2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Review

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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Review

"Mitsubishi have pulled off a remarkable feat. An EVO comfortable enough for the daily commute and still good enough to take on the world’s best performance cars”

- words and photography Anthony Crawford

Thanks to Western Sydney International Dragway

Model Tested:
• 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Twin Clutch Sport Shift Transmission - $70,875 (RRP)
• Metallic Paint - $350

Driving an EVO, any EVO, can make you feel a little ‘dangerous’. It has a well-deserved reputation as a supercar slayer. In fact, I’d go so far as saying, that high-end sports car drivers tend to avoid eye contact with them, at any cost.

The best analogy I can give you is from a weapons brochure on the Apache Helicopter Gunship. The phrase reads simply “we own the night”. Many might also consider the Mitsubishi Evolution a weapon, and its catch line would read, “we own the tarmac” and they would be right, too.

The EVOs grip levels on the more recent incarnations (VIII, IX and X) are from another world and exceed that of some of the world’s best supercars.

But if you’re still not sold, just Google “EVO Vs Lamborghini” and click the Top Gear/YouTube link, and you will witness an astonishingly uplifting event, not unlike the Russel Crowe movie, “Gladiator”.

Mitsubishi’s Evolution VIII manages to bully a V12 Lamborghini Murcielago into a 180 degrees spin, and effectively wins the race. It’s a remarkable feat made all the more so, given Jeremy Clarkson was driving the EVO and British Touring Car driver, James Kaye was behind the wheel of the Lambo.

But for anyone lucky enough to have driven a recent iteration of Mitsubishi’s finest, it’s probably not surprising at all.

Clarkson is spot on for once. The absurd, if not comical ease, in which the EVO can neutralise a corner, and the sheer velocity the car can carry through that corner, is beyond astonishing, and will leave you thinking you’re the next Lewis Hamilton.

It’s as though an Alien race with no experience whatsoever in building cars, got to work and packaged all this advanced technology into the first thing they saw on the freeway and behold, the Mitsubishi Evolution!

And Evolution is exactly right. While the EVO VIII was a sensation, it was also too hardcore for many. A brutal ride, notchy gearshifts and only five forward speeds, meant a very select and very small market.

Along came the EVO IX with various improvements including an extra cog and a thing called MIVEC (Mitsubishi variable Valve Timing), which made the car faster, smoother and an easier drive than its predecessor.

And while the ride quality was still considered harsh by anyone other than a track day junkie, it was noticeably more compliant than the EVO VIII, especially over speed bumps and those wheel-warping potholes. Was it a twenty-four seven commuter? Not quite, but almost.

As good as the EVO IX was, and let me say, it was astonishing in every department bar the interior, not nearly enough enthusiasts had had the “EVO experience” so while the car had achieved sainthood status, sales were minimal.

In fact, Evolution 1 through IX has chalked up only 120,000 units worldwide, not nearly enough to turn a profit but undoubtedly, one of the best marketing tools in the business.

The bottom line is, Mitsubishi need to sell more EVO’s, so they built the Evolution X in the hope of doing just that.

It’s still a hardcore machine, no doubt about that. But this particular variant, the MR, which I have been driving, has one of those automated manual gearboxes, which can swap ratios quicker, than it would take your left hand to reach the shifter.

It works pretty much the same way as Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox although, Mitsubishi call it a Twin Clutch-Sport Shift Transmission (TC-SST), which was developed by German transmission and drivetrain gurus, Getrag.

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It’s fast shifting but doesn’t feel quite as refined as the DSG system but then again, this is an EVO and thankfully, things are still a lot more frenetic on board this car, including the shifts.

You can still have a five-speed manual, if you’re a diehard or more importantly, if you can’t stretch the budget in these dark times, but its the TC-SST more than anything else, which makes this the first incarnation of the EVO you could live with twenty-four/seven.

Peak hour journeys in an EVO IX are what made the car unliveable for any sane enthusiast. By the time you made it to work, you may well have shifted gears over one thousand times or more, without ever making it to third gear. Fifty lashes in a Balinese prison would have been less painful.

The New Evolution MR makes all that pain go away. Just select D in “normal” mode and for all intents and purposes, you are driving an automatic EVO! Perfect for the day-to-day commute.

But get away to some quiet, twisty tarmac and you will want to push the small TC-SST lever forward and engage “Sport Mode” where you will find more of the raw “EVO” DNA.

Bury the throttle and things become decidedly more manic. Gearshifts and throttle response are way more urgent than in “Normal” mode. Keep you foot into it, and all hell breaks loose, with gear ratios held until close on 7000rpm before swapping cogs!

As you can expect with any Twin Clutch transmission these days, you also have the option of using paddle shifters, which despite working well enough, seem superfluous with “Sport” mode engaged with the tacho needle nudging the redline before shifting.

And even as you are fast tracking into a corner, the gearbox will blip, blip, down a few gears, setting you up for the prefect exit. EVO magic!

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And if you fancy taking your EVO X MR to one of those adrenalin charged track days, then best you hold that little lever forward for a few seconds, until you see S-Sport light up for that true “EVO” experience. Shifts are not only faster again, but gears are engaged at higher revs. It’s no fun around suburbia, but perfect for closed, one-way tarmac.

What made the EVO IX such a quick thing can be attributed in most part to its power to weight ratio, 7.1kw/kg. It had a kerb weight of just 1470kg and even less, if you opted for the performance pack, which included forged wheels by BBS, which sliced off another 1.1kg per corner.

The proverb says, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”. You can, with a 2008 Evolution MR.

Sure it’s heavier, a full 155 kilograms if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, the Twin Clutch gearbox alone, makes up thirty kilos and the rest is down to various improvements and kit, which has transformed the EVO into a daily driver.

Who’d have thought, Xenon headlamps with adaptive front lighting and self-levelling, Headlamp washers, Mitsubishi Multi Communication System with Sat Nav, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, Rockford Fosgate 650 watt sound system and Leather combination seat trim with heated front seats – in an EVO!

But while the interior is a world away from the ultra basic materials and kit in the EVO IX, it is nowhere near the level of attention in the German marques. More work to be done here.

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But sitting in the driver's seat of the Evolution MR remains the best seat in the house. The Recaro pews are slightly less bolstered than those in the EVO IX, but significantly more comfortable and easier to climb into and out of.

It’s not that Mitsubishi hasn’t been mindful of weight gain with the tenth incarnation. The new engine has been cast from aluminium not iron, which is not only 12.5kg lighter than that employed in the EVO IX, but produces more torque and more power at precisely the same revs.

If there was one thing I didn’t like when I first drove EVOs VIII and IX, it was the go kart like, quick ratio steering, which I found way too sensitive on a car which was capable of decimating any bend in any road.

I even called Mitsubishi’s press car boss in NSW and asked him, if anyone else had mentioned it. His answer was “no, never found that a problem”. He was dead right; I just needed more time behind the wheel after which, I would cherish its pinpoint accuracy. But it was also one of those things, which made the EVO a pure enthusiast’s machine and not exactly ‘punter’ friendly.

The EVO MR is a much more comfortable steer with its rack and pinion set up. Not quite as accurate but more weight and less manic – all the better for tackling suburbia or the office commute.

The Brembo 2-piece front brake disc coupled with significantly larger brake rotors all round, has made a world of difference. Whereas, you had to bury your right foot deep into the firewall for a quick stop in the EVO IX, the MR requires a much lighter touch and feels far more progressive.

It just doesn’t feel as fast as the EVO IX, but that’s more about the way the power and torque are delivered, far more linear with new MR.

Its quieter too, more noise insulation this time around, unless of course you going for it in “Sport” mode, then that good old EVO metallic scream, is back where it belongs.

While it might be heavier, the grip provided by the 18-inch BBS alloys shod with 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport 600’s in concert with Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control System (S-AWC), which adds Active Stability Control, seems altogether contrary to the laws of nature and every bit as good as the EVO IX.

“Despite the added weight and slightly softer EVO experience provided by the specced up EVO X MR, I would suggest there is still no other car in this segment that can touch it, in the all round ‘go fast’ department”