2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Review
Mitsubishi has modified the Lancer Evolution to widen its appeal. In doing so, its sporty performance has been slightly subdued. Still, critics find that the Evolution offers loads of heart-pounding excitement.
Once a formidable opponent in the World Rally Championship competition, the Lancer Evolution -- or Evo -- is a performance-tuned variant of the popular Mitsubishi Lancer.
Redesigned in 2008 to appeal to a wider audience, the all-new Evolution receives some criticism from enthusiasts for making changes that Mitsubishi asserts make it easier to live with on a day-to-day level. Test drivers, however, assert that these changes haven't significantly altered its racy nature and that they are good and necessary.
According to Autoblog, Mitsubishi will not introduce a Lancer Evolution for the 2009 model year: "The 2009 Evo will continue to be produced for Canada and Puerto Rico, so Mitsubishi is only skipping the U.S. market for the 2009 model year. ... this is primarily due to the late launch the Evo received last year."
The Lancer Evolution is available in two trims, the GSR and MR. Both feature a 291 horsepower MIVEC I4 turbocharged engine.
- "Although it has lost some of the sharpness that has defined previous iterations, the 2008 Lancer Evolution's combination of dexterity, comfort and style will undoubtedly bring more buyers into the Evo fold." -- Edmunds
- "The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo is growing up. Not getting older, but maturing. This doesn't mean its forsaking any of its heritage, just making living with it more comfortable. -- New Car Test Drive
- "We might mourn the loss of the Evo IX's rough-around-the-edges personality, and we might complain that the latest Evolution MR isn't available with a manual transmission, but in the end, you have to be realistic. For Mitsubishi to survive -- and, logically, for it to keep producing Lancer Evolutions at all -- the Evo needs to appeal to a broader market. To do that, it had to grow up. If a small increase in refinement and isolation is the price you pay for such a fantastic chassis and all-wheel-drive system, then so be it. Trade-offs and compromises for the sake of survival? Sounds like ... evolution, don't you think?" -- Automobile Magazine
The Bottom Line
Starting at roughly $32K, the Evo costs more than double the base price of the standard Lancer. So unless you're in the market for a low-profile pocket rocket, you're better off sticking with the non-turbocharged Lancer DE or ES.
However, those looking for a quick and nimble sports car to push through the twists and turns of the track or street racing circuit won't be disappointed. With its 291-horsepower turbocharged I4 engine, all-wheel drive, and performance-tuned suspension settings, the Evolution provides one hell of a kick.
Regardless, shoppers should test drive the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX, the Evo's primary competitor, before making a purchase decision. Like the Evo, its maker tamed it for the 2008 model year. But, after much criticism from auto enthusiasts, reinstated its high-performance capabilities for '09. While the base WRX provides less horsepower than the Evo, test drivers note that it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph a couple seconds faster. What's more, it's available in track-tuned performance trim, the WRX STI.
While the 2009 Evo won't make it to American shores, the refreshed 2010 model will. For now, there are still plenty of 2008 models available
Reviewers note that the all-new Evolution has been engineered to appeal to a wider audience -- which means, on paper at least, that it's no longer the rugged rally racer it once was. While Evo enthusiasts have expressed mixed feelings over this change, test drivers say that it's still a highly capable back-road burner. "Whine if you want about the loss of racing edge and mechanical purity," writes AutoWeek. "Then go out and push the new Evolution hard into a corner, feel the steering wheel load and lighten as unseen systems transfer power from side to side and from front to rear, notice as the transmission grabs another gear, and hang on as the car exhibits razor-sharp handling and balance that come from years of slow and steady development. Mitsubishi is still calling it an Evolution, but it's a much bigger leap this time around."
For 2008, both the Evolution GSR and MR feature a 2.0-liter MIVEC I4 turbocharged engine that produces 291-horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Though the GSR comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, the MR utilizes a six-speed TC-SST. According to the EPA, the GSR and MR net a city/highway fuel economy of 16/22 mpg and 17/22 mpg, respectively.
Aiding performance, the Evolution comes equipped with Mitsubishi's Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system, which regulates drive torque at every wheel to give drivers greater control on the road. What's more, the GSR and MR feature a performance-tuned suspension system, though only the MR's utilizes Eibach springs and Bilstein shock absorbers. Stopping power is brought forth from a four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Brake System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Yokohama performance tires, also add to the sportiness of the Evolution.
- "With either the stick-shift GSR or the MR with the TC-SST, the Evo can rip off zero-to-60 mile an hour acceleration times of slightly more than five seconds." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- "How will the Evo faithfuls react when they find out that their new hero is slower than the previous model? It could get ugly, but let's hope they take into consideration the rationale behind the car's weight gain. Yes, the new Evo is physically larger - with more interior space for occupants - but the main reason is the application of new technology that makes the car a much more nimble machine." -- Road and Track
- "Power delivery from the new engine is far less manic; there's still sizable turbo lag, but forward thrust is no longer served up in a nothing ... nothing ... WHAM! manner. The new engine is more linear, more progressive, and more friendly. It also makes more torque than the old four-cylinder at any given rpm, is quieter and smoother, and pulls more strongly at high engine speeds." -- Automobile Magazine
- "The GSR's five-speed manual handles the power well. Almost too well, as its beefiness occasionally surfaces in a slight clunk between gears, especially when moving through third gear on the way up or down. But gear engagement is solid and throws are short enough. The clutch feels a little light for the power, but it manages engagement with reasonable confidence. Brake and accelerator placement could be closer for optimal heel-and-toe downshifts, but they're close enough." -- New Car Test Drive
- "The MR model is equipped exclusively with a brilliant new six-speed dual-clutch transmission that Mitsubishi's clumsy acronym-speak identifies as Twin Clutch-Sequential Sportshift Transmission (TC-SST). ... Three shift modes can be selected: Normal, Sport and S-Sport. Normal mode delivers early upshifts for best fuel economy. Sport holds gears longer and delivers quicker shifts, while S-Sport holds gears even longer and downshifts more aggressively, banging off gearchanges with real vigor." -- Edmunds
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