It is so hard to not put this car in the number 1 spot for the best sports car you can buy for less than $65,000. Starting at $56,789 the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, most often referred to as simply “The Evo” is the best offering from the Japanese car maker since the days of the Mitsubishi 3000GT (GTO).
Initially the Evo was sold in Australia under a 100 units/year import limit, which not only made the Evo expensive but also stopped the street machines from lifting Mitsubishi’s image as a performance manufacturer. The Subaru Impreza WRX STi was all there was to pick from if you were after a true rally car, sure it was bigger, a little heavier, but it was just as fast and the difference between the two was usually just the price.
Since 2005, Mitsubishi has brought in the Lancer Evolutions IX (9) as a standard model. The 2.0 Litre MIVEC Turbocharged DOHC with VVT Engine that sits in the Evo 9 produces Japan’s maximum allowed limit of 209kw and 355Nm of torque. In the UK the evolution 9 is available in a few different flavours (apart from the stock one) such as the Evo 9 FQ 320 and FQ 340 both doing with 0 to 100 in 4.3 seconds – yes 4.3 seconds, faster than a BMW M3 and a Porsche 911. The Evo 9 FQ 280 (the number representing the horsepower) is the one which is available in Australia and that does 0-100 in 5.7 seconds.
A little disappointing given that with a little tweaking (more boost or bigger turbo) the Mitsubishi Evolution IX can produce so much more power. Nonetheless, the Evo 9 available in Australia is still a serious street and rally racing machine. The Evo comes in as the second best sports car in Australia sitting after the Mazda RX-8 because although it is faster than the RX-8 (0-100 in 6.2 for the RX-8) it is still.. essentially.. a lancer.
The problem with the Evolution (and Impreza) series from both Mitsubishi and Subaru is that in order to put these cars in the WRC (World Rally Championship) they need to base them on standard road vehicles such as the Impreza and Lancer and by doing so, what both companies do is essentially get a standard base model car and add all the go fast bits. This results in your stock standard Lancer producing a massive amount of power and incredible handling.
However, given the roots of these vehicles, the WRX STi and the Evolution 9 are still, essentially an Impreza and a Lancer and given this, they both suffer the dull interiors of both of their root vehicles. Sure the Evolution 9 uses fantastic recaro seats and gigantic brembo brakes, but the dash and dials leave a great deal to the imagination. However given its price tag and the performance, you really can’t complain.
The Evo rides on 235/45 17-inch Yokohamas and is driven through a new six-speed manual gearbox and an active centre differential. Cornering is where the evo shines (and perhaps shines just a little more than the WRX STi). Weighing 60kg less than the old Evo VIII, components such as the 4kg lighter aluminium roof which lowers the centre of gravity 3mm go together with enhanced rear springs (for the multi-link rear-suspension) and Mitsubishi’s “inverted” MacPherson struts at the front, the Evo is truly a car made for corners.
This Evo IX’s handling features include the active centre differential helping standard 50:50 torque distribution, are now changeable between tarmac, gravel or snow. However the most talked about and praised feature of the Evo 9 is the active yaw control system which (using internal computers) controls the difference in power given to the two rear wheels.
The steering is another highlight of the Evo 9 package, go-kart like steering, Mitsubishi has gone with the Momo system which needs only 2.2 turns from lock to lock. The braking package includes gigantic 320mm diameter ventilated front discs (with four-piston callipers), 300mm vented rear discs (with two-piston callipers). The Evo 9 is also equipped with ABS linking up with brake force distribution.
The reason this car is so highly rated is because it is an unbelievably powerful car, for a 2 Litre engine, the Evo 9 can leave the likes of majority of V8 ‘sports car’ in its dust. If the straight line speed isn’t what you are after than the Evo 9s unlimited grip should be handy, in a recent test by Topgear (UK TV Motoring show) the Evo 9 kept up with a Lamborghini Murcialogo around a race track. If that’s not enough reason to say that a $56,789 car is one of the best sports cars you can buy in Australia then I don’t know what is!
Standard features on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9: