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2009 Mitsubishi Evo X

 

Bigger, heavier, and fitted with stability control that'll counter drifting - sounds like bad news for the newest Mitsubishi Evo. But it's better, much better, than those facts suggest.

For the clever stuff under the skin lets you play the hooligan - or feel like one without taking the risks. The choice is yours, as we discovered at Mistubishi's Tokachi test track with its water-slick gymkhana, and its tarmac rally stages. The latter's a sphincter-clenching tangle of switchbacks and turns; tight uphill bends, steep downhill hairpins and long, off-camber stretches with zero visibility and savage yumps. Punt a car hard round here and you'll soon know if it's any good.

And yes, the five-speed manual version is very good indeed. The five cogs in place of six are aimed at keeping weight down, as this is the competition car. But it's the auto that flatters most drivers and is ultimately quicker for all but a very talented few.

The key is the double-clutch system. It's called Twin Clutch SST, and was specially developed with Gertrag Ford Transmissions for this car, and its torque load.

One clutch operates first, third and fifth; the other, second, fourth and sixth. Plant boot and as the car's howling through first, and second is poised to go; scream up through second, and third is poised to go.

Want to potter to the shops, have the auto in 'normal' mode for relaxed revs and changes. Point its nose down a country road, and select sport to hold the revs, and accelerate gear changes. Or stop, hold that button down for S-Sport and she'll hold the revs to the red-line, and change gear so fast your eyes will water.

You can also change gear manually using the lever, or the steering wheel-mounted paddles. On this test track S-Sport (for lightning-quick changes) and manual shift proved the way to go - your foot flat as she screamed up through the gears.

So good is the system you can make the most of the engine's thrust, the newly-developed unit the same 2.0-litre capacity and boasting the same, 206kW power - but now with 422Nm at 3500rpm, both figures delivered earlier down the rev range.

Howling into those lurid bends you soon appreciate this car's balance, its much-increased stiffness - and the further developments to the All Wheel Control system, dubbed S-AWC.

There's active stability control added to the active centre and rear diffs, yaw control and ABS of this car's Evo IX predecessor. With the system active, it'll modulate torque from front to rear, from left to right, keeping you on the road and pointing forwards even under savage provocation. It's incredibly confidence inspiring, which may not be a good thing, as when you do find its limits you'll be far beyond the point of recovery.

Though S-AWC can make you quicker - tested at MMC's Okazaki test track the car lapped 1.5 seconds faster with it operative than without - I preferred to knock the system back, and let the car move beneath me. Select Tarmac, Gravel or snow - it wasn't snowing just then - and tap the AWC switch to reduce intervention. She'll let you cut the wheels loose just a tad, enough to slide round this corner, to wriggle over that yump, and to make you feel gloriously, blood-tingling alive.

It was then that we best appreciated the car's impressive suspension. It's compliant enough for surprising levels of every day comfort, but on this test track it was its ability to keep the rubber to the road at speed, even over truly appalling road surfaces, that was astonishing. We get the high performance pack with the Bilstein dampers and Eibach coil springs - the result sucking the car into the tarmac no matter how wild we got.

This car may be 100kg porkier, but it could have been worse. The engine's 12kg lighter, while aluminium instead of steel cuts 70.5kg from the body. But weight balance is better. Stuff like moving the battery and washer to the boot and trimming engine weight achieved that. Add in extra bracing and a body around 40 per cent stiffer, and it's all good news for keen drivers.

But the best news is that we're the first market outside Japan to get the Evo X. We'll land the black face trim, with Recaro seats, seven airbags, the two-piece Brembo brakes to improve cooling and cut unsprung weight. We'll get the BBS alloy wheels and data dot vehicle ID too, the whole lot priced at $62,990 for manuals and $67,990 for the SST autos due early next year.

Performance addicts may be disturbed by a bigger car, and one more accessible to the ordinary driver, who doesn't have supernatural skills and does want a car to also carry the family in, or cruise the daily commute.

They should be mollified by the fact this Evo's still evil, still able to thrash most other cars down a demanding road, and still offers more performance for your dollar than almost anything else. Subaru's STI had better be good...
 

Mitsubishi Evo X Specifications

Dimensions L/W/H/WB: 4495/1810/1480/2650mm
Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbocharged intercooled petrol 206kW at 6500rpm, 422Nm at 3500rpm
Gearbox and driven wheels: Five speed manual or six-speed double-clutch auto drives all four wheels 
Wheels and tyres: 18-inch alloys
Performance: 0-100, claimed: N/A
Fuel economy (overall, claimed): N/A

 

 


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