2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX review
Model tested: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
Recommended Retail Price: $56,789
Options fitted: None fitted.
Everything. Power, handling, braking, steering, balance, Recaro seats, the list goes on
Interior still poverty pack, ride is very firm
CarAdvice rating: (4.5)
There are some sensory experiences which have to be done more than once. Chocolate, for example. Would you be satisfied with just a square, and leave it at that? Me neither...
Just think of the rides on the Gold Coast. You can't just leave the Big Drop at only one go. Or the Tower of Terror. Or the Superman ride. No, you have to do them over and over - as many times as the lines, daylight and, of course, your stomach will allow.
Then there are cars. There are some cars which although you've driven them and get a good feel for them, you're still addicted. You just have to try them out over and over again. The combination of extreme grip, acceleration, and brilliant braking mean that some cars are just too much to leave at only one go. One such example is the Mitsubishi Evolution IX.
It's been a while since we've driven the old girl. And with the new model looming, we thought it would be an idea to take the Evo IX for a spin once again. A simple phone-call was made to Mitsubishi, and soon there was a gleaming white rally/road car sitting in the CarAdvice garage.
It's still amazing to see just how far this car has come. Worlds apart from the doughy, tinny, average Lancer from which it takes its basis, the Evo easily justifies its 170% premium over the parent car. And the thing is it's 170% better - no questions asked.
But the real beauty is that it loses none of the practicality. The boot is still huge, the rear seat will actually house humans, and the front seats are just bliss. Plus, the visibility puts just about every other sports car to shame. It's hard to imagine an easier car to see out of in all directions.
But where it differs dramatically is underneath. To house the all-wheel-drive system, the front and rear quarter panels have been replaced with flared versions. Three differentials supply power to all four wheels, and the SAYC (Super Active Yaw Control) system combines sensors and grip control to allow for mind-bending cornering. And this where the Evo IX is probably the most impressive.
Slewing into a corner, you'll notice that the steering is super reactive. The slightest movement off centre, and your lateral inclination is apparent. The feel is probably a bit dumbed down, but there's enough torque-steer and kickback to let you know what's happening underneath, which along with slight tramlining on poor surfaces, means the feedback you do get is related to your speed anyway.
We've found that out of the three settings - Tarmac, Gravel, and Snow - for the Active Centre Differential (ACD), that Gravel is the best for wringing as much speed as possible out of the Evo. Tarmac is well balanced, and Snow tends to understeer too much. But Gravel sends most of the power to the rear, meaning when you think you've run out of grip, you haven't.
Simply hang on for the ride of your life, and remain committed to the corner. An initial understeer tendency is initially offputting, however keep your foot buried, and the torque is shuffled to the rear, where the back is brought around, and the front merely determines the line (while adding more grip). The reward is the car resting on the outside rear tyre, and oversteering through the exit. Fun? You bet. But fast? Yes, it's that too.
And if you want to practise your Tiff Needell skills, you can. Sliding is as simple flicking the steering wheel. It will oversteer on turn in, if thrown into the corner quickly enough at medium speeds. But if you want to keep that slide going, you need to time your accelerator prodding to account for the slight turbo lag. If you do, four-wheeled drifts are there for the taking.
And it's on boost that it really impresses. The SAYC seems to respond best to power-down, medium to full throttle cornering. If you're not into it fully, the SAYC backs off, and relies on the Evo's impressive inherent chassis balance. Really the only thing that lets this car down is its tyres. Unless they're up to temperature, the Yokohama Advans fitted allow the car to shuffle and squirm a bit too much. Still, if that's your beef, then new rubber is only a phone call away.
But probably the biggest gripe is the interior. The front seats are brilliant, being a Recaro with an alcantara and leather mix. But it's the rest of the interior that lets the car down. The dashtop is unchanged from the donor Lancer, and really cheapens the appeal of the Evo. Sure the instruments are different, but even then the speedo reading is too small for an accurate reflection of your velocity.
The space is good, but the rear seats are too hard, and the stereo is rubbish. There's a proliferation of poverty plastic, but then Mitsu's line would be that it's lighter and doesn't detract from the thrill of driving. There actually may be an element of truth to that. But the ride is certainly firmer than your mother could live with, as it's not only firm, but also crashes a little. You are connected to the road in ways that other cars cannot communicate, however.
The clutch action is progressive, and weighted well, as is the gearchange. The shift is metallic and notchy, yet snicks into place with only little resistance. Braking also feels a bit wooden, until the pads have warmed up. After that the feel is brilliant, because even though there's little initial grab, the more push you give, the more forward retardation you get.
And under the bonnet is the familiar 2-litre turbocharged engine we saw in the Evo VIII, but this time with MIVEC timing, and other revisions to bump the power to 206kW and 355Nm. Under 3500rpm it builds slowly, with a tinny note overlayed by a louder exhaust. But above that, the turbo whistle comes on strong, and so does the acceleration. Then the engine stomps its way to the redline with a satifying sound and urge, all the while being able to lay the entirely of its power supply to the road.
However, it sucks down the premium unleaded very quickly, and with only a 55-litre tank on board, with too much enthusiasm you'll drain the tank in 200kms. Have fun, but pay the penalty. Still, with Mitsubishi supplying a full tank of juice, we just had to find out for ourselves...
The Evolution IX is one of those cars that you have to experience more than once. The purity of the drive experience isn't whitewashed by electronic wizardry. You still have to work hard to get a result. But the result you do get is more than your senses can handle at first go. If this is what the IX is like, we can't wait to drive the Evo X when it is released in a few short weeks.
But excuse us while we go and try the IX again...
- Engine: 1997cc DOHC four cylinder petrol 16 valve
- Power: 206kW @ 6,500rpm
- Torque: 355Nm @ 3,500rpm
- Top Speed: 250km/h
- 0-100km/h: 5.5 seconds
- 0-400m: Not tested
- NCAP rating: N/A
- Safety: ABS, EBD, Dual Front Air Bags
- Turning Circle: 11.8m
- Fuel Tank: 55 litres
- Fuel Type: 98RON Unleaded
- Fuel Consumption: 10.6 litres (Man)
- Wheels: 18″ x 8.0″ Alloy
- Weight: 1,470kg