Let's be perfectly clear right now. There are lots of very fast cars on the market, and they are all very good in one way or another. But the Mistubishi Lancer Evolution is different from those cars. It's in a higher class. Driving it is an addiction.
The Evo is the "regular car on steroids" clich made flesh, because, well, it is a regular car that's been pumped to within an inch of its life. It only shares a passing resemblance to the econobox Lancer on which it's based; most of the body panels have a extra crease or bulge here or there that belie its base-model sibling's scrawniness. And then there's that huge wing.
On the inside, things aren't quite so steroidal. You might have heard Mitsubishi isn't on the soundest financial footing, and that's obvious from the Evo's interior. There's some carbon-fiber trim, and the machined aluminum shift knob is great, but the overall design wouldn't have been cutting-edge a dozen years ago. Take, for instance, the single-DIN, generic-looking stereo, or the auxiliary gauges mounted under the HVAC controls like an afterthought. But these transgressions are forgivable even before you start driving, because the alcantara-clad Recaro seats hold you like a face-hugger from Alien, except, you know, it hugs your back and shoulders instead of implanting an acid-blooded monster in your chest.
To be honest, the power of the Evo isn't immediately apparent. Remember, the rated 286 horsepower comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, so before the boost kicks in progress can be tedious, especially around town. The Bilstein-equipped MR edition rides exactly how I want a car to ride — stiff, but not jarring — but if you're the sort of person to complain about such things, the Evo is a little on the stiff side.
Let's get back to the addiction part. It starts when the turbo kicks and throws you forward with such reckless abandon that you'll probably blurt out the first of many expletives to express amazement. On boost, at speeds above 35 mph, the Evo accelerates with a grenade-like explosiveness.
But it gets better, because the Evo is actually a very forgiving car. Instead of getting hairier and scarier as the speeds increase, the Evo passes a threshold somewhere near your personal level of comfort and all of sudden gets easier to drive. It puts in some speed-induced nirvana where time seems to slow down and the car gets more responsive and more predictable. The Brembo brakes are a perfect example. Around town they feel a bit grabby, but heat them up and work the brake pedal hard and it becomes so connected that it feels like you're pushing your own feet on the road to slow down (with far better results).
The Lancer Evolution is also a sedan, which means it's the perfect all-around car. There are no compromises, unless you consider a garish wing, bad fuel economy (on premium gas), and stupid-high insurance rates to be compromises. But the Evo can handle duty as a regular family car, and when you get the occasion to get out an really drop the hammer you will instantly remember why you put up with a garish wing, bad fuel economy, and stupid-high insurance rates. Try to get that close to the best of both worlds with a Miata or a Boxster. And don't scoff at the comparison between the Evo and those two great roadsters. Yes, they are completely different cars, but like the Boxster, the Evo is one of the best driver's cars available on the road, period. Remember that next time you go car shopping. [by Mike Austin]