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Published: 01/08/2008 - by Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
We're not sure how to say "oops" in Japanese.
Doesn't matter; we don't need to know. We just test the cars. We don't make them 250 pounds heavier. That's what Mitsubishi's engineers are for. In their efforts to make the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X stronger, more powerful and more luxurious, they made it heavier. A lot heavier. And heavier in this case means slower.
That's right, kids, the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is slower than the Evo IX it's replacing. A lot slower.
Hey, don't shoot the messenger. Channel your anger toward Hiroshi Fujii, the platform manager for the Evo in Mitsubishi's research and development department, and the man they call Dr. Evo. It was Fujii and his team that created the Evo X, the largest, most refined and most technically advanced Evo ever.
Fujii's team has packed this all-wheel-drive, turbocharged sport sedan with active differentials, a dual-clutch semiautomatic gearbox and an all-new all-aluminum engine. They've strengthened its structure, fortified its five-speed manual transmission and added active stability control. Heck, it's the first Evo with a navigation system, HID headlamps and Bluetooth. It would seem that the doctor and his nurses spent years adding everything to the car except speed.
How Much Slower?
But the good doctor shouldn't fall on his sword just yet. Sure he has added complexity, size and weight to one of the finest performance cars ever conceived. But remember, folks, it was Fujii who engineered our beloved Evo IX. And it was Fujii's hands that crafted the Evo VIII, Evo VII and Evo VI. The man is no fool. And his new car, while not as swift as its predecessor, is no dud.
In fact, the Evo X is so good it's sure to be a sales smash. According to our Inside Line crystal ball, when the Evo X goes on sale this February, it'll quickly become the car for performance enthusiasts who can't afford a Nissan GT-R and wouldn't be caught dead in the new poster child for pushrods, the Dodge Challenger. Regardless of what the stopwatch says, the Evo X will easily outsell the great Evo IX, which, truth be told, trickled out of Mitsubishi dealers as if it were coated in feces.
And now we're ahead of ourselves. Let's get back to the test track, where the Evo X GSR did everything right except outrun its older brother.
Here are its numbers:
0-30 mph: 1.7 seconds
0-45 mph: 3.1 seconds
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
0-75 mph: 7.2 seconds
Quarter-mile: 13.6 seconds at 101.3 mph
30-0 mph: 28 feet
60-0 mph: 112 feet
600-foot slalom: 70.7 mph
200-foot skid pad: 0.99g
Back to the Evo IX
If you're disappointed in those numbers, consider yourself hard to please. Either that or you're an Evo IX owner.
The last Evo IX we tested was way back in 2006. And it was a five-speed base model just like this Evo X. It even cost the same, about $35,000.
Here are its numbers:
0-30 mph: 1.8 seconds
0-45 mph: 3.3 seconds
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
0-75 mph: 7.4 seconds
Quarter-mile: 13.3 seconds at 103 mph
30-0 mph: 28.6 feet
60-0 mph: 115.8 feet
600-foot slalom: 70.7 mph
200-foot skid pad: 0.93g
The keen will notice that the new car actually has the old one covered at the drag strip up to 75 mph. We're guessing this is due to the new car's wider, taller 18-inch tires and more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. Above 75 mph, however, the excess weight of the X (our test car weighed 3,545 pounds) drags things down, and the car crosses the quarter-mile mark 0.3 second slower than the lighter 2006 model.
In the Evo tradition, launching the Evo X is tricky. Maintaining 5,200 rpm while feeding clutch and throttle worked the best, but after a couple of runs the clutch smelled like rotten eggs. Getting it wrong doesn't take much, and bogging the car off the line is always the result.
Under the Hood
The Evo X's all-new aluminum-block 1,998cc 4B11 engine weighs 28 pounds less than the beloved iron-block 4G63 and makes more peak power: 291 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. But it doesn't have the same high-rpm kick as the 4G63, and honestly we miss it.
Instead, the intercooled and turbocharged 4B11 builds boost cleanly and in a linear manner even from low engine speeds, where it has the 4G covered. It's also a much smoother engine, happy to live up around its 7,600-rpm fuel cutoff.
Although the engine's basic architecture is shared with the normally aspirated engine found in the 2008 Lancer, the 4B11 inline-4 has been bolstered with a semi-closed deck block and a forged crank for boosted use in the Evo. The compression ratio rises slightly to 9.0:1 and MIVEC variable valve timing has been fitted to both cams, which are now chain-driven.
Mitsubishi has also strengthened the Evo's slick-shifting five-speed manual and ditched the six-speed manual used in the Evo IX MR. And the drivetrain lash we couldn't stand in the Evo IX during rapid on-off throttle transitions is not a problem in the new car. Although the Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST) in the Evo X MR is a technological wonder, guys who really want to go fast will buy the GSR model with the five-speed manual.
As one Mitsubishi engineer told us: "Guys who really want to go fast will buy the GSR model with the five-speed manual; it's stronger for guys who want to modify the car and it can be launched harder so it's quicker in the quarter-mile." We're told as much as 0.3 second quicker.
AYC: Good and Bad
Those new, larger Yokohama Advan tires (the same brand worn by the Evo IX) also give the new car a slight braking advantage. And as you can see in the test numbers, they work with the Evo X's 1.2-inch-wider track, Super All-Wheel Control with Active Center Differential (ACD) all-wheel drive and its Active Yaw Control (AYC) to give the car more grip on the skid pad.
For that test, the new car's AYC is a magic bullet. On our 200-foot circle it allows the Evo X's rear end to step out slightly and stay there all the way around the pad. There's no need for steering input at all. Meanwhile, the car's front tires are pulling the sedan around at an amazing clip. The resulting 0.99g performance is nearly as good as production cars get.
Incredibly, AYC holds the car back in the slalom. It seems the system assumes the driver is initiating a corner and supplies oversteer, but it never realizes the driver wants to steer back the other way. This makes the Evo X quite a handful when it's threaded through the cones.
We would have thought the yaw control system along with the new Evo's larger tires and wider track would have given it an advantage in the slalom. But the Evo X's additional 1.2 inches of height, increased heft and the inability of the AYC system to react to quick secondary changes in direction evened things out. In the end, the Evo X only matches the speed of the Evo IX through the cones.
Although its slalom speed is a bit disappointing, real enthusiasts should be jumping for joy. We'll just tell you that the Evo X is tossable. That it wants to drift. That it likes to be driven tail-out. This all-wheel-drive car drives like a rear-wheel-drive car. Is there a bigger compliment than that?
More Good News
And that's the deal with the Evo X; it's better than its track test numbers tell the world. It still feels like an Evo, but it's a more livable Evo that can be driven and enjoyed by those of us over 30. And it's still affordable. Base price is $32,990 and our test car cost $35,615 with the Sight, Sound and Spoiler Package and destination.
No, it's not the quickest of its kind, but the aftermarket will fix that quarter-mile thing with the determination of a gunshot. Just give the guys at HKS or Vishnu Performance a few months. They'll have the new 4B11 2.0-liter cranked up like your favorite tweaker on a Saturday night. Then there will be no reason to look down upon Fujii's latest creation.
It's the right car at the right time to continue the model's tradition of affordable turbocharged all-wheel-drive performance. Evo-heads the world over better start saving up.
Sorry, Dr. Evo, no oops necessary.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton says:
Where the Evo IX drifted past apexes on the racetrack with all four tires sharing the same slip angle, the Evo X rotates and provides a measure of oversteer the old car never could (although sometimes too much). Lifting off the throttle midcorner doesn't change the IX's attitude, and adding more gas just makes the car go wider on the exit, but that's easier to predict than the fuzzy logic of the Evo X's Active Yaw Control.
Compared to the IX, the extra weight of the X is offset by its added power, so acceleration times are effectively a wash. And Evos have never lacked for brakes, now or then.
But these reasons are not enough to place the X above the raw, superbly direct connection with the mechanical soul offered by the IX. The Evo IX remains a sharper instrument I'd choose to drive in anger. You could grab the IX by the nape of its neck and throw it around — like a Jack Russell Terrier, it likes to spar.
The 2006 Evo feels like it needs me and the 2008 Evo does not. I like being needed. So, in an imaginary cake-and-eat-it-too world, I'd like a X's sexier body and more livable interior wrapped around a IX MR's 250-pounds-lighter chassis. I'm still on the fence about AYC and need more lapping to make a final pronouncement on its cost/benefit status.
How soon can we get an Evo X back? I just might change my mind.
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