In the 1990s, Mitsubishi took its economical Lancer sedan, turbocharged it, added four-wheel drive, went rallying, and gave birth to a brand new generation of fan boys.
The Evo built a cult so large that it made Heaven's Gate look like a book club. The tenth edition has been around since 2008 and is the most grown up and expensive Evo yet. There are rumors that this one could be Mitsubishi's last.
It's also the car my father elected to make his daily driver. He's going to take this review very personally.
(Full Disclosure: My Dad wanted me to drive the Evo so bad that he kept telling me to get one to review so I could give him my views on his car. I would have just borrowed his car, but he wouldn't let me.)
Along with the Nissan GT-R, the Evo is the poster car of the Gran Turismo generation. It's a car that had a diehard fan base before it ever planted a wheel in America. By the time the Evo made it here, those kids that were playing Gran Turismo were grown up, and they were ready for that car.
The Evo celebrates nine years in America in 2013. What began as a bare bones rally weapon is now quite nicely equipped and fantastic to drive. It's also expensive. In some cases, it is very worth it. In others, I'm not so sure. Sorry Dad.
Dad: The Evo is one of those cars you either love or you hate. It looks nothing like the cars that came before it, and instead resembles some sort of cyborg robot mashup. The narrow lights, gaping mouth of a grille, and straight angles all contribute to this. It's quite refreshing to look at though.
I tend to like it. In MR guise, it also drops the ridiculous rear wing for a tasteful little lip spoiler. You know what that means? The Evo is growing up, much like the people that were the original fans of the car.
Dad: The interior has a bunch of great features and it definitely feels high quality, but there are a few places that need an improvement. The most obvious is the wheel. Why it isn't smaller, fatter, and covered in alcantara is beyond me. The current wheel is too thin and the leather is just too hard.
The seats somehow manage to be wonderful and awful at the same time. They're super tight, which means overweight chaps need to look elsewhere. I did love them for short trips, but when I spent more time in the car, they actually became a little painful.
Dad: You were right, this thing is fast. The little guy has 291 horsepower and 300 pound feet of torque. Pair that up with a simply outstanding all-wheel drive system, and the Evo jumps off the line. Unlike other double clutch cars, the Evo doesn't advertise a launch control system, even though it has one. I tried it out, and it isn't all that impressive. The clutches don't grab that hard to launch the car off the line.
I can see why they don't advertise it. It's totally unneeded.
If you're cruising on a highway in sixth and step on it, the Evo will fall flat on its face. That power doesn't come in until around 4,000 RPM, so you need to get everything spooled up in order to have it work properly. But when the revs are up, it's magical.
Dad: The brakes are solid, although the pedal doesn't have enough travel for my tastes. It felt more like an on/off switch at times than a nice progressive pedal.
The weirder part is that I don't actually care that the brakes didn't fit with my normal preferences. And that's because this thing flat out stops. Slam down the pedal and your eyes will be on the other side of the windshield. Over time I found the brakes to get better and better. I could live with these brakes, no worries.
Dad: I know you said that the spring rates make the ride smooth out at higher speeds, but the problem is that those speeds aren't really attainable on a regular road or around town.
The Evo is kind of awful in slow speed settings. The ride is harsh. It's nearly like driving a board. The first glimpse I had at high speeds was exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and passing every single car in sight around the outside of the Helix, which is the terribly paved entry/exit road to the tunnel. It was unflappable, which goes to show that once you get the car moving, the springs adapt.
I got a chance to drive quickly on some back roads for limited amounts of time, and was impressed with the Evo's composure at high speeds. Unfortunately, for the most part you won't be doing crazy speeds. You'll be tooling along slowly in your uncomfortable car behind an old man in a Dodge Caliber. Therein lies the problem.
Dad: You told me the Evo would handle crazy good. I figured you were exaggerating a little bit.
Take the Evo and throw it into a corner way faster than you think you should. On entry you'll have a bit of understeer. But then you feel the computers/dark sorcerers take over. Power starts shifting side to side and front to back and you magically make it out of the corner. You could be one of the most ham fisted drivers in the world and the Evo will flatter you to no end. It just works.
And this isn't a Lotus Elise. It's a little sedan that can hold things and people. That's what amazes me even more about the Evo.
Dad: The dual clutch in the Mitsubishi, dubbed TC-SST, is pretty good. It's not as smooth as Audi's S-Tronic or as intuitive as Porsche's PDK, but it does one thing better than both of them: It almost always listens to you.
Want to be in 5th at 20 MPH? Sure. Want to make a high revving downshift into second? Go for it. In certain cases the Mitsu protects you from yourself so you don't blow the engine. But I was surprised at just how willing it was to do stupid things when I asked it to.
Mitsu also got the shift pattern right: Pull back to upshift, push forward to downshift. That made me forsake the paddles and use the shift lever almost exclusively.
Dad: Hoover can tune a better exhaust note. The Evo sounds labored and anemic. It just may be the least evocative sounding car in the entire world. In stock form all you hear is induction noise. It's bad.
That made the Rockford Fosgate stereo my only choice for good sounds. It wasn't the best stereo I've ever encountered, but it was also far from the worst. Certain sources, like iPods and terrestrial radio sounded good, satellite radio was pretty iffy and tinny sounding.
Dad: On the driving front, there are a lot of great toys. The gearbox has three settings (although for some reason I couldn't always get it into the 'super sport' setting), the AWD system is amazing, and the fact that you can change the way the car acts depending on the driving surface are all very cool.
But you also told me that the nav/infotainment system was amazing. It's truly awful. It took about 20 minutes to load my iPod each time. That's unacceptable. The buttons were like gambling. One time it takes you to one screen, another time it takes you to another screen. You understand how it works, which makes you a wiser and smarter man than I am.
Dad: This thing is a giant killer. I still think $45,000 is a lot for this car, but then I realize how far above it's weight the Evo can punch. It handles well enough to take on Porsches and Ferraris worth two or three times as much. It can also haul an entire family.
That might make the Evo one of the best values out there today. If this is the last Evo that Mitsubishi makes, it was a great effort. You have a great car, Dad.