Let me be frank: I’m not a very good driver. Now, I don’t mean that I careen from lamppost to lamppost like a drunken pinball, nor that I have to spend my afternoons picking teeth out of the bumper and pressure-washing old-ladies and kittens out of the undercarriage; no, I’m merely pointing out that I’m not a racecar driver in real life, only on the podium of my own imagination.
I’ve had some professional driver training, so I know how to position a seat, how to set my mirrors, how to use peripheral vision, how to look through the corners and so on, but the fact remains that my driving skills are fairly average. At best.
My fingers are of purest butter. When clenched, they form fists of finest Virginia ham. My right foot is composed of an amalgam of the entire bottom row of the periodic table of the elements, alloyed with lead for extra heft. All these appendages are fastened by spindly arms and legs to a buffoon with a block of wood for a head and a pea-sized amount of cotton wool for a brain.
Luckily, none of these considerable drawbacks matter, because I am currently the greatest driver in the history of the universe, better than Senna, better than Vittel, better than Zaphod Beeblebrox. Ladies and gentleman, the Mitsubishi EVO.
…and in the next breath, the Subaru STi. One cannot be mentioned without the other: they are as Yin-and-Yang intertwined in the pantheon of petrosexuality as Nissan would love you to think that the GTR and the Porsche 911 are. While both are all-wheel-drive, turbo-nutter rally cars that probably won’t see gravel until their second round of ownership, the similarity pretty much ends right there.
EVOs and STis are like cats and dogs. The Subaru has the feel of a big friendly golden retriever, always happy to see you and go out for a nice long muddy run, preferentially mostly sideways. The EVO, on the other hand, grips with catlike precision as though equipped with retractable claws, and has a not-quite-bred-out killer-instinct on the track. The metaphor extends to their owners as well: Subaru fans are always waving to each other and hanging around together in car parks, and Mitsubishi enthusiasts live by themselves and have no friends. Only joking.
Sort of. Forgetting which car I was in, I saluted a fellow Subaru owner (yes, I’ve got one myself), and received an icy staredown as though I’d flashed a rival gang sign, or perhaps the sign-language for, “I cordially invite you to have intimate relations with your maternal ancestors.” Oops.
Which is best? Don’t be ridiculous. One might as well ask which is better: the colour blue, or potato chips? Potato chips, obviously, but when we start discussing cars this capable, it’s all going to boil down to taste; which brings us, rather long-windedly, to the styling…
Vader drives a GNX, right? Well, if a Grand National shows up with a bunch of white EVOs in tow, better get ready to clutch your wrist-stump and leap down an airshaft: this thing’s pure stormtrooper helmet. Or actually, the grille looks like the facemask of one of those ornery sandpeople.
Either way, it’s a great-looking rig. I took it over to the in-laws to ensure that they disapproved (mission accomplished) and my mother-in-law remarked that it looked unfinished. I think it’s the best-looking thing Mitsubishi’s ever built. You wanna talk unfinished? Check out the interior.
I had a chance to drive a base Lancer immediately prior to snagging the keys to the EVO, and found it to be the biggest heap of crap since Hercules bunged out the Aegean stables. No small part of the excrescence was down to the feeble interior design and this thing’s the same plastic-fantastic wonderland of dodgy build quality. Mitsubishi might as well have left a post-it note on the dash that says, “We saved money here.”
Exception: the seats. Gott in Himmel, the seats! I haven’t been ensconced so comfortably and comprehensively since I was in utero. There’s no height adjustment, and certainly no power functions, but they are possibly the best thrones ever. Why? Because race car.
Oh yes, now it’s on to the good stuff. “Horse and rider as one,” that’s the Mazda credo, yes? Well, imagine if you somehow managed to get a saddle strapped on to a panther without having your head bitten off. A telepathic panther.
To an amateurish driver, the EVO is a revelation, and that’s compared to my own fully-fettled 330hp WRX (uh, long-term-tester) in the driveway. You don’t steer the EVO, you think it.
How the Hell they managed to build Rikki-Tikki-Tavi out of the wallowing dugong that is the base Lancer, I’ll never know. You can’t sow a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but apparently you can make a running shoe out of pigskin.
It’s not just mongoose reflexes either. The EVO pivots and shifts and rotates and generally flatters you into thinking you’re Stig Blomqvist. Or maybe even The Stig. Some say, it’s all electronic trickery, and that the chances of anyone actually needing to engage the “gravel” function on the Super-All Wheel Control are as slim as that of being able to talk your way out of a speeding ticket in a car with fender gills, three holes in the hood and a whacking great wing. All we know is: it’s a bloody good time.
Admittedly, the 2.5L flat-four in the STi has a bit more grunt down low, but the Mitsu has no problem spooling its big turbine. What’s more, the EVO’s big front-mount intercooler doesn’t get heat-soaked, meaning that playing in traffic is just as much fun as Mom told you it wouldn’t be.
There’s a certain amount of roughness to the surge of power and, apocryphally, I’ve heard that the factory tune on the car is pretty wonky on the air-fuel ratios. Still, it’s a fast, fast car, and like the Nissan GT-R, is even faster if you’re a bit of a Fisty Rocks.
Try haring around the Nürburgring in a Viper ACR and my lap time would be DNF: DOA. Inevitably, I’d become a four micron thick and forty meter long streak of reddish brown drying on the Armco. In an EVO, I’d be lapping some silly upper-class twit in a M3.
And here we come at last to our hero’s Achilles’ heel: cost. For the price of this entry-model GSR ($46,348CDN – that’s a lotta seal-pelts), I could be driving a a very nicely-equipped 3-series sedan. Upgrade to the MR and suddenly you’re talking 335i Coupe territory, even more so as the Bimmer’s bound to have cheap leasing options.
Show up for a date with a roundel on your bonnet, and you’re going to win points. Screech to a halt in a pearl-white EVO and she’s unlikely to be impressed, unless she has a complete collection of illegally dubbed Initial-D and plays a lot of Forza. In which case: MARRY THAT WOMAN.
More housekeeping items: the fuel economy is appallingly dismal; bad enough that you half-expect to receive a handwritten thank-you note from the leaders of OPEC. I also found it tricky to heel-and-toe downshift as the accelerator pedal is somewhat recessed. And when you turn down the (inevitably) thumping hippity-hop on the stereo, the tinny cabin of the EVO fills with the toneless, thrumming base of an full-volume amp with an unplugged patchcord.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I. Don’t. Care.
As for me, well, I’m as pale as the driven soap flakes and have a shock of ginger hair, so piloting a white EVO ’round China-town while blasting Canto-pop and sipping bubble tea was as immersive as backpacking through Tibet or whatever else we white people are supposed to like. I even gave my best Russell Peters to a guy who cut me off: “Go to jail badboy!”
This is the EVO’s best trick yet. Whenever I slid over the bolsters, settled myself in driving position and cranked the starter, a little frisson of excitement shivered up the driving column and out through the steering wheel into my fingertips. The most mundane and humdrum of driving errands are made interesting. It may be chock-full of driving aids, but you are never less than fully-engaged.
The EVO’s full-moon lunacy is on the wane: Mitsubishi turns towards the all-electric i-MiEV as a halo car, and away from inefficient speed machines. It’s a great car. Drive it while you can.
Mitsubishi provided the car and insurance for this review.