Five thousand dollars is a lot of money to pay for a little red badge.
The first question all of my enthusiast friends asked after I traded in my 2003 Evolution for a 2005 MR was "Was it worth it?" The short answer is no. Factor in depreciation, the sales tax paid on the previous car, rising interest rates and before you know it, I'm out about 10 large. Trade in just about anything other than a classic (like a certain Avanti we all know) and you'll inevitably take a bath. Lucky for me, the MR is silver just like my old Evo - so the wife still doesn't know (until she reads this post, gulp).
The long answer is a resounding ?YES?. There are a lot of haters with 2003?s that will disagree, but the MR drives like an altogether different beast (out of the box, anyways). For one thing. all 2005 models come standard with an extra 6hp and 13lb/ft of twist - attributed to a redesigned exhaust housing - on paper. Dig deep enough on various message boards, and you will find some specimens dynoing 10-15hp higher, to the WHEELS. Opening it up (well past break in period, of course) yields noticeably more midrange punch without any perceivable increase in lag. In fact, the increased flexibility of the powerplant allows passing with ease in top gear without having to downshift.
The close ratio 6speed gearbox is a delight after dealing with the 03?s rough, finnicky shifter. A redesigned gearbox refined with updated bushings and teflon coated cables contribute to a shifting experience rivaled only by BMWs. Much like the 11th dial position theory from the movie ?Spinal Tap?, the extra gear is a delight when venturing deep into triple digit territory. The downside is that in normal driving you will find yourself rowing the gearbox - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so forth.
New for 2005 is a feature that has been available overseas since the Evo VII - the active center differential. An electronically controlled center differential provides different presets to offer a front/rear torque split that varies from 50/50 to 100% of the torque to the front wheels. Push the car hard enough into a turn, and you can feel it try to sort itself out - where as the old car understeered slightly, you can feel this car want to rotate. Other than that, it barely makes itself known in daily driving - we?ll find out at the track soon enough.
So much for the powertrain differences. Stay tuned for Day 2 when we?ll take a look at everything else!