Full 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Review
What's New for 2008
After a one-year hiatus, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution returns for 2008. Based on the similarly redesigned Lancer, the new Evo is more refined and boasts a new engine, an available automated-clutch sequential-shift manual transmission and new features like a hard-drive-based navigation system.
If you think that the Mitsubishi Evolution X is some sort of crossover along the lines of the Taurus X, stop reading. There'll be a gang of crazed gearheads with torches and pitchforks at your door momentarily. They know that the X is in fact a Roman numeral indicating the 10th generation of Mitsubishi's iconic all-wheel-drive, rally-inspired sport compact sedan. The reason you might not recall previous incarnations is because the "Evo" didn't show up on this side of the Pacific until midway through 2003, and by then it was already in Evo VIII form. That's how legendary this car is -- it had a fan base without even being sold in this country.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is entirely new and based on the similarly redesigned 2008 Lancer compact sedan. As before, it's a high-performance version, with a potent turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and related upgrades to improve handling and braking. The Evo X, however, is meant to be more refined and accessible to a wider range of buyers. It starts with the new Lancer platform; a slightly longer wheelbase and a much stiffer body structure give the 2008 Evolution a more substantial feel. The Evolution also benefits from the Lancer's sharper exterior styling, improved interior and new entertainment and safety features.
However, while its styling and newfound creature comforts are key to bringing new folks into the Evo cult, maintaining the performance and handling that created that cult in the first place is paramount. On that front, the Evo X is a mixed bag. Specifically, the new Lancer has gained weight over its predecessor, which wipes out the added horsepower gained by its all-new aluminum block (versus iron) turbocharged inline-4. When comparing acceleration numbers from this and the prior generation, the two work out to nearly even. The new engine is certainly a smoother operator, however, cleanly building boost in a linear manner even at low engine speeds. It doesn't have the same high-rpm kick as its predecessor, but it's still a hell-raiser and easier to live with.
There are two Evo varieties available. The GSR is aimed at the more hard-core enthusiast set, with more aggressive suspension settings and a standard five-speed manual transmission. The MR not only sports a softer suspension, it features Mitsubishi's new automated twin-clutch manual transmission that's operated via metal paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. (It can also operate as a traditional automatic.) This transmission swaps ratios with lightning-quick precision, which is welcome regardless of whether you're driving at 10/10ths or just turning your brain off and leaving it in "D."
Like past Evos, the X sends power to all four wheels, but this one manages to feel more rear-biased in the way it drives and handles. Credit the fact that this is more than simply all-wheel drive. Dubbed Super All-Wheel Control, Mitsubishi's system features an active center differential that sends power to all four wheels, while Active Yaw Control calculates various vehicle dynamic factors and compensates to maximize grip. With a hard launch, you can expect a 0-60 mph time of about 5.0 seconds. And around our skid pad, the GSR managed an impressive 0.99g of grip, which is supercar territory. Throw in sublime steering and the Evo X becomes one of the best-performing cars at any price.
With an MSRP starting at about $33,000, the Evo is in the same general price range as sports cars or coupes like the Nissan 350Z or upscale versions of the Ford Mustang. But there's really only one true competitor: the Subaru WRX STI. Both cars are fully redesigned for 2008, and both take a similar route in their evolution (pun intended) by focusing on creature comforts and overall refinement to appeal to more buyers. While the STI features a nicer interior, its hatchback-only body style is rather controversial in terms of styling. And it's just not styling that the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has on its side -- we've found it to be more fun and playful in nature than the STI, too. While some will miss the high-strung nature of the previous Evo, the new car is much better all around. For a performance car, it's not to be missed.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a high-performance compact sedan available in GSR and MR trim levels. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, foglights, full power accessories, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, Recaro sport bucket seats and a six-speaker stereo with single-CD player. The MR is similar but has BBS alloy wheels, softer shock absorbers and springs, HID xenon headlamps, a larger rear wing, Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls.
Optional on the GSR is the Sight, Sound and Spoiler Package, which adds HID headlights, the MR's larger rear spoiler and a Rockford Fosgate sound system with 10-inch subwoofer, satellite radio and an in-dash six-CD changer. The MR Technology Package adds keyless ignition/entry, the Rockford Fosgate sound system and Mitsubishi's hard disk-based navigation system with digital music storage system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Evo is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The GSR comes only with a five-speed manual, while the MR is equipped with Mitsubishi's new six-speed automated-clutch manual transmission with paddle shifters. Power is sent to all four wheels through an advanced all-wheel-drive system. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for the MR version.
Standard safety features on the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution include front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. The Evo also comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control and a variety of advanced handling technologies. The Evolution hasn't been crash tested; however, in government tests the regular Lancer scored a top-rated five stars for driver frontal impact protection and front seat side impact protection. It received four stars for front passenger frontal protection and rear passenger side protection. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset crash test, the regular Lancer managed the top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Evo's interior is far more sedate than its flamboyantly aggressive exterior. Recaro sport bucket seats, alloy foot pedals, fancier gauges and a different steering wheel are the only things that differentiate the spicy Evo from the vanilla Lancer GTS. Those Recaros are highly supportive and comfortable, but the driver seat's lack of a height adjustment and the steering wheel's tilt-only column make finding an ideal driving position difficult for many drivers -- not just tall ones.
Most of the interior materials are the same as those on the regular Lancer, which is to say that they're fine for an economy car but perhaps disappointing for a vehicle costing about $35,000.
The redesigned 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a sports car in sedan clothing. The advanced all-wheel-drive system works behind the scenes to give the car very impressive handling and traction abilities. The car's steering is not as quick as the previous model's, but it's still very responsive. Among the two Evo varieties, the MR trades a bit of the GSR's sharpness for a softer ride. Plus, with its paddle-shift automated-clutch manual transmission, it's definitely the choice for those who don't want a hard-core rally-ready sedan 100 percent of the time. Owners of the last-generation Evo IX may find the new car lacks the same hair-trigger steering response and that some of the overall connection between man and machine has been lost. Still, the 2008 Evo X is one heck of a fun car that's nearly impossible to beat for the money.
Read our Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X MR Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test