The all-new 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution is bigger and more refined than its predecessor. Rally fans may regret the Evo has moved away from its roots in World Rally Championship competition, but it's faster than its predecessor by almost every measure, now more like an affordable BMW M3.
The Evo is the sports edition of the Lancer sedan. Mitsubishi doesn't bring out a new version of the Evo every year. Although the first of the Evolution models appeared 16 years ago, this all-new Evo X, as it is affectionately called by fans, is only the 10th edition. Referred to by its fans with the Roman numeral X, the Evo X follows the Evo IX by two years.
Over those two years, some radical changes have been made. The Evo X is heavier, by some 300 pounds, than the IX. But it's more powerful, too, by five horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque, so it forfeits little if anything in sheer performance.
More important, though, are changes made outside the engine compartment. The interior is upgraded, importing many of the current family version of the Lancer's features and trim. At the head of this list is the optional navigation system employing a 30GB HDD for map storage that reserves some six GB for personal audio files. The system will also, when the Evo is parked, play video through its seven-inch screen. One interior piece, or rather two interior pieces the Evo doesn't borrow from the base Lancer are its front bucket seats. These are sourced from Recaro and break new ground with in-seat, side impact airbags.
Mitsubishi has also upgraded the Evo's running gear. There's a new, high-tech, twin-clutch, electronically shifted six-speed manual that's exclusive to the top-level Evo MR. It's a sweetheart of a transmission that puts some mega-bucks luxury sports cars to shame. The new Evo's all-wheel drive system is a serious move upscale, too, using data from yaw sensors, steering wheel angle, throttle opening, wheel speeds and the cars' sideways and fore-and-aft motions to regulate differential limiting action as needed to put the power to the wheels that can use it best to deliver what the computer perceives the driver is wanting.
The result of all this technology: Almost immediately after climbing in, we found it very easy to drive very hard. We were able to drive it right to the limit on the second lap of an unfamiliar racing circuit, this more a credit to the 2008 Evo's predictable handling than our driving prowess. It always seems to do exactly what the driver wants.
Pricing is competitive, as well. The GSR's $32,990 easily bests the most likely cross-shopped Subaru WRX STI's $36,000-plus. Mitsubishi hadn't released pricing on the MR when this was posted, but best-guestimates peg that at around $38,000, which again comes in under the STI's higher end of around $40,000. It's even plausible, as some Mitsubishi folk suggest, although off the record, to consider the 2008 Evolution as competitive with a two or three year old Audi A4 or S4.
Choosing between the Evo GSR and MR models comes down to personal preferences and budget; we liked both models.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution comes in two versions, the GSR ($32,990) and the MR. Both are four-door, five-passenger sedans and are powered by the same intercooled turbocharged four-cylinder engine and come with all-wheel drive. The GSR comes with a five-speed manual transmission, while the MR has an all-new, high-tech, twin-clutch, Sportronic, electronically shifted, six-speed manual transmission.
The GSR comes with automatic climate control, 140-watt, six-speaker, multi-media stereo, Recaro bucket seats with manual fore-aft and back angle adjustments, power windows, power door locks, keyless remote entry, floor mats and front map lights. Yokohama ASVAN asymmetrical-tread performance tires wrap around 18-inch, cast alloy.
The GSR can be ordered with two factory options. One is the Sight, Sound and Spoiler Package ($2000) that adds HID headlights with manual leveling; a 65-watt, Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system with eight, strategically positioned regular speakers plus one subwoofer; Sirius satellite radio with six months pre-paid subscription; six CD/MP3 in-dash changer; oversize rear spoiler; and FAST Key entry system, which allows keyless door unlocking and push-button start/stop for the engine. The other is premium, Phantom Black paint ($250).
Mitsubishi has kept the faith with its aftermarket vendors, which has yielded seven sets of goodies installed on the GSR either at the port of entry or by dealers. These comprise a 30GB HDD navigation system with digital CD/DVD capability ($1999; installation is extra on this and the remaining aftermarket pieces); a stand-alone, in-dash, 6CD/MP3 audio head unit ($399); a five-piece aero kit ($1999); side wind deflectors ($85); wheel locks ($40); cargo organizer ($58); and an interior sport package ($399) that replaces the leather-topped shift knob with an aluminum knob and dresses up the hand brake with an aluminum/leather grip.
The MR upgrades include the computer-shifted, six-speed manual, BBS forged alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs, two-piece brake rotors (steel disc on aluminum hub for weight savings), hands-free Bluetooth cell phone functionality with voice recognition, the HID headlamps, the oversized rear spoiler and steering wheel-mounted audio controls (the toggle for the three all-wheel drive modes moves to the center console). The sole factory-installed option for the MR is a Technology Package, with the Rockford-Fosgate audio system, Sirius satellite radio, the 30GB HDD navigation system with 7.5-inch touch screen (that also displays video with the transmission in Park), the Mitsubishi Multi-Communication system (on-board computer and information system), and FAST Key.
Safety features include dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side impact airbags, full coverage side air curtains and driver's knee airbag; electronic stability control; anti-lock brakes; electronic brake-force distribution; and tire pressure monitors.