"Hey it's new to me." That's what I tell people when they wonder why I'm putting around in a 2003 model when the 2005s are just around the corner.
Our project Evolution is a first run GSR model with one of the only two options available for that year - you guessed it, the big controversial carbon fiber ticket trap. Purchased at a steep discount from a local dealer trying to clear space for the newer models, this is actually one Autoblog vehicle that we get to keep - not because Mitsubishi gave it to us to fool you all with a biased review (although a brand spanking new MR for, ahem, evaluation purposes would be nice - Mitsubishi, are you listening?), but because yours truly gets the pleasure of dealing with 36 months of car payment goodness. Aside from the basic review over the next few days, expect several tech segments over the next several months as we void our factory warranty and transform the car from a sporty people mover to a weekend track car/street sleeper.
The first thing that comes to mind when owning an Evo is heritage. A term usually reserved for the likes of Porsches and Ferraris, heritage is a quality you don?t usually find in Japanese autos with the exception of perhaps the Z car. Still though, to date Mitsubishi has cranked out no less than eight revisions of their popular rally car, cum rolling tuner catalog, with a ninth to arrive shortly. Despite the controversy the company has had in the past few years, the Evolution is a solid design hardened in many seasons of competition.
Our U.S. version makes 271hp and 273 ft/lbs from the showroom floor, allowing 0-60 times spanning mid 4s to low 5s. In real world terms, this makes for neck snapping acceleration in first and second gear as the potent motor combined with all-wheel-drive allows the car to put every last newton of force into the tarmac without the least bit of wheelspin. The fun, however, stops at around 80mph. That much traction is useful to get you out of the hole, but when you start moving, the parasitic drivetrain loss associated with a 2.0 liter motor spinning three differentials, a driveshaft, and four wheels quickly becomes apparent. At highway speeds, the big displacement Camaro SS or Mustang Cobra that you surprised off the line will effortlessly pull by you. If your quality time is spent on a road course, this is a moot point as the grip and acceleration you get in the corners can quickly offset any straightaway advantage those pesky v8s will have. Failing that, another 40-50 flywheel horsepower is a mere cat-back exhaust and downpipe away.
The precise albeit someone noisy five speed gearbox has short gear ratios designed for carving corners instead of commuting to work. Cruising at 80mph puts the tach squarely at 3800rpm in 5th gear. Sure the drivetrain can take it, but high RPMS coupled with the lack of cruise control makes the Evolution a less than ideal car to take roadtrips in. Our particular transmission started developing grind issues going into 5th gear almost from day one. Some Googling has turned up reports of a similar problem from a few other owners - one having to do with a defective batch of synchros in early production Evos. A quick trip to the dealer should have this remedied soon.