Exterior Design: ****
The Evo is not a pretty car, but it does have a functionally sinister appeal. Aesthetics have been thrown out the window, but kind of like how a bear holding a shark sacrifices beauty for scaring your pants off and possibly mauling you, the Evo is styled as if every part of it was made for going very, very fast. Plus if you take a wingless trunk off of the RS edition you'll have a pretty decent Q ship.
I left my license at home during my main test drive, which is just as well because had I been stopped by the po-po, I wouldn't be getting it back. Traction is not an issue thanks to the all-wheel-drive, and when the intercooled turbocharger is making boost the sensation is similar to skydiving.
Brembo ventilated discs all around with four-piston calipers in front and two-piston calipers in the rear. Around town they feel a little grabby, but the reward is rock-solid pedal feel and limitless stopping power when you need it. Brembo brakes have a reputation for using hard pad compounds that result in abnormal disc wear, so maintenance could be pricey.
It's too stiff for some people, but those people shouldn't be driving the Evo. The MR edition gets specially tuned Bilstein shocks. They're so good that if you buy a different Evo, you should put these shocks on it. Over rough surfaces the Evo feels like the wheels never lose contact with the road.
The Evo is an incredibly forgiving car. Judicious use of the brakes, throttle, or steering can get you out of all but the most hairy of situations. But if you actually take the time and, you know, drive with a little bit of finesse the Evo is balanced just right so that you can position the back end using the throttle and brakes.
There are no gaps in the spacing of all six gears, which is good because you'll need keep the engine in the right rev band to get the most out of it. That's not a problem in the Evo MR, with a quick but light clutch take-up and well-damped yet precise feel to the gear shift. Lesser Evolutions (RS and IX editions) have a five-speed manual.
You didn't buy this car for the radio and consequently, you don't get a very good radio. But hey, it has a CD player.
The Active Center Differential (ACD) proportions the torque split between the front and rear wheels depending on throttle, brake, and steering input. There's a button on the dash that lets you change between Tarmac, Gravel, and Snow settings, but the difference is so slight that it seems like gimmickery.
At 10 cubic feet, the trunk isn't too big, but it gets the job done - remember this is technically a compact car. The problem is that there's no remote release on the key fob, so opening the trunk is only done by using the key or pulling the manual release inside the cabin.
[by Mike Austin]
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR, Part 1 [internal]