By on September 7, 2012

Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport

Reviewing a car a week, and dispatching the great majority as boring (if not in so few words), I begin to wonder whether I’m pursuing some fantastical ideal. Perhaps the concepts of communicative steering, a connection with the car, and a visceral driving experience are just something I have in my head? Can they actually exist in the real world? As the weeks roll on, one begins to have doubts. Then fate places a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR in the driveway.

I hadn’t requested the Evo because the car hasn’t changed since I last reviewed one (with a little help from RF) over four years ago. Moreover, Brendan brilliantly reviewed a GSR last fall. But the car I was scheduled to have was pulled, and the fleet company asked if I’d be up for an Evo MR as a replacement. Would !? I already knew how it would drive, but who turns down a week with an Evo?

Warning: not an ordinary car

Well, my wife would. As she put it, “I have had quieter, more relaxing rides in the back seat of an airplane.” And she hates flying. Judging from the Evo’s firm Recaro seats, firmer ride, ever-present exhaust boom, and 1990s econo-car interior, one might think Mitsubishi did nothing to make the car suitable for daily driving. Those of us who’ve driven a previous generation Evo know better. Compared to earlier Evos, this one’s actually livable, at least for people who value the things the car does well. (Especially since it doesn’t have a ridiculous wing on the back.)

Almost elegant from this angle

The Evo X does do some things very well. Last time around I drove the Evo GSR, which has a five-speed manual transmission. This time it was the MR, with a six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (“SST” in Mitsubishi parlance—we badly need a single, concise, widely recognized term for these things). In the two-pedal car, the powertrain feels even more aggressive. It’s always ready to jump into attack mode. There’s some lag from a dead stop, but once rolling, you’re apt to get a stronger response than you were seeking. In these economy- and-refinement-minded times, this is not a common occurrence. I’ve driven plenty of cars that didn’t feel as strong as their specs suggested they should have. Though the Evo pairs a no-longer-so-impressive 291 horsepower with a 3,600-pound curb weight, it’s not one of those cars. The heated driving experience exceeds the cold, hard numbers. It’s not just the quickness. It’s the immediacy.

The SST doesn’t snap off shifts quite as quickly as VW’s DSG, with a brief pause to let the engine relax instead of yanking it down, but it reacts instantaneously to your right foot, perhaps even to your brain waves. Decelerate for a turn, and it automatically steps down through the gears, so the right one will be there the instant you need it. If you feel the need to employ the lovely column-mounted magnesium paddles, you’re just not thinking clearly enough. Choose from normal, sport, and super sport modes to vary the height of the boil at which the transmission keeps the angry hair dryer under the hood.

291 horsepower from 2.0 liters

Of course, you can get far more bang for your buck in a Mustang. The Evo isn’t primarily about going fast in a straight line. It’s about handling. Not the sort of light, balanced, intuitive handling you’ll find in the best sports cars. The car is too hefty and nose-heavy for that, and the Evo even feels more than a little out of sorts in casual driving. But get jiggy with wheel and pedals, and the Evo’s hyper-sophisticated electronically-modulated all-wheel-drive system comes into play, tweaking the car into a seemingly perfect line. Wondering what car reviewers are looking for when they criticize the steering in, well, everything? This is it, firm, direct, quick, and communicative.

Much better than an Evo IX!

The harder you drive the Evo, the better it feels, and the better you feel…as long as you ignore the fuel economy readout. Economy isn’t one of the SST’s modes. The EPA rates the Evo MR at 17 MPG in city driving, and 22 on the highway. You can moderately exceed these numbers if you drive the Evo like you would a Prius. But why would you do that? Drive the Evo in the suburbs without a concern for gas mileage and mid-teens happen. Drive it like you stole it and the digits become singular.

Common sight

I hadn’t driven a Subaru WRX since that car was tweaked in response to widespread complaints for the 2009 model year. While the STI is a more direct competitor to the Evo, the Mitsubishi’s $38,490 price tag ($40,785 as tested with nav) raises the question of how much you’d really be giving up with a sub-$30,000 Subaru.

Eye of the beholder

Well, you’d be giving up nearly everything that makes the Evo an Evo. The WRX is about as quick, but even with the 2009 tweaks, it remains a far softer, less immediately responsive, less communicative, considerably less visceral car. The Subaru doesn’t beg to be flogged the way the Evo does. It’s happy to relax and go with the (traffic) flow. It’s cushier, roomier, and has a rear seat that folds to expand a larger trunk. If Subaru offered one with an automatic, my wife could drive it without complaint—and even without realizing its performance potential. For a reminder of what’s missing from nearly every car sold today, we still need the Evo.

Mitsubishi provided the Evo MR with insurance and a quickly depleted tank of gas.

Rory Williams of Dwyer and Sons Surbaru in West Bloomfield, MI, provided the slightly pre-owned WRX. He can be reached at 248-295-2082.

Michael Karesh operates truedelta.com, a provider of car reliability and pricing information.

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73 Comments on “Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR...”


  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Gimmie the Subaru any day, it’s fun that won’t turn to frustration when on a settle around town cruise.

    Does the MR use the EVO X’s engine and turbo or something else?
    It looks sorta cool without the spoiler, but I’d rather not have the “face” of some grocery getter SUV on a sports-sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      The GSR and MR have the same engine, but the MR has upgraded wheels, brakes, and dampers. I didn’t drive the two remotely back-to-back, so I cannot report how much difference the brakes and dampers make.

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        “Styled to resemble an Outlander Sport”, are you sure?
        Evo X is older so it’s vice versa at least per wikipedia:
        “Outlander GT Prototype with a front grille based on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, was exhibited at the 2009 New York International Auto Show,[16] and formed the basis of the facelifted model introduced in late 2009.[17]“

      • 0 avatar

        It was a joke, picking on what happens when you take cues from one of your good cars and apply them to one of your not-so-good ones.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      The 2008 vintage Lancer donated its front styling to the 2011 Outlander and Outlander Sport/RVR.

      Not really sure how it’s different from the BMW X5, X3 and X1 having the “legendary” dual-kidney grille, the Audi Q5 and Q7 having the massive, gaping maw from their sedan models, or the Chevrolet Equinox having the Cruze-alike front end it possesses. Yet Mitsubishi committed a cardinal sin by endowing their vehicles (which, by the way, share many components) with similar styling cues over several model years.

      Also, the interior really isn’t that bad. I honestly don’t understand the constant carping. It’s not en-vogue cushy like the current (much newer design) Focus, Cruze, or Elantra. It is easily a match for the quality and build of the current, 2008-vintage Corolla and better than the current, 2008-vintage Sentra. In quality, it matched the 2007-vintage Civic (without the ridiculous layout and gee-whiz electronic screens for major gauges), and the Civic has actually declined in tactile quality since its 2011 redesign.

      Again, Mitsubishi is harped on because of the “terrible” quality of the interior. Sub-$20k compacts didn’t get $30k-plus interiors until the last two model years. I don’t understand why this, an older design, is constantly panned because of the interior quality. The 2011 Ford Crown Victoria didn’t have an interior befitting a $30k near-luxury sedan, either. Because it wasn’t designed to 2011 levels in 1999, when it was last redesigned.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Manic: So technically it still stems from the Outlander, atleast its prototype.

        At Klap: I never signled out Mitsubishi with my complaint, be it BMW, Ford, Infinti, VW, Mazda, I never cared for the idea of sticking the same front and ends on every car in a line-up.

        Yes car companies should have some similar styling cues amongst their line-ups, but we really don’t need sports cars sharing the same front ends that you’ll find on economy hatchbacks.

        For the record, BMW and Audi are some of the worst offenders in my book.

      • 0 avatar

        It also hurts that the interior was designed for a sub-$20,000 car, and this one’s over $40,000.

        What’s different about the front end in this case is that the grille strongly implies a massive amount of power under the hood. Warranted and even functional with the Evo, ludicrous with the Outlander Sport.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Having owner a Kalapana Black 2004 Lancer Sportback, I can attest that this interior is worlds better than what it was. The only difference inside, I believe, between my lowly wagon and that gen Evo was the Recaro seats. Oh how I wanted those seats, as the basic seats were easily the worst I’ve had in any car. All the hard plastic blacked-out switch blanks in my car had switches in the Evo, about the only other difference.

        The newer interiors, while not world beating by any stretch, are so much better. The worst part of the car was the interior, everything else worked fine until it was totaled by a rear-end collision at 75k.

        I’d buy an Evo, but at 40k, it’s not going to happen.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I have always found the Evo to be better-looking than the WRX, but the difference is striking now. Much, much better without the wing.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      You wouldn’t believe the flame wars on the Evo boards over the wing/no wing debate. The wing does add downforce at speeds over 90 MPH, so unless you track the car it’s pretty much an adornment. I’ve always thought the MR gives a slightly more grown-up appearance to the vehicle. Go for the leather interior and nav system and you get a sports sedan that rivals the German monsters in performance and features (but admittedly far less refinement) for tens of thousands of dollars less.

      • 0 avatar

        The MR didn’t feel too out of place in the pick up lane at my kids’ school. I would have felt uncomfortably self-conscious performing the same task in the car with the wing. Perhaps the problem is with me, not the wing? Do I need to embrace my inner 16-year-old?

        I wouldn’t mind the large wing if it were detachable. Though I guess there’d then be the problem of safely storing it when not driving the car somewhere the wing made sense.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      But the wing is functional on both cars. I don’t understand how people could be so shy. When you drive a sports car or ride a sports bike- people are going to look at you. Let them stare. Let them snicker. You’re the one having all the fun. You don’t have to apologize for enjoying your life.

      • 0 avatar

        If it’s only functional at a speed I hardly ever drive, then it’s not very functional.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        The problem with being stared at — and a car with a ginormous wing does indeed draw stares — is that the attention is rarely of the good kind. Police instantly judge you and give you no benefit of a doubt for traffic enforcement, the Fast and Furious crowd rev their Civic’s engines and want to race you at stop lights, and your car draws attention from thieves when it’s parked on the street or in a mall.

        Walk softly and carry a big stick, said Teddy Roosevelt. The Evo is a big stick, and advertising it with the wing in everyday driving is asking for trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        Buckshot

        If people are too shy to show that they have a fast car; How come there is no shortage of cars with 40 profile tires or lower? You don´t have any use for race spec wheels, unless you drive like a maniac.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Interesting review. It’s rare to read a TTAC review with such superlatives, although obviously this car is all about the drivetrain and suspension.

    But with Mitsubishi’s US fortunes fading fast, I’d really hesitate to buy one. Besides, they won’t sell many at $38k a pop.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    ” This time it was the MR, with a six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (“SST” in Mitsubishi parlance—we badly need a single, concise, widely recognized term for these things). ”

    We have a term for this – “automatic transmission”. If it doesn’t have a clutch pedal and can shift for itself, it’s an automatic. I don’t care if it uses a torque converter, fluid clutch, rubber band, mechanical actuator or trained gerbils, it’s an automatic, flappy paddles or no.

    I prefer the involvement of shifting for myself. I don’t care if it is slower, my butt-dyno is not that finely calibrated and there is nothing so rewarding as a perfectly excecuted manual shift up or down.

    • 0 avatar

      I generally prefer a manual myself, but as automatics go this one’s perhaps the best I’ve experienced. That the Evo’s manual is only a five speed with a short top gear would make the choice between them all the harder. Compared to the SST, the manual was clearly an afterthought.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      “I prefer the involvement of shifting for myself”

      DSG/SST transmissions give you that option.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        No it doesn’t. You pull a lever, and the electronics do it all for you. There is absolutely no skill involved, and no reward for getting it right. The computer gets it right every single time. This is great if you are in an F1 race, not so great if you actually enjoy the skills aspect of driving.

        It may well be that this is the very best automatic transmission invented to date by man, but I don’t care. Unless I lose my left leg and/or right arm in a tragic accident, I prefer the DIY approach. And this is not even considering the cost aspects of automatic transmissions, which I consider to be a nice bonus.

        I do think the magic automatic fits with the whole ethos of this car though – the electronics do it all for you, minimal actual driver skill needed. It’s quite literally the poor mans GTR. Though I suspect that at the ragged edge this car will bite you HARD.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        I used to have that attitude as well — manual transmissions über alles — but having lived with a DSG equipped R32 and now a GTI, I have to say that my mind has been changed. My Evo VIII had a manual five speed, but the VWs have been so good that I wouldn’t hesitate to get an Evo X with their SST automated transmission. As Michael notes, it’s arguably the best of the best and those who run it on the track in sport mode find it brings better lap times than a manual. Around town in daily driving they still shine as you slip it into D and let the car do the work as your left knee thanks you.

        I thought I would feel disassociated with the driving experience, but I don’t. These dual clutch things are brilliant and let you concentrate on steering and braking. And this comes after thirty continuous years of driving manually equipped cars.

        Try one, khrodes1, you just might like it.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You know what is even easier than giving up shifting to a computer? Just staying still at the start-finish line. Lap times only matter if you’re racing. Otherwise the point is to be making the effort and reeping the reward of job well done.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        @krhodes: well in that case why don’t you rail against automatic advance distributors? Do you want to go back to driving a car with a manually advanced distributor like back in the 1930′s? How about non synchronized crash boxes? Do you clamor for that too? Now that takes real skills to get just right!

        I learned to double-clutch (real double-clutching, not just rev-matching) at age 15. I’ve never driven a stick shift car without doing it because it’s become a habit. Frankly I find it to be a real chore. I can’t wait till this medievel relic dies off. Pointless labor is just that- pointless.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Leek

        Tried several. The DSG is a BRILLIANT automatic, but it is still an automatic. I get a great deal of pleasure out of properly operating a manual transmission. This is lost with an automatic, thus I do not like them. And as I said, the cost savings of a manual is a nice bonus.

        I have an interesting real-life experiment going on in my circle of friends. My best friend and his wife bought his and hers TDIs this summer. His is a Jetta with 6spd stick, hers is a Golf with DSG. They both have 110 mile per day commutes, and he kept his last TDI to 300K and plans to do the same with both of these – let’s see which car is cheaper over that span. He gets 5mpg better than she does, identical commute – they work at the same office, but different schedules.

        @IceMilkCoffee

        I learned to drive (at age 12 or so) on a RHD diesel Series Landrover with un-syncro’d 1st and 2nd and mostly dead syncros on the other two. And I have held a CDL and chauffeur (bus) license in the past. I can double-clutch just fine, thank you very much, and do so on a daily basis just because it is FUN. And my Alfa Spider appreciates it. Your point is?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      “We have a term for this – “automatic transmission”. If it doesn’t have a clutch pedal and can shift for itself, it’s an automatic. I don’t care if it uses a torque converter, fluid clutch, rubber band, mechanical actuator or trained gerbils, it’s an automatic, flappy paddles or no.”

      Amen. There is no shame in driving an automatic, but there is shame in claiming it is something that it isn’t. It is right up there with bragging about the good time you gave your hand last night.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        However, given the vast difference in driving experience between a torque converter automatic and some sort of automated clutch automatic, isn’t it worth mentioning which type of automatic we’re talking about?

        Admittedly my personal experience with the automated clutch automatic is limited to a long weekend driving Ford’s “powershift” DCT in the current Focus, but if that’s the comparison, I’d rather have a torque converter automatic any day (if I can’t have a manual).

        I understand, but only from reading, that my reaction might be different if the reference point was the VAG DCT . . . at least until I got the repair bill when the whole business grenaded at 60K miles. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Agreed on the technicality that Torque Converter, DSG, CVT are all broadly “Automatics”.

        But I also believe distinctions should be made as to what TYPE of Auto. For example, (if I were ever in the market for an automatic) I INSIST to know if said “automatic” is a CVT. Therefore I will steer clear and buy a DCT or a torque converter with good FE.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      “You pull a lever, and the electronics do it all for you.” Yes, but YOU decide WHEN to pull the lever, that’s the point IMO. With manual gearbox you can additionally chose to go from 3rd to 5th, yes, but is this really important, same with clutch, you can let it slip but you probably would prefer not to. I’ve had may first non-manual (DSG) car now for 1,5 years, after 18 years of all kind of manuals and really, it’s not bad at all.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You don’t control anything. You make a request and the computer decides whether and when to grant it. Most will over-ride whatever you do, should the computer determine an upshift or downshift is preferable to what you want. That never happens with a manual transmission. What you have is an automatic transmission and some extra switches.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        The only thing the computer decides to prevent is over-revving the engine. In 4th and bouncing off the rev limiter? In sport mode it will bump you up a gear. In 6th and pull the lever three times to go to 3rd? It will only go as low as the engine revs allow, perhaps stopping at 4th. It really isn’t intrusive at all. In manual mode, you are almost entirely in control, save the above. Shifts are smoother, faster, and allow you to concentrate on your line and your environment.

        Honestly, I don’t understand the vitriol associated with these transmissions. We don’t have chokes or crank start our cars anymore, and most of don’t roll up our windows without a button. Technology moves on.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      You guys may not like it, but an “automated dual clutch manual transmission” is simply NOT an automatic. We DO have terms for them, you guys are just mis-using the terms. An automatic transmission does not have a clutch, thats what makes it an automatic, they use torque converters. So, to simplify it for you, if it doesnt have a torque converter and has a clutch, then it isnt an automatic.

      What you all are describing is the manual clutch, and you prefer to do the clutching yourself. Which I get, I have a DSG and I do prefer the feel of performing the clutch work myself. I understand why you prefer it. If I could buy it over again, I would have bought a regular manual GTI. But still, I do like the ease of use and better performance of my DSG, my car is simply faster and more consistent that a regular GTI. I also like it in traffic when I do not have to mess with the clutch. Still, it isnt as fun.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Ridiculous. Not having a clutch has nothing to do with the definition of an automatic transmission. Look up automatic in the dictionary. Do you see any mention of a clutch? No. What do you see? The definition relates to operations performed independently or with self regulation. Look up definitions of manual: a. Of or relating to the hands.
        b. Done by, used by, or operated with the hands.
        c. Employing human rather than mechanical energy:
        Which kind of transmission is your DSG? Do your hands move any gears? Nope. Can it operate without your input or regulation? Absolutely. Automatic. Automatic. Automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I am speaking of the industry technical terms and accepted definition of an automatic tranmission, not the basic words you looked up in your webster dictionary. If you look at the design and engineering of the DSG, you will see it is a manual transmission with an automated clutch assembly. Even the actual name of the tranmission: AUTOMATED dual clutch MANUAL transmission, describes exactly what it is. The terminology is accepted, you guys just dont like it. And I get it, I get why you wouldnt buy one, I even agree with you. But that doesnt mean I can make up my own terms and call it fact.

        The VW DSG has 6 gears, just like the manual. I can use the lever to switch gears, so yes, I am MANUALLY changing the gear. I am not MANUALLY operating the clutch, the computer does that part. And my car is almost a half sec faster to 60 than the manual version. Do I HAVE to move the lever with my hand? Nope, I can leave it drive or sport mode and ride along just like an AUTOMATIC tranmission. But that doesnt change the terminology, its still not an automatic. If you think it makes you cooler to make fun of them, whatever, but don’t act like the terminology is wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        kenzter

        It’s rare, but I’m with CJ on this one.
        A DSG is an automatic. And I own a GTI with a DSG. Can I put it in “D” and not do anything else? Yeap. And it doesn’t make me any less of a man to do so. The damn thing can shift faster than I ever could.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Well I hate to disagree with CJ, it can be frustrating, but you guys are making the same mistake of making up your own terms. Just because you can put it in D and it shifts itself doesnt make it an auto, for exactly the same reason that taking a traditional automatic with a torque converter and adding “sportshift” paddles to it doesnt make that a manual. The accepted terminology that separates a fully automatic tranmission from an automated manual transmission is the presence of the torque converter on one and a clutch on the other. They simply work in different ways and thats why the TERM automatic transmission does not accurately describe the auto dual clutch whatchamathingys that started this whole string.

        Everyone else is arguing over how they feel about it or the spirit of it or “in their mind”, etc, and you can call it whatever you want, that doesnt change the definition or the technology.

        Oh, and in CJs eyes it does make you less of a man, I think thats why I even bothered to comment in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        mnm4ever,

        I’m not making up any terms, quite the opposite. I’m using words to categorize items that have the properties that the words define. If I start calling my refrigerator an automatic transmission and convince a bunch of marketing wet dreams to call it an automatic transmission, does that make it an automatic transmission? Why not?

        “Even the actual name of the tranmission: AUTOMATED dual clutch MANUAL transmission, describes exactly what it is.” – this simply isn’t so. While it is automated, it has dual clutches, and it is a transmission, there is nothing manual about it. “AUTOMATED” and “MANUAL” are ANTONYMS.

        automatic(adj)operating with minimal human intervention independent of external control

        Antonyms: manual, voluntary, hand-operated, non-automatic, nonmechanical
        Synonyms: machinelike, reflexive, automatonlike, robotlike, robotic reflex(a)

        This means that automatic and manual are opposites. They are not mutually compatible concepts. Whoever put them both into the ‘actual name’ of the transmission was completely full of it.

        I said before there was nothing wrong with driving an automatic. It just is what it is. Two of my friends went down the DSG route for a while. They forgot about the paddles after a week or two, and why wouldn’t they? For both of them the cars served as transitions to cars with conventional automatics, which drive the same but don’t require as much maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I agree with CJ and the rest arguing that the DSG and like transmissions are automatics.

        mnm4ever, why are you insisting that “automated, dual-clutch manual transmission” is an official, accepted term? Says who? Considering the terminology and what’s involved, it doesn’t make any sense. How can the presence of a clutch be the differentiation between something automatically operated and manually operated?

        A clutch used to be the difference between an automatic and manual transmission, but that’s not the case anymore. Some still cling to the clutch as the difference maker and use that as the basis for their preferred terminology. It’s similar to referring to a manual transmission as a “standard” transmission. What does that mean when most cars default to an automatic transmission now?

        “Automated, dual-clutch manual transmission” is marketing BS.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The engineers who develop them say so…go ask a Ferrari engineer about their automatic, they will set you straight. Its not a marketing term. But if you want to lump them in as a general description, fine, but it still isn’t the industry standard term.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Those might “industry terms” but not “industry standard terms”

        Are you taking these terms from SAE or another standards organization? All I have seen you cite is the marketing terms of the mfr of the cars. Not so sure those folks are concerned with technicality rather than marketing spin…

        If I made a super duper wet clutch automatic I’d want to call it something different in the market too. Especially on a performance car where “automatic transmission” is not going to help sell my car.

        I think beyond the point that these terms are loose and not standardized like you think they are, others are making the point that an automatic shifted box is an automatic. Walks like a duck and all that.

        For me, I drove the TC-SST and DSG. The behavior of the clutch vs. torque convertor is different, but otherwise feels like and automatic to me. I was all hyped up for this cool dual clutch stuff but it still feels the same, something else is shifting for you.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      This is killing me, but I’m agreeing with CJ.
      If it shifts itself, it’s an automatic. For that matter, any automatic that I’ve seen can be shifted manually, so that hardly makes any automatic, torque-converted or clutched, into a ‘manual’.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “(Especially since it doesn’t have a ridiculous wing on the back.)”

    Well, I’d certainly have to fix that oversight.

  • avatar
    Macca

    On topic: I’ve always found the Evo and WRX to be fascinating cars – without a ridiculous wing, this thing could make quite a sleeper.

    Slightly off topic: I recently took delivery of my dream car, a 2013 370Z Touring (ordered in April, the wait was excruciating). I find it interesting that all of the negatives associated with the Z, which have been incessantly over-amplified by various journos, are present in the Evo in spades, yet they’re the very factors that you’re praising here, Michael.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Nissan fanboy here to ‘hate’ on the Evo, I’m glad cars like this exist, too. It just strikes me as funny that you’re willing to defend the Evo for all its real/perceived faults, like the chintzy interior and NVH in a $40k+ car. Meanwhile, my Z’s MSRP was roughly that of this Evo, it weighs in 250lb lighter, has a 332hp NA V6, gets better gas mileage, has Infiniti-esque levels of interior materials and has measurably quieter interior, yet you question the Z’s value proposition (and find a way to justify it for the Evo?).

    It’s just funny to me that most of the Z’s faults are spun together here as praise for a ‘visceral’ driving experience in the Evo, yet the typical Z review gets hung up on moaning about interior noise, engine coarseness, and price. A similar contrast exists on how you describe each car’s handling being rather brutish as compared to more fluidly handling sports cars (one’s a negative, the other a positive).

    Pardon my curiosity, but care to explain the stark contrast here?

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Obviously, I’m not Michael Karesh, but the only think I can think of is that you can carry 3 passengers in the Evo (if they’re crazy enough to go along for the ride) rather than 1 in the Z. (I suppose if you want to pretend to be able to carry 3, you can buy the G37 coupe, at somewhat higher cost.)

      Personally, I agree with you 100%. I would hardly call the Z “lacking in character” or “boring.” But if “character” is a synonym for “insane” (as in, “anyone who would drive this more frequently than for a few hours once a week on an empty back road is insane”), then I guess I don’t want “character.”

    • 0 avatar

      The Evo feels right to me, the Z doesn’t.

      In aggressive driving the Evo has far more finesse and inspires far more confidence. The rough ride and noise have clearer payoffs, they’re an integral part of a thoroughly involving driving experience, and so seem more legitimate. The Evo feels lighter than it is, while the opposite is the case with the Z. Nissan offers similar powertrain technology–in the $100,000 GT-R. Without this technology, and with some funny stuff going on in the chassis dynamics, I find the Z a tricky car to drive.

      I do always suggest that people buy whatever car they personally like. Tastes do legitimately differ.

      • 0 avatar
        hard_charger

        What’s “tricky” about driving the Z? My daily driver/occasional autocross steed is a Z34, and I haven’t had any unsettling experiences dodging either potholes or cones. Sure, it’ll bite you if you defeat the VSC and push too hard, but what car won’t?

        I’m with Macca, and while I may fit the mold of a Nissan fan boy, I believe the Z gets unfairly dinged. A sports car is supposed to be noisy and coarse. Otherwise, what fun would it be?

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        Thanks for replying Michael. What I find interesting is that the more positive Z reviews out there praise it for providing an involving driving experience – but this merely points to your final statement; there’s plenty of subjectivity there. I respect that.

        What’s been interesting for me as a new Z owner, though, as I previously mentioned, is that it actually is a fairly well behaved, refined vehicle. It’s funny that I read review after review about how any particular car is too ‘disconnected’ or ‘appliance like’ and then Mitsubishi or Nissan have the gall to produce a performance vehicle that’s rough around the edges, and then journo’s whine about a little NVH as if they were expecting a Camry-like experience.

        I do appreciate that you take the opposite tact with the Evo here, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick Astley

      I am a middle aged man who owns a 2006 Evo IX in electric blue with the giant wing and am an accountant by trade.

      The Evo is visceral, yet it carries 4 people in comfort (Has more usable interior room than my Mazdaspeed3 wagon), suspension is set up for light track duty and I alternate between Pilot Supersport II and Blizzak tires.

      Aside from my 58 (going on 90) year old mother, nobody has a single problem riding with me, including taking clients out to lunch. A few tepid stares but after a block or two the car will win people over with exception to the Ferrodo DS 2500 brake pad squeal. (safety first!)

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    This is the only desirable car Mitsubishi makes, and the WRX is better.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    One of the few cars that actually pulls off the angry dustbuster/widemouth bass face. It’s old, but it’s still a looker.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Isn’t this comparable to the STI moreso than the WRX?

    • 0 avatar

      Noted in the review. I drove a WRX because…

      1. I hadn’t in a long time, and wanted to.

      2. $40,000 is a lot of money for this class of car. What can you get for under $30,000?

      3. The dealer didn’t have any STIs at the time.

      I did drive an STI back in 2008. That one wasn’t much stiffer than the WRX, but they tweaked it again a couple of years ago. But you can go back a decade and the Evo has always had much friskier character than the STI. It’s a far more high strung car, for better and for worse.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        But the STI also isn’t $40k, its $35k. And all of your comments on the WRX were how much softer it was than the EVO. The WRX was made slightly more sporting that it was in 2008, and the STI was made even more so. I doubt it is as hard as the EVO, but it appears to be the better buy and better every day car.

      • 0 avatar

        Either Subaru is a better everyday car, but I very much doubt (based on my experience with previous cars and what I’ve read about the current ones) that they provide the intensity of experience you get in the Evo.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The setup on either scooby lends the cars more towards understeer with the boxer motor hanging out in front of the front axle.

        The Evo with it’s transverse motor is better suited fr handign on a technical level based on its transverse mounted front motor havin the mass further back.

        Furthermore, the AWD system on the Evo, with it’s active yaw control and crazy rear diff make the car a completely different beast on a technical level.

        That said, I’d personally have the STi and just put a set of aftermarket sway bars on it with a significantly larger rear sway on it to cancel some understeer, and call it a day. You can barely fit 2 sets of golf clubs in the trunk of the Evo, where you get a spacios hatch with fold down rear seats on the STi, and that modicum of practicality sets the 2 apart to me, and the 1% difference in performance wouldn’t make a difference in real life.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I am curious how this car would compare to the similarly priced BMW 135i.

    • 0 avatar

      As firm as a sport suspended 135i is, you’re much more insulated in it from everything than you are in the Evo. The 1 M might have come closer in character to the Evo, but I haven’t driven one. Even it wouldn’t have the complicated drivetrain that seemingly claws its way through curves. RWD is better in some ways, but it’s inarguably much different. No one’s going to rally a 135i. Then again, how many people actually rally an Evo?

      • 0 avatar
        lysine

        The 1M has more of a dual personality than the evo has I think. I’ve spent 600 miles in one, it’s much nicer on the inside. The nice interior exacerbates the dual personality when you actually get on the pedal, and it’s a ball of fun!

        I had a hard time getting comfortable in it, it feels really small on the inside. The Evo is a boat in comparison on the inside. I’m not tall ( 5’6 ) and a little overweight ( 180 lbs ) and the 1 series has always made me a little claustrophobic.

        The 1m feels faster than the evo with its explosive acceleration in a straight line, and I’m sure the numbers say that. It’s also 20k more and seemed to me like one of those cars that is secretly out to kill you in the turns. Which is both fun and terrifying. The evo and all its techno-wizardry in comparison is predictable, but that could be from me spending WAY more hours in it than the 1m.

        My only complaints about the 1m are size and oh yeah that shifter. It has a way longer throw than I like. Probably the first thing to get replaced.

  • avatar
    skent12

    As someone who just picked up a 2012 Evo X MR and had a 2011 WRX Sti Sedan believe me the MR is a much more serious machine. The Sti was fun but the Evo X MR is on another level. The dual clutch transmission is considerably more fun than a manual even though some will have their man hood hurt by the idea that their is more (actually less) involvement with the car with a manual.

    I drove a C63, M3, S4, and ISF before I settled on an Evo X MR. It simply is on a different level when it comes to driver involvement.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I admit that I was a big fan of the Evo when it first came to the US in 2003. A sub 3000 lb All-wheel drive car with a very impressive 276 HP. It could have cost $40,000 back in 03 and I would have still thought it was amazing because there was really no competition for it back then.

    However, as we approach 2013 I just can’t see how the Evo in its current form as a 3600 lb, sub 300 HP economy car costing $40,000 and getting 20 mpg combined is at all relevant even considering its all wheel drive system. We live in an age with 305 HP V6 Mustangs costing $22000 that gets better than 30 mpg highway. Heck, we live in an age where an Impala you would find at a rental place has 300 HP and weighs about the same as the Evo. For $40,000 you have to consider BMW and Audi.

    Is the all wheel drive system in the Evo really good enough to keep it competitive with performance cars which cost $10,000 less?

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Having owned a 2003 Evo VIII (3300 pounds, by the way), and then transitioned to an E90 BMW, I can unequivocally state that the answer is yes, the Evo really is different. It’s not always about numbers. Much like the way the seemingly underpowered MX-5 Miata keeps winning comparisons against much more powerful cars, the Evo just gets it all right.

  • avatar

    I liked the bits about both Steering and Immediacy.

    Those are the kind of gems that make a review something to savor and remember.

    -Because the numbers alone rarely communicate either.

  • avatar
    2012JKU

    $40K for a craptastic Mitsu? No way. Much better choices for that kind of money. Despite any performance from this model the styling and interior are straight out of the 1990s. Most Mitsu buyers are the Sub prime variety that cheapens the brand and their dealer network is a joke. They will be out of the US market within the next 5 years.

  • avatar
    LALoser

    I bought the watered-down Ralliart 6 months ago and love it.

  • avatar
    MattMan

    I daily drove an Evo VIII for 6 years before trading it in for an Evo X GSR 2 years ago.

    The X is both better and worse than an VIII. The X lost a little of the “Evo-ness” that Karesh refers to when comparing the Evo to the WRX. But the livability gains in the X are simply tremendous.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      What I can’t understand with the X is why did they cripple it for practicality with the ridiculous trunk. Its like they nodded to the aging of their customers by making it a more livable car, but then filled up the trunk with battery and washer fluid.

      They might have gotten me in 2009, the Mitsu guy was calling me with even bigger rebates every week until I bought my WRX. But I just couldn’t live with a car I can’t fold the seats down to carry odd stuff. Ralliart was nice but I didn’t like automatic and the trunk is shallow even without the Evo stuff.

      The other part that is hard, is the maturing of the STI and Evo has added cost but the rally performance game has not been moved on, these cars have about the same HP as they always did while other options like Camaro or Mustang or Genesis have popped up with more power and Brembo brakes.

      Even the WRX has moved on you get quite a bit more power and performance than you did in 2002 and the car is cheaper than ever if you adjust for inflation.

      These cars are probably victims of the platforms on which they are based. Subaru is moving the WRX/STI away from being a strictly Impreza platform model for 2014 we’ll see how that goes.

      • 0 avatar
        skent12

        Not sure I understand the trunk argument. It has back seats. Just put your stuff their for the 2 times a year you need to have some cargo room. The Evo X has more room in it than almost every sports car I looked at. And before you say Sti hatchback the back seat in the Evo X is larger sooooo a non issue in my book. And if you really need to move something large rent a truck from HOme Depot for $40 bucks an hour the one time you need to do that a year.

        Also not sure I understand the argument of performance. While it “only” has 291 HP it is easily tuned to gain 70 more reliably and even at 291 I would put this car against anything at the same price or more on a track. And that is for one lap. Move that out to 10 laps on a track and say goodbye to every car at the price point including a 5.0 GT mustang before you go there. Much more reliable lap times and better brakes equal higher average lap times.

        And before you say Boss 302 that car cost almost $8k more. Give me $4k in upgrades ands say goodbye to that car too.

      • 0 avatar
        MattMan

        @Power6

        Nice avatar.

        Yeah, that trunk is ridiculous. But it’s only a little smaller than in the VIII, which had the washer bottle back there as well. And compared to something like a Vette the Evo is cavernous (I’ve taken a road trip in a Vette).

        The inflation-adjusted sticker of an X GSR in 2010 was about the same as an VIII was back in 2003.

        The sucky thing is that, as you point out, Mustangs and such have seriously upped their game in the last 10 years, while the Evo is not much faster (and in some conditions is slower) than the VIII/IX.

        Still, the Evo is more than its numbers. It has steering that, as Karesh pointed out, other cars aspire to. And where Evos truly shine is speed in “real world” conditions. On roads with surfaces that are less-than-perfect and perhaps wet.

        It’s still an amazing car.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        @skent12 The key to “understanding” is that you have to realize not everyone has the same needs and thought process as yourself. Maybe the back seat is enough for you, not for me, or at least at the time I was buying my 09 WRX my wife and I only had the one car so occasionally folding the seats down and putting something in the hatch was a huge plus for me. For me “renting a truck” to pick up a box at UPS or buy a piece of small furniture is a major inconvenience after I just paid almost 30k for a new car. I had a few sedans with fold down seats which were fine too, but the trunk in the Evo couldn’t get it done. Back seat room wasn’t the issue for me.

        I guess if you think the Evo is a match for a track pack Mustang GT I don’t know what to say. We can’t really get into “you can mod this and that” it really goes nowhere there are too many variables. The 271hp 2003 Evo was more than a match for the 03 260hp Mustang GT. Fast forward now and the Mustang has 412hp and the Evo 291. More important the GT got a nice suspension tune and some decent Brembo brakes. I still might have the Evo but you can’t deny the tables have turned.

        @MattMan I totally agree. The Evo and STI are more about driving experience than any objective measure. That is why they still sell. I think it is fair to say the rally twins are merely great cars now ;-)

        Now that the wife has an Outback the cargo needs are satisfied and I could have that Evo, but of course we bought a house and have first child on the way so I drive an old Lexus for now…

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    The Subaru is for people who get tired of the thrashy engine and drivetrain noises and want a car to behave like a sleeper when you’re not burying the throttle.

    You couldn’t tell the WRX or STi apart from regular econoboxes unless you open them up, and if you actually use them as DD’s and long distance cruisers, that’s a great thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick Astley

      The Subaru is also for people who dont have the ability to work on their own car. Either as a result of what they purchased (a Subaru boxer motor with horrible packaging) or lack of aptitude.

  • avatar
    weneversleep

    I have driven a 08 Evo X MR (first year) since new. I’ve owned it for almost exactly 4 years now.

    It’s a brilliant machine. The steering truly is telepathic with perfect feel, maybe a little “twitchy” to some but I think it’s spot on. The 4B11T engine is a gem, with less lag than the 4B63 and freight train pull until the redline. The active rear diff that pushes power to the outside wheel in a turn creates a completely neutral handling car. And, the SST transmission is wonderful. I’ve said before that these dual-clutch transmissions are all about the software, not the hardware, and Mitsubishi just nailed it.

    I don’t know what is wrong with the interior. Of course, it’s no Audi (and I’ve owned Audis), but in MR trim, it’s pretty nice.

    I tracked the heck out of mine until last year, and even though it eats consumables (3600 lbs will do that to you), it was heaven on the track.

    In fact, I love the Evo so much that I bought an Evo IX MR to join the X. Great car too, more “raw” than the X, but in the end, I sold the IX after about a year, because it just wasn’t as good of an all-around car (street and track) as the X.

    It IS a “high strung” and “frantic” car, and I love it. I’ve been toying with the idea of selling mine and getting something new, but I just can’t think of another 4-door 4-seat car that I would enjoy driving more than the Evo.

    • 0 avatar
      lysine

      Got my MR in 08 too! Dealer called me the day it came of the boat, still in it’s packaging.

      1552 days, 44976 miles, 2 sets of tires, and new brake pads; I’m still in love.


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