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Evolution Revolution

3rd Jan 2015 7:00 am

We take three different Mitsubishi Evos for a spin on a quiet Saturday morning.

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Forget your electrically assisted steering and your high-tech twin-clutch gearboxes – they are only good for bettering efficiency and lap times. If you want some man-sized, old-school fun, you need to have one of these hairy, old-school beasts in your garage. Hydraulic steering, manual gearboxes and upwards of 270 turbo-charged horses are what the three cars here have. The car in front is a bona fide Mitsubishi Evolution VII. It’s got a wide-body kit and an alleged 500bhp coursing through its four pistons. The car in the middle is an Evolution VIII FQ330. The ‘F’ in the name is too rude a word for this magazine, the ‘Q’ stands for ‘Quick’ and the 330 stands for the horsepower that it used to make. After Mumbai-based KS Motorsport has been through it, it’s apparently making 380bhp. Evo number three is a VII. The engine is stock but it’s got clutch, intake and exhaust upgrades.

I’ve got a couple of hours on a quiet Saturday morning with these three, but as anyone who’s ever been near a modded Evolution will know, quiet is definitely the wrong adjective to use.

Wake-up call

An enclosed garage is where it all starts. Three Evolutions growl to life, and for the five minutes it takes for the fluids to warm up, nearby apartment windows rattle to the tune of concentrated sub-sonic bass. Stall! And stall again! The HKS three-plate racing clutch in the FQ is heavy and tricky to modulate. Also, at idle, the Torque Solution solid aluminium engine mounts send a lot of vibes to the cabin, making the whole car feel like it’s alive and not pleased to be woken up so early. So I give it more revs, drag the clutch a bit, drive onto the highway and get blown away. Past the tricky clutch, the Evo VIII is an incredibly connected car. Five minutes behind the wheel and it’s like I’ve been driving it all my life. I feel I know exactly how the car is going to react to gentle prods of the throttle. Except I don’t – the first time I put my foot down, I’m simply not prepared. There’s a great big hiss from the wastegate, a completely horny blare from the exhaust, a manic lunge for the horizon and what sounds like a gunshot every time I crack through a gearshift! The three-piece Evolution band – I swear it sounds better than Wolfmother!

The wide-body VII is even trickier to move off in – the 2.3-litre, stroked motor has lots of lag. It is even louder than the FQ and till around  5500rpm, you’re just motoring. Full boost and violent acceleration kick in swiftly after that, followed by a body slam into the 7000rpm rev-limiter. Snap through the quick shifter! PSHOO! Repeat violence. It’s hilarious. Both cars have red toggle switches on the dashboard and they are for when their tanks are full of 97-octane – flip the switch and both shift to a different ECU map that makes them weapons of mass destruction. As is, the wide-body VII will crack 100kph in 5.5sec, the FQ in 6.2sec. A Porsche Carrera 4S does the same in five seconds, so for the money, these Evos are bang on. Even more incredible is the 6.4sec 100-160kph time of the VII. That’s almost a 10kph increment in speed every second under full Garret GT35 turbo-assisted thrust! After all that, I expected to be disappointed by the stock VII’s 276bhp, but I swear it’s impossible to be disappointed by an Evo. This one is the easiest to drive and has the most responsive engine. Sure, it doesn’t have the properties of a bullet leaving a muzzle, but then again, it’s still a potent bomb.

 

Fine art

The FQ feels incredibly tight – the steering is beautifully weighted, full of feel and direct, the gearshifter works with the crispness of a lightning bolt, the AP Racing brakes are strong and the whole car feels as tight as a drum. Once you’re on the move, the vibes smoothen out, clutch modulation is easy and, more importantly, the clutch feels like it can take the abuse. The other famous Evo trait is plain to feel as well – traction is phenomenal and all three cars really don’t care if there’s dust, dirt or a wet road. Be overenthusiastic with the throttle and the all-wheel-drive system simply claws into whatever surface the car is on and blasts you forward. No drama. Just pure, unadultered adrenalin. Like the other two, you can go down any road at immense speeds without really trying. There’s so much grip from the stiff chassis and sticky tyres that you can corner at monumental speeds and it is amazing how so much power can feel so nimble and wieldy. The unreal ability to clamp down around corners, a legacy from Mitsubishi’s years at the World Rally Championship, shines through in all three.

Sadly, time is running out. I would have loved to fiddle around with the Active Center Differential’s settings, the wide-body’s electronically adjustable dampers and boost controller settings and see how they change the behaviour of the car, but the Evos have to go back to their owners. Time is running out for the Evo as we know it, too. Reports from Japan say Mitsubishi plans to stop production of the Evolution X this year and its replacement (if there is one) will feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Call me a pessimist and call me old-school, but to me, that sounds like the end of an exciting era, one where shift times and emissions weren’t the priority they are now.  I loved every minute in these three because I enjoyed mastering them. I enjoyed working for my thrills and, by god, did I enjoy the subsequent rewards.

Homegrown evo

I’ve misled you a bit because you can’t import an Evo into India anymore, especially not the VII, VIII, IX or X. What you can do is get the most legendary one of them all. KS Motorsport will import a clean engine, drive train, suspension and chassis bits of an Evolution VI (or a IV or V) from Japan and install it in an Indian-made Lancer bodyshell (the VI is based on the same shell). They even go into details like bringing in the door hinges of the Jap car because they are stronger than the Indian car’s units. The whole wiring loom is also imported and installed so there is no splicing of wires and the associated complications. KS Motorsport will charge you approximately Rs 18 lakh, depending on the cost of the donor car, import duties for the parts and the second-hand Lancer. This conversion isn’t legal in the eyes of the Indian government, so these cars won’t be street legal. What they will be, though, are excellent track cars and maybe even drag cars.

Ouseph Chacko

Contact: www.ksmotorsport.co.in, 9821266669

Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.


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