Staring at a 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a bittersweet experience for an automotive enthusiast like myself. Here is a genuine article of automotive enthusiasm, that puts down plenty of power, has solid handling characteristics, and doesn’t look half bad while spanking a Mustang around the local SCCA track.
But it’s a dying breed, much like the automaker that builds it, and for that reason alone we feel remorse for it. This is the last of its kind, and signifies Mitsubishi’s disinterest in making fun cars for everyone, instead relying on the redesigned Outlander we reviewed which is by no means a thrilling machine with tons of fun buried beneath the bonnet.
Instead we get a lineup of cars that are uninspiring and low-scoring, and as Mitsubishi slowly dwindles away into non-existence you cannot help but pity it and wonder what happened to the once exciting brand. The days of DSM Eclipses and twin-turbo, all-wheel drive 2000GT sports cars are long gone, and in their place resides a company that teeters on the edge of going the way of Isuzu as a full retreat back to Japan seems an increasingly serious consideration.
So if things are so dire here in America, and the Evo remains quite good, then why isn’t Mitsubishi capitalizing upon it? If they could unleash an Evo hot hatch, with all of the ferocity they can muster, there’s a good chance Mitsubishi would be able to steal some Subaru STI sales and a healthy handful of Civic Type-R customers all at once. But this won’t happen, because putting out something so revolutionary would take the Japanese firm entirely too far out of its modern day comfort zone, and judging by its recent strategic moves, this kind of behavior wouldn’t make it past the accounting department.
This leaves us alone with the Evo and all of its sportiness and melancholy. It had a great run, beating the best and testing the rest, as it went toe-to-toe with every car out there that called it a rice burner. Maybe a proper send off is in order and with a bit of luck, a few of you will go out and buy an Evo since no one ever thinks of it this way, but the collector cars of tomorrow are on sale today.
On a down note, the latest Lancer Evolution has lost its remarkable Recaro sport seats, something which even STI guys admit are amazing. Sure, the MR version still comes with a Rockford Fosgate audio system, keyless entry and ignition, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, but none of these things offer any ass-bolstering, which is something all Evo drivers deserve. Maybe designers thought no one would notice, just as long as all 2015 models received new front cupholders and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals. Or maybe they just said “Screw it, this is the final production year. Let’s save some money and put it toward giving the Outlander even more sound deadening.”
But small qualms aside, this car is still an absolute blast to drive. Edmunds crows that “the Evo is still one of the most thrilling sedans on the market.” While getting a GSR with a marginal five-speed manual gearbox may seem like a mistake, put it in gear and you’ll realize that sixth gear is just a code word for fuel savings, and that fifth stands for FUN! Upgrading to an MR gets you a sharp shifting six-speed, but paddle shifters that have been mounted to a steering column aren’t nearly as fun. Driving an automatic Evo is like getting in bed with Yanet Garcia and then telling her you will only go to second base with her and she has to read the weekend’s forecast first.
GSR models come with 18-inch alloys, fog lights, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, metal sport pedals, and a Multi Information Display (MID) that keeps track of system diagnostics. On the tech side of the equation there is the infotainment interface with voice controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, and satellite radio.
The GSR also can be outfitted with a Sight and Sound Package, scoring you xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, and that banging Rockford Fosgate sound system. A Premium Package is also available, and takes the previously mentioned package and adds a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and extra sound insulation to the mix. For those who want a more aggressive look, the Exterior Package for the GSR offers lightweight ground effects, rear corner extensions, brake air ducts, and a spoiler extension so that a Fast and Furious look may be safely achieved.
Upgrade to an MR edition and you’ll receive BBS forged wheels, two-piece brake rotors, sportier suspension, xenon headlights, automatic windshield wipers, a meaner aero package, keyless entry and ignition, that nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a nicer center console. Opt for the Touring Package on the MR, and you will get the exact same thing as the GS’s Premium Package but with a different name. Optional equipment for both versions of the vehicle are a seven-inch touchscreen navigation system and rear parking sensors.
Every 2015 Lancer Evolution comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine that rocks 291 horsepower and a ground-chaffing 300 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through an advanced all-wheel-drive system called Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), and it typically sprints to sixty in 4.4 seconds. Gas mileage isn’t great at 17 city/23 highway for the GSR and 17 city/22 highway for the MR, but who cares — it’s a turbocharged, all-wheel drive sports sedan, and they are known for being gravel-kickers, not fuel sippers.
While Evos have never been widely known for having amazing interiors, their cabin is by no means an awful place to be even without those ridiculously good Recaros or the help of a telescoping steering wheel. One interesting note is that since the Evo’s battery and washer fluid reservoir are in the trunk to help weight distribution, a total trunk space of just seven cubic feet is available, and by upgrading to the Rockford Fosgate stereo, you will further negate real estate by adding a subwoofer to the equation.
But let’s forget all of these silly side-effects of owning an Evo, because there is only one real reason why you would buy one in the first place: performance.
While the massive Brembo calipers and two-piece rotors keep braking snug and secure, it is the use of lightweight aluminum for reducing unsprung weight up front that captures our attention. Combine that with Mitsubishi’s Active Yaw Control (AYC) to keep the car composed on all sides, and regardless of whether you are on tarmac, mud, or slush this car will outperform almost anything that challenges it. The 2015 Evo also has extremely responsive steering, and Edmunds says its turbocharged engine is “an inspiring mill” that doesn’t ever seem to mind redline.
So where do we go from here? The Evo is about to make the final Evolutionary step and transcend this world, and while it may not have ever been the most practical or well appointed car, by god was it a blast to drive. Sure, while it may still be a bit pricey at $35,000 for the GSR and $39,000 for the MR, getting behind the wheel of one and really thrashing on it is an experience that every enthusiast should experience at least once in their lives before these super sedans are gone forever.
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