The lost halo car
Looking at Mitsubishi’s current lineup of cars and trucks, one might wonder where the Japanese brand is heading. The Eclipse, Galant and Endeavour have been retired leaving the Lancer, RVR, Outlander and i-MiEV to support the entire North American market.
And their halo car, the Lancer Evolution, which is supposed to represent the pinnacle of the brand’s potential, vision and styling direction is now in jeopardy. Can the aura of the mighty Evo convince people to buy an i-MiEV? Hardly.
However, with the introduction of the new Outlander plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi is clearly heading in an environmentally friendly direction. And that’s why the Lancer Evo is in troubled waters, because it’s far from being green and doesn’t represent the brand’s future plans.
But boy, what a stupendously fast track beast!
145 hp per litre
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L 4-cylinder engine produces an impressive 291 hp, and an even more impressive 300 lb-ft of torque. The GSR trim gets a 5-speed manual transmission, while the MR gets a double-clutch 6-speed sequential with paddle shifters.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo GSR blasts to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, but what’s really amazing is the amount of available torque once the car is in motion. Passing power is incredible, and all of a sudden, you’ll find yourself repeatedly slowing down and accelerating just for kicks.
You likely won’t get a kick out of the 2012 Evo GSR’s fuel consumption. Drive it like it begs to be driven and you’ll average 15L/100 km. Eco-driving can lower that number to 12L/100km, at which point you’ll wonder why you bought an Evo in the first place. You’ll basically burn a 55-litre tank of gas in about 400 km, so you’ll meet a lot of people at gas stations.
Massive cornering grip
There's very little that can unsettle the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. Its tenacious grip is great for when you feel like hitting the track. Thanks to a bunch of components such as an Active Centre Differential (ACD), Active Yaw Control (AYC), Active Stability Control (ASC), and a helical limited-slip front differential, S-AWC is a full-time setup.
On slippery surfaces, the system can distribute engine torque up to 50:50 front/rear, and then split between the left and right wheels. There’s also a rocker switch with three available traction modes, Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo never seems to lose traction -- ever. Here’s a car with an all-wheel drive system as capable in the snow as on a racetrack.
On city streets, however, the ride is pretty rough. Scrubbing off speed is not a problem for the Evo, with Brembo ventilated disc brakes and four-piston calipers up front.
Still got the looks
I tested a Lancer Evolution GSR back in 2008, and since then the car has been left virtually unchanged. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you look at the situation.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo has aggressiveness written all over it with its wide-mouth grille, its hood vents, its bulging fenders, its twin exhaust pipes and its rear wing. It all perfectly suits the mainstream Lancer’s angry stance. Still, a nip and tuck over the years wouldn’t have hurt, if only to make the car look newer than a 2008 model.
The same issue can be seen inside. Apart from a sportier wheel and silver accents, the dashboard also hasn’t changed since the Lancer’s 2007 redesign, and the overall appearance doesn’t feel richer than what you’d find in a base $16K Lancer DE.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo does get super-supportive Recaro front seats, which feature heavy back and hip bolstering. Climbing in and out of them is somewhat of a hassle (although, you eventually get used to it), but boy, once you’re in you ain’t moving an inch even when you’re in the middle of an apex.
Mitsubishi preferred weight distribution and structural rigidity over versatility; the rear seatback doesn’t fold down, and truck space is reduced to 195 litres due to the relocation of the battery and washer fluid tank. Yes, you must top up the window juice in the trunk. Good luck, and carry a funnel.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s turbo engine and trick AWD system don’t come cheap as the GSR starts at $41,998 before taxes, freight and delivery charges. A Handling Package, which adds the MR trim’s BBS alloy wheels, Eibach springs, Bilstein shocks, and Brembo two-piece brake rotors, can be had for an extra $3,000.
Competitors include the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, which is a little less expensive ($38,195 base price), slightly more powerful (305 hp) and just as capable. You could also consider the less-hardcore $39,675 Volkswagen Golf R, if they haven’t all been sold yet.
The future of the Lancer Evolution is still unclear; rumours mention a new-generation model with a hybrid powertrain which would be interesting and fit better with Mitsubishi’s greener philosophy. Right now, the Evo is a stupendously fast machine that’s brilliant on a track and a little rough around the edges on the open road. If you’re in the market for one, it might be wise to shop sooner rather than later.
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