Full 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Review
What's New for 2006
Called the Evolution IX, the 2006 Evo isn't an all-new car, but a mechanical and aesthetic face-lift of the VIII generation. Mitsubishi has added variable valve timing to the car's turbocharged four-cylinder, resulting in better low-to-midrange response. A new turbo housing and muffler design are also part of the upgrade; horsepower is now rated at 286 (10 more than last year). The five-speed manual in base and RS models gets tighter gear ratios. Additionally, the front fascia and grille are new, as are the smoked front and rear lamp bezels. The base and RS get lighter-weight Enkei alloy wheels. Inside, you'll find Recaro front seats with Alcantara upholstery and leather bolsters. The rear seats are restyled, and various interior trim pieces are revised.
Fans of the Speed Channel, World Rally Championship racing and PlayStation2 have long known of the seriously powerful and agile Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Now in its ninth iteration, the Lancer Evo is as impressive as ever. With countless WRC wins all over the world, totaling more than 30 World Rally Championships and four driver's titles, Mitsubishi is no stranger to building winning performance cars.
In 2003, Mitsubishi began offering its road-going version of the Lancer Evo to eager U.S. consumers who might otherwise be shopping for a an Impreza WRX. The Lancer Evolution is no mere Lancer LS with an appearance package added. Every part of the Mitsubishi car is specifically designed to achieve optimum performance -- ultimately the Lancer Evo is nothing less than a street-legal racecar. The hood and front fenders are formed from aluminum alloy to reduce weight; this helps give the Evo a weight distribution of 60/40.
While the local street is full of wanna-bes and poseurs, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is the real deal. You've got to wonder why so many front-wheel-drive cars have deck lid spoilers installed, but on the Lancer the optional carbon-fiber rear spoiler serves two purposes: First, it increases rigidity, and second, it adds downforce to the rear wheels -- something an all-wheel-drive car can actually benefit from.
The Lancer Evo boasts aggressive styling cues that are both cool-looking and functional. Nothing is worse than a hood scoop or fender bulge that serves no purpose other than to add weight and look silly. The Evo's hood uses functional heat expulsion vents and the large opening in the front bumper fascia boosts performance by making the intercooler more efficient. The Lancer Evo also sports Yokohama tires made of a special compound that maximizes grip. To accommodate the sticky 235/45R17 tires and lower suspension, the Evo's front fenders are noticeably wider than a regular Lancer's. A name change and minor redesign accompanies the Evolution IX into 2006. Variable valve timing has been added to the car's turbocharged four-cylinder, resulting in better low- to midrange response. A new turbo housing and muffler design are also part of the upgrade; horsepower is now rated at 286. The interior and exterior also get refinements.
Further evidence of the Lancer Evo's serious nature is special touches like the factory-installed rear-window wiper, enlarged exhaust and lightweight Enkei wheels. Die-hard driving enthusiasts have even more reason to savor the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with the RS version that strips the car down to its bare essentials, and the MR Edition that boasts a six-speed manual tranny, a retuned suspension and lightweight BBS wheels. Think of the RS as the rally prep package as it deletes amenities in favor of saving weight. Gone are the power windows and door locks, sound-deadening materials and antilock brakes. What's left is one of the most potent -- and affordable -- performance sedans on the market.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution sedan is available in three trims: base IX, RS and MR Edition. The base Evo offers features such as 17-inch Enkei wheels; air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and locks; a CD player; and a tilt steering wheel. The RS edition is essentially a stripped-down iteration of the standard car for those who want the most bang for the least amount of buck. It lacks amenities like power windows and locks and has thinner sheet metal and aluminum panels to reduce curb weight (about 50 pounds less than the base Evo). The top-line MR Edition includes Bilstein shocks, BBS wheels, HID headlights, exclusive trim pieces and unique badging. Options, depending on the trim level, include leather seating, a 315-watt Infinity sound system, an in-dash six-CD changer, a power sunroof and a carbon-fiber rear spoiler.
Powertrains and Performance
All Lancer Evo models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four rated at an impressive 286 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. Power is delivered via a five-speed manual transmission on base and RS models, and a six-speed unit in the MR. An automatic transmission is not available. Standard on every Evo is a full-time all-wheel-drive system with an adjustable active center differential and limited-slip front and rear differentials. Expect 0-to-60 times in the mid-5-second range.
A Brembo brake system with ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is standard on the base Evo and MR; ABS is deleted from the RS as part of its lighter-weight mission. Side airbags are not available. In NHTSA frontal crash tests, the standard Mitsubishi Lancer received four out of five stars for protection of the driver and front passenger. Side-impact tests resulted in a subpar two-star rating for front-passenger protection and four stars for rear passengers. In IIHS frontal-offset crash testing, the Lancer earned the top rating of "Good" and was named a "Best Pick."
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Lancer Evo lives up to its race-winning image with well-bolstered Recaro seats. A thick-rimmed, leather-covered Momo steering wheel and large, easy-to-read gauges help keep the driver focused on the task at hand. Gauges glow red and are illuminated at all times to insure they remain legible day or night. The shifter is covered with leather or aluminum and offers a short throw to accommodate the free-revving engine.
With its ultraquick steering and race-tuned suspension, few cars can match the Lancer Evo's bang for the buck. The learning curve is as short as they come given that the car reacts with quick, predictable movements at every turn. Of course, at day's end the firm suspension can take its toll on your backside. This, along with the lack of cruise control, makes the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution less than ideal for road trips, but its all-out performance nature will surely attract enthusiasts with a need for speed. The engine suffers almost no turbo lag and pulls hard from almost any rpm.