By on September 19, 2011

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

68 Comments on “Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR...”

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    great review, but as regards you being a better driver than Senna et al, I can’t help wonder……..if “Vittel” ate his vittles, I vet he’d be vettel than you any day. Keep up the good work.

  • avatar

    If you think this interior is bad, check out the one in the previous generation Evo. The current car is an Audi in comparison.

    I can answer the “which is better” question: the Evo, for the driving characteristics you describe so well. As you imply with the golden retriever analogy, the STI is relatively dull.

    On the pedal placement: when I made the same point about the CTS-V, I was informed that I wasn’t hitting the brakes hard enough. Use the brakes as if you’re racing the car–waiting until the last second to scrub speed, then hitting them hard–and the pedals will be properly located for heel-and-toe. Don’t need to hit the brakes that hard? Then you have no need to heel-and-toe. Can’t say I’ve tested this out, but it makes sense.

  • avatar
    Mike the Dog

    “better than Zaphod Beeblebrox”? That’s infinitely improbable.

  • avatar

    Wait…Mistubishi still makes *cars*?

  • avatar

    i gave up trying to heel-and-toe my ’63 TR4, even when braking hard, and the pedal would go way down, thanks to those lovely British-Leyland master cylinder seals. The accelerator was still somewhere behind the firewall — or did I gradually just push it there, trying to get it past 5K rpm?

  • avatar

    “Because race car.”

    One of the most entertaining reviews I’ve read in a long time. Bravo Mr. McAleer.

    Think I could sell my wife on this car as a suitable four-door sedan to replace my aging ’05 Saab 9-2X (WRX in sheep’s clothing)?

    Wife: “Why do the seats look like they have wings?”

    Me: “Safety feature.”

  • avatar

    Please, oh please. Less cleverness. Less thesaurus. You’re clearly going to get differing opinions on this, but to me, the constant stream of wit in place of content is tiring.

    • 0 avatar

      Why? It’s an attempt to describe a unique driving experience that you don’t have too long to enjoy. Sales of this car will die soon, and so will the cars shortly after that. Squeeze this lemon while you can, because when it’s gone it’s gone.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with chaparral. There’s plenty of sources for the basic info, and I’m Mr McAleer may have other reviews more suitable to your liking, but this review communicated the excitement he had in this car. It’s the same feeling I felt when I bought an STI, and the same giddiness I get when I drive awful, over-priced, uncomfortable cars that happen to have a fun dial that comes pre-set to “10” from the factory. I say bravo.

    • 0 avatar

      agreed. I did not learn a thing about the car. Maybe that is the point, to not actually “review” the car, but I don’t get it. To each his own.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a fair criticism, but in this car, the facts simply get in the way of the Truth. There is no way you’d buy an Evo if you had even a modicum of common sense, and it’s a car discussed at-length and ad nauseum. I just tried to channel the feel of the thing with some of my usual OH TEH HYPERBOLE and by misspelling “Vettel”.

      I actually wrote two reviews of this car, one more a buyer’s guide for another source. I felt TTAC readers might want a bit more flair, but as pointed out by jhott997, to each his own.

      • 0 avatar

        Eh, I disagree. This is a visceral car and a visceral website.

        Some folks prefer Matt Farah or some Clarksonesque stream of consciousness spirit journey. Other folks trend towards Consumer Reports or Motor Week.

        This essay, like this site, flows towards the former and not the latter.

        Perhaps if this were some appliance, and not some deathtrap that costs your first-born to insure, I might give a crap about the cubic footage of trunkspace.

        But it’s not, so I think I speak for most of the readers when I ask ‘How did it tickle your balls?’

      • 0 avatar

        And by disagree, I meant the author’s detractors. This essay does answer my fundamental question (wrong reply tab.)

    • 0 avatar

      Cleverness like this is what got me interested in cars as more than transport appliances in the first place. We NEED more Cleverness in auto-journalism to breed more neophyte enthusiasts like myself, otherwise the day will come when Every car is a Prius.

  • avatar

    Wit in addition to content, however, will get the job done.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, that’s the goal, ‘tho oft missed by yours truly.

      • 0 avatar


        It was very funny. When you were describing the fingers of “purest butter” making hands of “finest ham” (I apologize if I misquoted) I kept thinking of Jeremy Clarkson describing himself in a similar manner, and James May talking about what an oaf he, Clarkson, was. It’s kind of a nice change from all serious all the time.

  • avatar

    Hate to ask but would like to know: How bad is bad in regards to fuel economy? Are we talking stock mid-size full frame SUV or jacked-up, mud-tired 5.9 Dodge Ram with a 4.10 gear?

  • avatar

    My 08 MR is now at 40k miles… and i’ve loved every single mile in it.

    @mazder3 : I average oh…. 18mpg? Which makes it about 216 miles a tank. It says 14.5 gallons, but most I’ve ever put in it is 12 gallons.

    Mostly city, and very quickly to the speed limit. Freeway merges are a red line affair.

  • avatar

    I’ve read some of the vehicles with an original market demographic targeting young people wind up with mostly older folks buying them. The Scion xB and HHR come to mind.

    But the EVO isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s a great example of the car many young males of driving age aspire to buy if they had the money. And it’s probably the reason they won’t be around that much longer, i.e., there just aren’t that many well-off young gearheads that can afford (or appreciate) them. As pointed out, the BMW 3-series makes more sense, overall, while the geezers with the cash who are reliving their teenage days will buy one of today’s V8 retro-muscle ponycars, rather than an EVO or STi.

    • 0 avatar

      I know of one older gentleman that buys STI’s after having been burned with the reliability audis(s4 wagon) and porsches(boxster). He’s owned 2 Subarus now, the first a WRX wagon that dynoed 330 at the wheel, and now a 2010 STI. He’s in his 60’s with 2 dogs and he thinks STI’s are the bees knees and will probably continue buying them until they take his license away.

      On the other hand, a middle aged gentleman approached me outside a restaurant and asked me about the EVO, and pointed me at his brand new WRX. Said the EVO was what he really wanted, but he couldn’t justify 15k more for a .5 second quicker 0 – 60. Lol.

      I do wish I owned an E92 M3 or an RS3, but no way I’d trade the EVO for a 335. They’re just different animals. That being said, I am excited to see what the next STI and the FT-86 are going to be like.

    • 0 avatar

      The purchase price is only part of the cost. For a young male driver, insurance can be a few hundred a month.

  • avatar

    The current STI doesn’t have the greatest steering in the world, but with such a wonderful set of differentials and four-wheel drifts a drop of the clutch away, it’s not a big deal.

    I think demonstrating that during a media drive means that I’m not getting any long term drives in one, either.

  • avatar

    Wow…the CDN/Japanese yen exchange rate must be awful. I just priced an Evo GSR on Mitsubishi’s site with every option available and maxed it out at $42,995, and that was hard loaded. The Evo MR lists out hard loaded at $45,025.

    And that is FAR too expensive when you consider that you can get a damn near fully loaded BMW 135i with the dual-clutch transmission for just over $46,000, and that’s with the M Sport package and everything else except for navigation. It’s a damn shame when your glorified econobox can make a BMW look like a bargain.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought my MR for 40 on the nose with every option back in 08. Socalevo was selling the same thing for 37 in 2010. MSRP was ~44k.

      The 135 is nice, but it’s so soft and squishy, and tiny. My left arm is pressing against the door when I’m in it. I always felt too cramped. My friend replaced his 135 very promptly with a 1M. Now that thing I can get behind, but he paid 60 and change for it. Which is 20k more than what I paid for mine. I think the manufacturers just decided that if you want that kind of performance and a nice interior you’re not paying less than 60k for it. RS4, M3, 1M, C63 ( oh how i want one ).

      Driving the 1M, feels more like you’re just telling it, please car, go that way! While you hang on for dear life. The Evo is more like R2-D2. Beeps, holds your shit together and saves your hide.

  • avatar

    Ya lost me at “Vittel”…

    • 0 avatar

      But won you back again with a HHGTTG reference? C’mon!

      • 0 avatar
        Damon Romano

        This review had so many overblown adjectives, you’d think it was Ron Jeremy.
        This review used so many classless and rehashed metaphors, you’d think it cooked at Waffle House.
        This review employed so many obvious and irrelevant pop-culture rerences, you’d think it was Dennis Miller on meth.
        The writing was juvenile, but given the car, the punishment fits the crime.
        TTAC has now used it’s entire daily allotment of superlatives for the entire day.

        The redeeming image was this: “Well, imagine if you somehow managed to get a saddle strapped on to a panther without having your head bitten off. A telepathic panther.”
        I’m now imagining Baruth riding the roof of a Town Car, pulling his best Slim Pickins. I expect his next article to be titled, “Dr. Stragehatch; or, How I learned to”…oh, wait.

  • avatar

    “The most mundane and humdrum of driving errands are made interesting.”

    Therein lies my problem. I’d buy my groceries and hardware one item per visit just to drive this beast.

    Question for those in the know: Manual transmissions aside, do cars like the EVO and STi qualify as daily drivers, or will they wear you down in a hurry?

    • 0 avatar

      Most of my STI-owning friends complain about the fuel economy. I imagine the fidgety steering in a Evo would be a bit of a pain day-to-day on a long commute. Then again, I know a guy who DDs a track-prepped Elise.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, the steering is a bit fidgety and at first I was constantly making minute adjustments, then I just started releasing my grip and driving with just my fingertips on the freeway. Car tracks straight, awesome. That’s all you need.

        Roads that aren’t perfectly flat however, sometimes has me sawing at the wheel.

    • 0 avatar

      I daily drove my Evo VIII for five years at it was just fine. Dropping off and picking up kids at school, grocery runs, even taking colleagues to lunch — it did very well. It was surprisingly roomy inside and docile at normal day-to-day operations. Yes, the ride is stiff, the transmission whines, there is almost no sound deadening, but it really isn’t *that* bad. I averaged 20 MPG, but that was with the previous generation motor. The X’s engine and tune are more thirsty.

      I drive a 328i now and the differences are startling. It’s all about rawness versus refinement, with the Mitsubishi one one end of the spectrum and the Bimmer on the other. Anyone who professes to love cars and the driving experience owes themselves to drive an animal like the Evo or STi at least once in their lives. We should probably throw a Miata in the mix there, too. Else we should just get Buicks or Avalons and toil in cushioned isolation.

  • avatar

    Look…can I just ask a simple question?
    I am not a track skilled driver, so I have no idea if that silly spoiler does any good whatsoever.
    I mean, really…is that monster needed? Do you really have to stare at that thing every time you check the mirror?
    This one of the make me chuckle things I see on these cars as they drive around the streets.
    This and those knuckleheads driving them off high school parking lots.

    Are the spoilers really part of the deal or can you order a car w/o one????

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The spoiler is utterly useless at any speed you could sensibly reach on the street.

      For a while, it was considered hip to put plain Impreza decklids on WRXes.

    • 0 avatar

      I removed the spoiler on my Evo upon delivery. It made a huge difference regarding diminished attention from law enforcement, street racers, and car thieves, plus it greatly improved rearward visibility. Mitsubishi claims down force is only really noticeable at speeds over 90 MPH. On the Evo X, you can choose a Spoiler delete on the MR version only. Mine was a GSR so I had the dealer’s body shop remove the wing, fill the holes, and repainted the trunk for $300.

    • 0 avatar

      I remembered that inside line did that test on their long term evo and concluded that wing is slightly faster and that you could feel it in the seat of your pants.

      The current MR only has a lip spoiler.

  • avatar

    Loved this review. Thank you.

    Bought an 08 MR as soon as my son was born, because I needed rear seats; the S2000 and track-prepped E36M3 wouldn’t cut it anymore, but I still wanted a track-capable car. (driving instructor here)

    I soon was trolling the classifieds for an Evo IX, because I couldn’t get enough Evo. Eventually bought a pristine 06 IX MR. So, I had two Evos in the garage–one as a daily driver (the 06), and one as a track car (the 08 X MR). Was nice, because I didn’t have to change brake pads on the track car when I got home.

    Sold the IX earlier this year for exactly what I paid for it to another enthusiast. Still driving my X MR, and still loving it. With a second child, track days are on hiatus, and the street pads are back on, but the X is still as insane as ever.

    A simple Cobb tune leans out the factory tune just enough. Magnaflow exhaust lets you actually hear the car; important if you’re manually shifting on the track. Beefier Whiteline sways front and rear control roll. That’s all you really need to do on these cars to have a killer track machine and a more-fun-than-pretty-much-anything-on-the-road daily driver.

    • 0 avatar

      now THATS what I call a family car! You need to pipe up during the New Or Used posts where everyone on TTAC sings the praises of minivans to the guy whos having his first baby! Minivans? We dont need no stinkin minivans!!

      (I just thought I would throw in another pop culture reference to piss off the grammar police posting above!!) :)

  • avatar

    I drove around a friend’s Evo VIII a few years ago, and it’s clearly a raw, special purpose car that makes no excuses for bad fuel economy, being noisy, having a punishing suspension and cheap interior. One thing I hated was how the cramped footwell and pedals really got in the way of driving enjoyment for me and my size 13 feet. Driving barefoot helped, but then heel-toeing was tricky. Seems like a lot of Japanese economy cars are miserly with foot and leg room.

  • avatar

    Is it “petrosexual” or “petrolsexual”? In my head, it’s pronounced the former, spelled the latter.

  • avatar

    This site needs more reviews like this, interesting reviews of interesting cars.

    It needs less reviews of boring cars that are not offered with manual transmissions.

  • avatar

    Nice review, and nice Hercules reference. But it’s “Augean stables” not “Aegean stables.”

  • avatar

    This is not a very good review, trying WAY too hard. You stated your purpose was to convey the driving experience of the Evo but you missed the mark. Your retort to the naysayers is “it was this or consumer reports” I guess if you can’t author something in between “boring” and “bad writing” maybe you should think about another career?

    All those metaphors are just too much, you didn’t say anything. Clearly you are trying to be like Clarkson here, and even if you don’t claim to be, know that you come off that way. You have to be a little more reserved, like a good song you need the lows for the highs to mean anything at all.

    If you want to convey an experience, you don’t do it by showing off your historical and cultural references. For appropriate showing off and experiential conveyance, please see the entire catalog of Jack B right here ;-)

    I mean this with some respect that you are a professional, as I am barely educated in the craft of writing: any high school english teacher would toss this review in the trash, it’s overstyled drivel.

  • avatar

    Forget the naysayers… this was a great review, perfectly captured the sheer thrill of the car. We can get hard numbers anywhere, its been done. This was a great review that shows how fun this car would be to a regular guy, not a race driver.

  • avatar

    Great review! I love the references. Can’t believe you got Douglas Adams, Star Wars, anime and Xbox360 into a coherent review.

  • avatar

    “I am currently the greatest driver in the history of the universe, better than Senna, better than Vittel, better than Zaphod Beeblebrox.”

    Aaah, but are you better than… Jack Baruth?


  • avatar
    John R

    “…unless she has a complete collection of illegally dubbed Initial-D and plays a lot of Forza. In which case: MARRY THAT WOMAN.”

    This line had me out of my seat cheering.

    I love you Spartacus.

  • avatar

    Great review. Almost brings a tear in my eye to read it. About to let go of my 08 GSR this weekend (back to school for moi) and oh man I hope I don’t break down in front of the buyer when I hand over the keys. This car made every stinkin trip an experience. Enjoyable or not, it is always a fond memory. I remember the first time I took one out for a test drive (after having driven 3-series and G37 coupes) and that steering rack made me forget about the interior, road noise, small trunk, and every other flaw this car has.

    I may convince myself that once I am on the market for another car I can find one of these used if I get that itch again, but most people absolutely punish these cars. Not blaming them, but I didn’t touch the factory parts at all on mine. For that day when the best antidote for a frustrating day at work was a backroad thrashing, this car was perfect in stock form. So long dear friend.

  • avatar

    Fun review!

    I’m shocked at the number of detractors. Sure, I think it may have been a bit over-wrought in a couple places, but entertaining and fast-paced – a suitable job for the subject matter.

    And really, I’ll take this (occasionally clunky) brand of stylized self-deprecation over self-righteous bullshi* bombast any day…

  • avatar
    a cat named scruffy

    Nice review.
    I couldn’t afford the tires or the insurance for this but one day I hope to be able to buy a car that makes no sense except for “racecar!”

  • avatar

    Haha my mother bought this car after she sold her Chevy Suburban. Its fast as all hell :D This was the first car i ever drove in my life. It’s steering wheel is very sensitive, now i get why he explained it like a cat! I would snag this over the Subi ANY day. Its just way more reactive.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • brn: Not to mention, they don’t do much good when covered with snow or in a garage. Also, what stops us from...
  • dukeisduke: Yep, two throttle bodies on a low-profile cross-ram manifold. GM didn’t have a large enough single...
  • Corey Lewis: Chrome stocks sent soaring.
  • Corey Lewis: Thanks! Speaking of undesirable GM vehicles, wonder what they’d think of this very tidy DTS with a...
  • Lou_BC: In this situation I’m betting that Ford did not expect the Maverick to be a runaway success.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber