While driving the support car, I momentarily lose sight of the Evo X that’s shadowing us. It’s not to my left, it’s not on the right. . . “Where’s he gone?” Then suddenly, it’s there, sliding into the rearview mirror like a glassy-eyed shark, inches from our rear bumper. A big NACA duct for a nostril, maw hung low and turbo whistling softly, the Evo X drips menace. It really does look ready for battle, as if it’s hiding machine-gun pods and rocket launchers all over. Mitsubishi sure knows how to stir up a witch’s brew. No Attention Assist needed here, that’s for sure – this car is an eyeball magnet.
What’s also great is that you won’t be getting all the wrong kind of attention. The car we’re driving isn’t any random import, squeezed in through loopholes. No, the DRI has got nothing on us – this is India’s first officially imported Evo, soon available at a Mitsubishi showroom near you.
But is this new Evo X (or 10) as much fun as the ones that came before it? Does it still feel like the maddest and most highly tuned car to be put into production? Is it still one of the best driving four-door cars on sale, a car that truly feels like a WRC car on street tyres? You have questions, we have the answers. Let’s get straight into the driver’s seat.
And a really impressive seat it is, this Recaro, with its carbon-fibre trimmings and massively supportive sides. The driving position is fantastic as well, and you are sat at just the right height. Very tall or short drivers may have a different opinion, however, as the seat does not adjust for height. And nor is the steering adjustable for reach, shocking for a driver-focused car
The version that Mitsubishi imports comes equipped with a six-speed, DSG-type, double-clutch gearbox, and there’s a pair of nice magnesium paddles attached to the steering column too. The 2.0-litre motor fires with a soft blast from the twin rear exhausts, the dual silencers probably the only purely cosmetic bit on the car. Those of you steeped in Evo lore will know that the aluminium motor (codename 4B11) under the aluminium hood is all-new and not an evolution of the famous 4G63 motor that has pages and pages of mods available if you execute a Google search. For all its visual drama, initial take-off, however, is not very strong or rapid. This is understandable as Mitsubishi is wringing 291bhp out from a mere 1.9-litre motor, with a real mother of a turbo. So a bit of lag is understandable.
Nevertheless, the ‘auto’ ’box takes care of much of this lag and just downshifts when you put your foot down, the Evo exploding forward after only a bit of a wait. But this car is not about low-end pulling power. It’s all about the performance delivered with the turbo on song, shovelling masses of boosted air into the engine. Drive it hard, in the manic part of the powerband, and the Evo immediately lives up to all the hype. Above 3000rpm the lag evaporates, and power delivery is linear and very strong. The tug from the four-wheel-drive system now pins you to your seat, and the motor just loves to spin and spin. There’s no let-up in power either at the top of the powerband, as the twin-clutch gearbox has already pre-selected the next gear for you, the tachometer flicking back only momentarily, before you are slammed in the back again.
The best part of the powerband is 4000 to 6500rpm, and it’s here that the Evo feels fast enough to hang onto the tail of a supercar. Sixty to 120kph, for instance, takes only 5.4 seconds flat out and the X accelerates just as hard up to 180kph and beyond. What this new, more-rounded motor lacks, however, is the crazy spike in turbo boost present on the earlier car, and some of the earlier Evo’s tuned feel as well. And you don’t hear too many whooshes and pops of the turbo’s wastegate either. But that’s refinement and progress for you.
What this car also doesn’t like doing is standing starts. The SST ’box seems reluctant to allow the motor to spin hard before you dump the ‘clutch’ and that means you don’t take off like a scalded cat, tyres spinning. Even with all systems switched off, we couldn’t better a zero to 100kph time of 6.6sec. Part of the problem is that we couldn’t test this car on the specified 97 octane and were forced to run on regular 91 octane fuel. This, we feel, would account for a half-second loss in the acceleration time.
A large part of our day with the Evo is spent at the track in Chennai – a great place to sus out its tarmac skills and put all that hardware through its paces. First impressions are of effortless pace and grip.
The Evo X just sticks to the track, like it is being sucked down by a vacuum-producing fan. There is very little body roll and it feels incredibly composed and relaxed. This, despite the serious cornering speeds and occasional howl from the tyres.
It’s all very enjoyable, but the message from the very accurate and well-weighted steering is clear – the Evo X thinks it’s on a Sunday cruise. You need to push harder, brake later, carry more speed into corners and get on the gas earlier to really get stuck into the Evo. And it’s only then that you get access to the best this car has to offer.
The strong brakes, fantastic turn-in, incredible poise and great feedback make going harder and
harder a real treat. Through corners, turn-in, apex and exit flow with amazing fluidity. What genuinely sets this car apart, though, is the adjustability it offers. Initial understeer can be driven through easily and should you provoke the chassis more by backing off the throttle suddenly and by turning harder than necessary, the Evo pivots around its centre and settles into a nice neutral drift, planting a big smile on your face. And that’s the essence of the Evo – big, big fun.
What’s more, the Evo feels even more capable on everyday streets. Performance is devastating even at 80 percent, the chassis is incredibly chuckable and confidence-inspiring and you just seem to want to extract more and more performance from this car. It really goads you into putting the hammer down. And it’s pretty practical and usable too. With just a little bit of extra care, we managed to take it over some really bad bits of road, and kuccha roads should present no problem either. It has 140mm of clearance and very stiff springs, so if you are careful you can go over stuff you’d never imagine tackling with your Porsche. And while the ride over broken bits of tarmac is quite revealing and stiff-kneed, you aren’t tossed around either. There’s plenty of space on the rear seats (we should see the world’s first chauffeur-driven Evo in India soon) and there’s even some amount of boot space. That said, the full-sized spare and battery take up a lot of space, while plastic quality is only good enough for a car half the price of the Evo X. Which, of course, gets us to the thorniest bit – the Rs 50-lakh price-tag. This is a lot of money for what is basically the latest Lancer on steroids.
For this sort of money, you could get yourself a 3-series or an A4 bahnstormer. You’d get higher levels of quality and much more refinement and practicality too. But would they be as much fun? Could you take them upto 450bhp as easily? Would they attract as many open-mouthed stares? Can they make you feel like a part of The Fast and the Furious or a rally driver every morning?
And yes, “I drive an Evo” does have an equally nice ring to it.