Turning Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive icon, the Lancer Evolution IX, into a drifting machine for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift takes an act of perversion: The front wheels must be disconnected from the drivetrain to turn the Evo into a rear-wheel-driver. This is like asking Luciano Pavarotti to perform Rigoletto without any melodies or Eminem to rap without rhyming.
But moviemaking sometimes demands that a car be robbed of its talents. So using a kit developed by Rhys Millen Racing (RMR), eight of the 10 brand-new Japanese-market Evo IXs donated to the Tokyo Drift production by Mitsubishi were converted to rear-drive drift cars by replacing the differential's output assembly with one that leaves out the splines to drive the front wheels and capping the output holes in the transfer case. The stock transverse-mounted six-speed transmission is left alone, as is the rest of the drivetrain. Converting an Evo IX back to all-wheel drive should be just as straightforward.
The Tokyo Drift Evo IXs were also lowered over Eibach springs and fitted with APR's wide-body kit and those oversize fenders were filled with 19-by-8.5-inch Ray's G-Games 99B wheels and 255/35R19 Toyo Proxes T1R tires. RMR also modified the steering knuckles for additional angle and upsized the brakes with Brembo discs and calipers. The turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines were left essentially stock except for the addition of an RMR exhaust system. Power is up from the stock 286 horsepower at the crank to 289.5 hp at the rear wheels, measured on a chassis dynamometer.
With its Modern Image graphics, the Mitsubishi Evo IX looked as if carved from a block of freeze-dried adrenaline: a bundle of nervous energy with four doors and a big wing. Inside, The Fast and the Furious production team replaced the stock instrument cluster with AutoMeter gauges in a carbon-fiber plate and swapped out the steering wheel for a Sparco unit with a quick-disconnect hub. The Recaro seats aren't too radically shaped, but being in this little beast is like sitting on the end of a raw nerve.
Lots of power and a mere 103.3-inch wheelbase mean this drift car wants to go sideways all the time — there may as well be windshield wipers on the door windows. So, no surprise, a rear-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Evo is tougher to launch than an all-wheel-drive one, and this one could manage the trip to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds and complete the quarter in 14.5 seconds at 103.6 mph — a slug compared to the 4.9-second 0-60 time and 13.3 seconds at 103-mph performance of the last stock U.S.-market Evo IX Edmunds.com tested.
For anything except drifting, the all-wheel-drive Lancer Evolution IX is a better machine. In fact, it's an all-time great.