Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Lancer - Evo IX sedan
Price, performance, driveability, handling, chassis balance, steering, grip, active yaw control system, standard equipment list, safety features, security system, rally heritage
Room for improvement
Ram-raider image, tight rear seat, still a little loud inside, soft brake feel after only a few hard laps
24 Aug 2005
SINCE it first appeared globally in 1992, the Lancer Evo nameplate has generated untold levels of brand awareness for Mitsubishi.
Unfortunately, the struggling Japanese company hasn’t fully capitalised on the iconic rally-replica’s formidable image – until now.
Finally, a fully homologated, full-time Evo model gives Mitsubishi a legitimate rival for Subaru’s all-conquering STi.
Long regarded as the hard-edged, more track-focussed rally rocket, Australia’s latest Evo is also lighter, quicker, better equipped and more refined than either of Mitsubishi Australia’s previous two recent limited-edition Evo offerings.
It also comes with full factory backing including a five-year bumper-to-bumper warranty including roadside assist, 10-year drivetrain warranty and a one-year subscription to Diamond Trac, Mitsubishi’s new locally-developed telematics-based security tracking system.
Diamond Trac is mounted discreetly on the Evo driver’s A-pillar and, like STi’s keypad security system, goes a long way to reducing the risk of theft by ram-raiders or opportunists.
Mitsubishi also says it can attract a 20 per cent insurance premium reduction, but Diamond Trac goes a step further than STi by offering real-time call centre support and the option of adding extra features at a later date.
Both cars come with Datadot vehicle identification, but Evo drivers benefit from a Geo-fencing function, with alerts the owner by voice or text message if the car travels more than 200 metres from where it was parked. With police intervention, it also allows for remote disabling of the vehicle.
Unfortunately our launch drive of Evo IX was held entirely at Victoria’s Phillip Island GP circuit because all examples were non-homologated prototypes, so it’s impossible to tell just how well the Nine will tackle Aussie roads.
But the track session was enough to prove Evo IX is more civilised, dynamically better and more driveable than its Evo VIII forebear.
All of Evo’s traditional attributes remain: light, responsive and communicative steering, an addictive turbo rush and gob-smacking straightline acceleration – all of which is made almost laughably easy to access by tenacious grip levels and clever active centre differential and yaw control systems that direct drive to where it’s needed most, both for-aft and side to side.
Evo IX’s improved active yaw control system felt even quicker to react to oversteer situations, quickly bringing the rear-end back into line by directing power to the front when oversteer is detected.
It also makes scary lift-off oversteer – a common trait in front-drive cars - much less of an issue than before, but at least one tester was lulled into thinking the Evo is infallible, with disastrous consequences.
At Phillip Island, Evo IX shifted seamlessly and consistently from gentle understeer on its way into corners to mild oversteer when power was applied mid-corner.
Its consistent cornering balance and roadholding made it a delight to punt quickly and confidently at speeds only pricey supercars can emulate.
This much performance would have cost up to $200,000 just 10 years ago – and wasn’t nearly as user-friendly or forgiving at the limit of adhesion.
A slightly soft brake pedal – which still provided plenty of retardation – after six hard laps was the only blight on this Evo’s copybook.
Quieter and with vastly improved midrange response, Evo IX is also more driveable at low speeds and should therefore be easier to live with on a daily basis. Gone is the noticeable turbo spike of previous Evos – replaced by stronger, smoother, more progressive acceleration across the entire revrange.
Claimed performance figures reveal the IX to be four-tenths quicker than the VIII to 100km/h and that feels about right, but more obvious is its extra tractability – born out by an 80-120km/h acceleration improvement of almost 2.5 seconds.
A six-speed manual also gives Evo IX a better spread of ratios than previous Evos, as well as potentially more relaxed highway cruising.
Like STi, Evo IX is hard to beat in practical terms, with a tight turning circle, all the safety features you’d expect in a $60,000 car, vastly improved standard equipment and four doors to access enough space to seat four adults in comfort.
With much more attractive pricing, cutting-edge security back-up, a full Evo accessories range and extended factory backing, the new-look Evo IX makes a serious value statement against $50,000-plus performance cars like Monaro, Liberty GT and 350Z.
Only a comprehensive comparo can definitively rate Evo IX against the STi, with which it’s now on an equal footing in terms of price, comfort, equipment and performance.
Dynamically, however, we’d wager the latest yaw control system updates have kept Mitsubishi’s first full-time Evo a step ahead of its Subaru rival.
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