• Sep 10th 2008 at 11:55AM
  • 32

2008 Mitsubishi Evolution X MR – Click above for high-res image gallery

Here's a revelation: being stuck in traffic sucks. And it's even more infuriating behind the wheel of an Evo.

Despite what some scribes might lead you to believe, the Evos of yore (VIII and IX) weren't deplorable daily drivers. Granted, Mitsu's engineers erred on the stiff side with the Evo's ride, and it didn't help that the tiller provided more feedback than a Metallica sound check. But the real reason jaded journos harped on the old Evo's workaday unfriendliness was because nothing is more frustrating than piloting concentrated adrenaline in a sea of buzzkill.

With the 2008 Evolution X, Mitsubishi attempted to rectify some of the Evo's (perceived) shortcomings by equipping the range-topping MR with more amenities, more sound-deadening material, a more compliant ride and a new twin-clutch transmission to balance back-road thrills with daily livability.

But all those extras have caused the Evo's curb weight to skyrocket, and its price tag has followed suit. For $42,000 – the sticker on our MR tester – you can get your hands on the new yardstick for high-end, entry-level performance: the BMW 335i. While that kind of wallet shock could ostracize the Evo's core demographic, Mitsubishi is quick to point out that the new MR is for the discerning enthusiast: a more sensible, mature owner. But does mature mean infirmed? Read on to find out.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Brad Wood / Weblogs, Inc.

Despite what you've seen plastered across the interwebs and on local newsstands, the new Evo is every bit as potent as its predecessors. But the MR takes a slightly different tack when it comes to serving up track attacks and tempered trips to pick up the kiddies.

At the heart of the Evolution experience are two elements that made the previous iterations a success with enthusiasts: a turbocharged four and a high-tech all-wheel-drive system. Both are present and accounted for, but they live up to the Evolution's namesake more than any other model in its 16-year history.

To begin with, Mitsubishi dropped its 4G63 workhorse in favor of the all-new 4B11 2.0-liter inline-four, originally equipped in the Lancer ES. But don't let its pedestrian origins deceive you. With a revised 9.0:1 compression ratio, a semi-closed deck, an aluminum block and a twin-scroll turbo, the new mill has proven to be incredibly capable and eminently tweakable. The turbo'd four is churning out 291 hp at 6,500 rpm, while peak torque – 300 lb.-ft. of the stuff – is available from 4,000 rpm. Those figures might not set the forums on fire, particularly when you consider the MR's 3,594-pound curb weight, but how that power reaches the ground speaks volumes about Mitsubishi's new dog and its trick tranny.

Mitsubishi has stepped up the dual-clutch plate with its TC-SST gearbox, the automaker's first foray into the world of automated manuals. Like the transmissions available in a variety of VW and Audi offerings, along with the Nissan GT-R and 2009 Porsche 911 PDK, Mitsubishi's 'box uses a duo of wet clutches to engage odd and even gears on two separate shafts. Six seamless gear changes are available at speed, with oil temps kept in check by an air-cooler.

Drivers can choose between three settings to meet their cog swapping needs: Normal, Sport and S-Sport. A button below the shifter allows you to choose your poison, with the Normal (default) mode putting a premium on fuel economy, slower shifts and a more tempered driving experience. Push up on the switch for Sport mode and the computer tightens throttle response, holds onto the revs towards the 7,000-rpm redline and provides the engine braking manual devotees require. For S-Sport, the Evo has to be stopped and the switch held forward for three seconds. This takes everything that's good about Sport and makes it great, but with the tach rarely dipping below 4,000 rpm to keep the turbo on boil, we found it's best left for the track. All three settings allow you to disregard the TCU's wiser-than-thou selection and choose your own ratio through either the steering wheel-mounted magnesium paddles or the central gear lever, but as we found later, there's no point – it's that good.

Driving around town and blasting down off-ramps, the TC-SST proves to be a remarkably competent and engaging gearbox. Up-shifts are virtually seamless without feeling artificial (ahem, CVT) and downshifts are dispatched with a quick pull and a computer-controlled blip. Even more impressive is the automatic mode, which takes tranny telepathy to an entirely different level. In Sport and S-Sport, gears and power are exactly where you want them, when you want them, whether you're braking into a bend or mashing on the throttle mid-corner.

In traffic, however, the TC-SST reveals that Mitsu's new toy is still a little wet behind the ears. In start-and-stop situations with the tranny set to Normal you can feel the clutch engaging and releasing, sometimes at inopportune times. Occasionally, when the packs loaded up quickly, we'd get a minor "clunk" from the rear differential as the plates locked and sent power to the wheels.* While not as refined as VAG's DSG, what the TC-SST lacks in finesse it makes up for in ferociousness – something that we had the chance to experience at Seattle's Pacific Raceway.

By sheer coincidence or act of car-God, a few weeks after our time with the MR we attended a "Mitsubishi Lancer Family" event allowing us to experience both the GSR and MR models on the track, along with the new Lancer Ralliart and an AMS-tuned Evo X (stand by for reviews).

With our helmet on, the TC-SST set to S-Sport and a race instructor to our right, we headed out onto the front straight of Pacific Raceway. The TC-SST ran through first, second, third, fourth and then fifth as we made our way into the first long, left hand bend.

Keen to see if the tranny's automatic mode would continue to impress, we braked hard before the turn, the gearbox shifting down from fifth to fourth to third just in time for us to apply power as we aimed for the apex. Mitsubishi's Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system imperceptibly shuffled power to the appropriate wheels and the TC-SST shifted up into fourth – mid-corner – but did nothing to upset the Evo's balance through the bend.

Barreling down through the tree-lined back section, the wide straights and first few forgiving turns gave way to a tight and technical section of hairpins and elevation changes. The Active Center Differential (ACD) and Active Yaw Control (AYC) were now in their environment, delivering measured surges of power to the outside wheels while still retaining the subtle rear rotation we loved about the VIII and IX. Smooth, precise inputs may be the best way to lay down quick lap times, but with this much technology available to our extremities, we couldn't help chucking the steering wheel left to right and seeing how the electronics sorted things out. Powersliding bliss proved to be a few ham-fisted maneuvers away.

Just like the last two iterations of the Evo, the new MR (and GSR) allows almost anyone to channel their inner Makinen, and the Evolution is in its prime in a closed environment. On public roads, it's a similar situation. The MR does its best to coddle occupants with beautifully sculpted and supportive Recaros, responsive (and fade-free) Brembos and an intuitive touch-screen multi-media/sat-nav system, while the new dual-clutch transmission makes another compelling case to ditch the third pedal, yet still provides the engagement drivers crave.

But price may remain the sticking point for buyers cross-shopping in the $38,000+ range. The Evo MR's high-tech wizardry, rally roots, aggressive styling and driving dynamics are going to appeal to one subset of the population. Those more concerned with a badge, better interior materials (we're looking at you, dash and door panels) and rear-wheel-drive will win out with others. Just like the Z06 versus GT-R debate, it comes down to what you value in a vehicle and your proclivity for power delivery. Regardless of your choice, you're bound to have fun, and the MR is a sure bet to achieve it.

Mitsubishi provided the vehicle for testing, and arranged travel and lodging for our trip to Seattle. Special thanks to Concord Mitsubishi for allowing us to use one of their vehicles for another photo session.

* According to Mitsubishi spokesperson, Maurice Durand, the Evolution X MR we were driving still had a prototype tune on the transmission's computer. Mr. Durand tells us that some of these issues have been ironed out on the production model.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Brad Wood / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      screw this stupid twin clutch transmission. just give me a slick 6 sp manual and i'd do fine, the evo x mr seems like an overweight boring car to drive. i would take the cheaper gsr and at least enjoy the third pedal and the reduced curb weight, what a waste of money for the evo x, in canada the mr is 52000$, ouch thats a rip off, not worth it in my opinion, even the 5 speed gsr is a rip off.

        • 7 Years Ago
        I could not agree with you more. Automatics are for SISSIES!!!
        • 7 Years Ago
        I got over $5k off the sicker of one of the last R32's last month and I'm happy. Happy that I dont look like some wanna be high school kid with a picnic bench for a wing. Happy that I dont have to look at an interior that was designed and installed by a sweatshop.
        ...but to each their own.
        • 7 Years Ago
        @shawn: This is the same "ripoff" that, despite its much lower MSRP, outran such sports cars as the Porsche 911 Carrera and the Lotus Elise SC. On two different courses, no less.

      • 7 Years Ago
      While I agree with most people that the evo definitely is expensive, and it's in a way higher price range than it used to be. I'm currently making payments on an MR myself. I think the comparison to a 1 series and a 3 series price wise isn't right. Let's look. All prices are MSRP.

      I got my evo, with the tech package.
      MR + Navigation + 30Gb music server + 650W soundsystem and subwoofer = $41,515

      For a similarly spec'd 135. The price came out to
      $45,825. So the 135 costs more, and it's much less usable to me. It's REALLY hard to fit 4 people in it and it's a slushbox.

      For a similarly spec'd 335. The price is $52,025.

      Both cars are faster than the evo in straight line acceleration, but the evo wins on a skidpad and around a track. But what really won me over was the visceral feeling of driving one. It doesn't coddle, it's in your face. It makes you happy you're driving one, and it makes a great noise.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Better one broken gas pedal then a ton of ruined motors...

      My GSR with/

      SSS (HIDs, Premium sound, large spoiler)
      ISK (aluminum shift knob and aluminum & Leather handbrake)
      MMCS (Navigation, Music Server, all car funtions)

      Cost me $34,000

      Show me another car that can accelerate, handle and stop like it, fit four people in it comfortably, has a trunk and can be used all year round through sun, rain and snow...

      I priced out the 135i and 335i with similar options and forget my 33K, it was nowhere near 40K! For far inferior performance. On the same track the Evo gives the M3 a run for its money and in some situations trumps it as Motortrend's testing indicated. So what most of you are saying is that a 135i and 335i perform similarly to an M3... Big waste of time for BMW then, unh?

      The interior is a mute point, the Evo's seats far outweigh all the soft touch surfaces in the world that you can fit into a BMW. How much time do you spend touching your dash vs. sitting in your seats?
      • 4 Years Ago
      BMW's AWD system is garbage compared to the EVO's. The Audi S4 is pretty nice but cost about 10k more when equipped with the required sport dif.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If only the rest of the car were as nice to look at as those awesome BBS wheels.
      • 7 Years Ago
      291hp on a 3600lbs chasis? hmm not so good.

      if i had 38k to spend i would def not spend them on a lancer.
      for that $$ i rather buy a base 135i at least it has a classy bmw badge on it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        A base 135i will cost you 37,000 with a sport package and leather, 800 will get you a chip that will get about 80hp/80tq to the wheels. I just don't know how they justify an EVO being at this price point.
        • 7 Years Ago
        yea the price is too much for what you get ...

        im not concerned w/ the badge ... for the money i would rather take a legacy gt spec.b and tune it to high hell ... im sure itd give the evo a run for its money.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree, that is the car I would get for that kind of money. Though the badge does not matter as much to me. It is just a small quick well made RWD car. What more could you ask for?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think you'd buy this over the bimmer if you wanted working turn signals.

      Zing! :-)
        • 7 Years Ago
        Nice comeback!
        • 7 Years Ago
        Better broken turn signals than a broken gas pedal...
      • 7 Years Ago
      What the hell is with the price inflation on every damned car...$42K for an Evo MR?!?!
      Whatever happened to the days when the Evo was the cheap way to get into a sports car =(
      • 7 Years Ago
      At that price and with that kind of curb weight, I'm having a hard time understanding the point of the car; it seems to have lost touch with what it was when it came out (namely relatively cheap, fairly light, and respectably fast).

      At that price point I'd rather have the 335; it weighs about the same, as far as I know they perform similarly, the interior is nicer, the build quality is higher (unless Mitsubishi has massively improved the X over the IXs), it has a clutch pedal, BMW doesn't have a reputation for being problematic with warranty work the way Mitsubishi does as far as I know... Outside of the AWD I can't think of a single reason I'd want an Evo over a 335 if they were priced about the same, and the 335xi starts at $42k, so even that argument is basically irrelevant.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Evo MR is much more ready for track duty in stock form compared to the 335. The 335 lacks a LSD, the Evo obviously has two in conjuntion with the active center diff, yaw control, blah blah blah.

        The brakes on the Evo are better suited to track days. The seats have larger bolsters. The tires are higher performance dry weather tires.

        The Evo has an oil cooler stock. I THINK the 335 manuals do now too after BMW found out how quickly they cook the oil on just an autobahn jaunt.

        The Evo will have substantially larger aftermarket and also be easier to upgrade for power. With the 335, you're pretty much limited to the stock turbo whereas larger turob upgrades for the Evo are coming out.

        If the car will never see a track, the 335 will probably be the better bet. If the car will be on a road course, the Evo is the better buy.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Have any of you (with the exception of Keepster) even driven the car? I have, and the TC-SST is excellent. Yes the car is heavy, but the power is more than adequate and it provides a "carved from a solid piece" feel. That being said, I do enjoy the manual version more, though and extra gear would be helpful on the highway. But to call the TC-SST "stupid" without experiencing it is just providing an uniformed opinion.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I completely agree. I own one, and I wouldn't trade it in for anything within $10k of its price-point. I don't care if people think "automatics" are for sissies, the twin clutch transmission is brilliant. I took my brother for a ride the other day. His comment: "Top-Gear doesn't do this justice."

        There's definitely some truth to the comments that the car is more expensive than it should be, but frankly, if you have the money and you really like your corners, this car is still fantastic.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Guys, you are comparing the MR with all the add ons (including forged wheels,etc.) , but you can get a base GSR with a manual for 32 K (I know personally) or 30K if you live in California. It still comes with Recaros and Enkei wheels (midly upmarket), and of course probably the best all wheel drive system. For that money you have to compare it to a 328 or 128i which the Evo would leave far behind in the dust. Drop another 1000 bucks or so in exhaust and tune and you have another 75HP(crank) and are comparable or better to an M3 on the track for sure. It's not the end all of cars like some enthusiasts think - but for 32K for a manual it's a hell of a car.

      Also, unlike the Vette it can be used for four to go to a movie and dinner (I'm 6'1 and can sit behind the drivers seat without it hitting my knees in my driving position).
      • 7 Years Ago
      For $42,000 a 335I is had to pass up, as is a G37 coupe.
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