The Lancer Evo X Final Edition is old news down to everything, save for the silly badges that Mitsubishi used to try and differentiate it from a normal Evo X. Spoiler alert: it’s really not that different at all. As a hater of pointless badging, this really doesn’t help anyone’s case for me, but I can respect it enough to understand that this is the embodiment of an end to an era.
This is the last Evo, probably ever. It is old. It can’t pull off its tuner car looks quite like it could a decade ago. It only has five gears. The interior feels ancient. It is a 2015 model year car despite the fact that we are more than halfway done with 2016. The sticker price is, for lack of a better word, absurd.
I don’t care. I’d take one in a heartbeat.
(Full Disclosure: Mitsubishi wanted me to drive a Lancer Evolution X Final Edition so badly that it dropped one off at my office with a full tank of gas. “Is this the 2016?” I asked the nice delivery man, reaching my hand out for the key.
“No, the 2015,” he replied.
I felt my smile flicker. “Oh.”
“Yeah, they didn’t make any more for 2016.”
The bemusement from this interaction would set the tone of the rest of the weekend.)
It’s tricky to review a car that’s been out since 2008. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Most of the intrigue and mystery is gone, replaced instead with a legacy that really ought to have ended in 2012. 2013 at most.
But instead, Mitsubishi dragged it out for whatever reason—more on that later—and here we are: an aged four-door performance sedan with some extra badges on it and an eyebrow-raising sticker price.
See, the regular Evo X costs about $34,500. The Final Edition is $37,995, and the one I tested came to $41,295. Part of what drove the price up was the “Engine Appearance Package,” which was just the intercooler pipe and front strut brace painted red.
It looked cool, though.
I will write here, for you, boldly, that first and foremost the Evo X is an ugly car. The rear is angular and blocky, and not in a good vintage-BMW kind of way. The lines are rude and harsh and lack any overall flow. The front is just boring, non-committal in its form. Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing the modded Evo Xs, and hardly any of those kept the stock front bumper.
The Final Editions, all 1,600 of them in the United States, only come with the five-speed manual. The power is marginally upped to 303 HP, but if you can show me someone who can feel the difference between that and the 291 in the original car, I can die knowing that I met a horsepower savant. The cars come with five Final Edition badges (I counted) and are individually numbered. I had no. 73.
I will say, though, that everyone needs to drive an Evo X at least once in their lives. Everyone needs to experience the neurotic Joker grin that this car perpetually wears. You can’t see the smile, but you feel it.
It’s there in the ridiculously high engagement point of the clutch and the short gearing. It’s there in the sudden and almost violent surge of power from when the turbo kicks in.
Because at its core, the Evo is an enabler. It’s that best friend who’s passing you more shots on your birthday. It doesn’t have the highest horsepower on the road by a long shot, but that simply doesn’t matter. There is no force on Earth more powerful than gravity, and the Evo’s ability to stay glued to the road is a breathlessly close second.
Cane it through some corners and you get the uncanny feeling that the Evo is tacitly daring you to do more—to brake later, to gas harder, to shift faster. Come on, it seems to urge, you can do more here. Newly emboldened and flushed with the thrill of camaraderie, you can only obey.
There is close to zero body roll in the chassis, so the car can change direction quicker than a fly buzzing around a summer barbecue. It’s the freaky sensation of the entire thing pivoting under you, and if you don’t adequately warn your passengers, there’s a good chance at least one of them will smack their head on the side window because the car is that planted around the bends.
The more I drove it, the more the road became the animal, furiously lashing and bucking and throwing itself about, trying, in vain, to dislodge the tenacious flea that clung effortlessly to it.
This is a fun car. There is no other word for it, it’s so incredibly light on its feet. The steering is insanely crisp and the handling is tighter than security at the White House.
The AWD system has three surface settings: Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. Since it was the middle of August on the East Coast and 100 degrees outside, that last option wasn’t possible.
Gravel was, though.
One-hundred degrees also means no one in their right minds would be outside with me, so I took the opportunity to experience the off-roading capabilities of the Evo on a nearby gravel road. Not surprisingly, the car delighted in the task, happily fishtailing after I breathed a little harder on the throttle. Never did it snap back or do anything unexpected. It was bumpy but somehow extremely smooth at the same time. It was goddamn magic.
And when playtime was over and it was time to zipper the Evo back into the suit of a daily driver, it did it so well and complacently that I hardly noticed the change in pace. It hummed through town and at the stoplights. It hummed deafeningly on the highway, with the RPMs coming to rest at 3000 or above at cruising speeds.
Each time I got on a highway on ramp, I’d slide the car through the gears and then have to forcibly remind myself that fifth gear was it, there was no more after that. It was hilarious for the first fifteen minutes, puzzling after the second, and irksome for the rest of the time.
It was like hanging out with someone who never finished their senten—
See how annoying that can g—
But that’s just the way it’s gonna b—
Even after spending a weekend with it, I still noticed that I was forever reaching for that ghostly sixth gear and then I’d lower my hand, remembering.
I suppose Mitsubishi kept the five-speed in a 2015 model for passing reasons. Since the turbo kicks in at around 3000 RPM, it would make sense for the engine to stay at that sweet spot, no matter what. Certainly, that’s where it felt the happiest. But for the sake of argument, what harm would adding a sixth gear bring? I am perfectly capable of downshifting if I need to.
So, because the volume of the engine rendered any highway conversation short of shouting rather obsolete, I gave up and fell silent, and instead took a gander at the interior of the Final Edition.
The very best adjective you could use to describe it is probably “minimalist,” while the crueler and more accurate one would most likely be “shitty.” For the Final Editions, Mitsubishi ditched the much-loved Recaros because of “side airbag impact problems,” a Mitsubishi spokesman told me during a phone call. The red stitching, unique to the Final Editions also, was a cool touch, but did little to offset the sea of black plastic.
Happily, though, I rather enjoyed the temperature control dials. I like dials. I like being able to control things without having to look down at them. They are way easier to use when you’re driving. My engineer brother, completely utilitarian-minded, agreed.
Look, I don’t mind minimalist. I don’t need an interior like a Mercedes S-Class has, where you can change the ambient lighting to resemble a nightclub and where there is a special vent that makes sure my kneecaps are the coolest part of my body (kidding). I think that’s all quite silly.
But on the same token, if you’re going to sell a car as a 2015 model and charge over $40,000 for it, you kind of have to make sure your interior reflects that. I can’t think of any reason as to why Mitsubishi didn’t at least update the interior to stay with the times over the years.
I’d venture to guess that Mitsubishi didn’t update the Evo X because why mess with something that’s already quite good to begin with? While there’s nothing wrong with that line of thinking, it was also true for the far and distant time of 2008. Since then, the Evo’s closest competitor, the Subaru WRX STI has gone through two generations, with a new Impreza on the way. Mitsubishi calls it the Evolution, although it’s done everything but evolve.
And while we’re on the subject of competitors, have you been inside a Ford Focus RS? It’s pretty nice in there! My point here is, subjective tastes aside, the Evo really is as behind in the competition in terms of quality and hardware as you’d expect from a car that’s nearly a decade old.
Mitsubishi could really build something quite spectacular on the Evo X’s old bones. This Final Edition is the very last Evo X. No Mitsubishi flagship successor has been named. Something has to fill that hole.
The Evo is loved for its daily usability, because it’s wildly modifiable and because it has great aftermarket options. In the winter, you can slap some nice snow tires on it and the turn the AWD setting to ‘Snow’ and be off. In the summer... well, you got this far down in the review, didn’t you?
I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t a little heartbroken when I handed the keys back to Mitsubishi on Tuesday morning. I’d love to own this thing, full stop. It has the kind of no-fucks-given wildness that I need in my life. That huge wing on the back makes me laugh because it perfectly blocks the cars behind you if you look through the back windshield. And it will pluck at the attention of every cop on the road.
But would I pay the full sticker price for it? Hell no. Not for tech that old and for an interior like that. For some Final Edition badges and potential bragging rights? HELL NO. Especially since all any regular Evo owner has to do is mildly tune their car and they’ll have the same amount of power as you, if not more. Remember, people do like to mod these things.
See, the very idea of a brand new Evo X, in this day and age, Final Edition or not, is a joke. It’s ludicrous that it’s still going, that it’s still around. In fact, there are still Final Editions for sale. No, they haven’t sold out yet. And when you go on the internet and spec one out on Mitsubishi’s website, take note that the model being advertised is the 2015 model. A 2015 model in this waning half of 2016.
Yet, if the Evo X is a joke, then driving it is the punchline. Few cars are as delightful and alive as this thing is. That’s the legacy it leaves behind. It’s old, but it does fun so much better than a lot of modern cars can. I promise you that anyone who gets behind the wheel of one will crack a smile. Hell, they might even laugh.
Because the Evo certainly is, with a middle finger held high over any gripe you could throw at it.