace this one with a new EVO.

    I think my wife will burry me in my EVO, which is fine by me.


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