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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Lancer - Evo VIII sedan

The Car

22 Jun 2004

MITSUBISHI’S latest Lancer Evolution rally rocket has landed landing Down Under, but you’d better act quick if you want one of the turbocharged, all-wheel drive sedans in your garage.

Only the second Lancer Evo to be officially imported by Mitsubishi Australia, the new, more civilised and much less expensive Evo VIII follows the CE Lancer-based Ralliart Evo VI Tommi Makinen Edition sedan sold here between May and December 2001 at $79,990.

Again limited to just 100 examples under the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme, distribution of the latest CH Lancer-based Evo VIII to Mitsubishi’s 18 specialist Evo dealers nationwide begins in July. About 50 should reach our shores by the end of this month, with the rest arriving soon after.

And while the bad news is that, at last count, some 85 Evo VIIIs had already been spoken for, those that miss out may find solace in the fact Mitsu Oz plans on importing a further undisclosed number in early 2005.

Priced at $61,990, with the sole ($3000) option of leather trim making it the best part of $65,000, Evo VIII significantly undercuts its Evo VI predecessor here by a big margin.

Importantly, however - at a time when the troubled local Mitsubishi arm hopes to translate its considerable rallying success into road car sales via cars like Lancer Evo and the simultaneously launched Magna VR-X AWD – Evo VIII is priced above Subaru’s full-time Impreza WRX STi ($56,990).

Just as much a cult model for Subaru fans, some 368 STis were sold in 2003 – on top of 1837 turbocharged AWD WRXs. Mitsubishi Oz needs only a small percentage of those sales for Evo VIII, which it says offers enough history, performance, uniqueness and refinement to make up for the price premium over STi.

But the company also hopes Evo VIII will create both a flow-down effect to other garden variety Lancers as well as a stepping stone to other triple-diamond models for customers new to the brand - and it will target the same 35-plus married white-collar male into large or Japanese cars and rallying.

Revised styling, a further development of Evo’s trick Active Yaw Control system and sports-tuned ABS headline the changes for Evo VIII, which will also come with a full 100,000km/three-year warranty including roadside assist, plus eight Mitsubishi motorsport newsletters a year.

Most obvious is a V-shaped, 35mm longer nose/grille, redesigned aluminium bonnet with large raised, central air inlet (no smaller outboard inlets as on the Makinen) and a new high-style fixed plastic rear wing that’s carbon-fibre reinforced and saves 2kg. Mitsubishi says it creates 1.5 times more downforce with no more drag than the previous adjustable item, for 0.01 per cent better aero efficiency.

Underneath the stronger bodyshell (thanks to reinforced floor and rear seatback sections) there’s a 10 per cent bigger, 54-litre fuel tank and four 17x8.0-inch Enkei alloy wheels, reportedly saving a total of 4.2kg (for a kerb weight of 1470kg).

But at the business of Evo VIII lies a development of Mitsubishi’s trusty long-stroke 4G63 16-valve DOHC turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder. With peaks of 195kW at 6000rpm and 355Nm of torque at 3500rpm, Evo VIII is down on the Evo VI’s 206kW/373Nm output and almost lineball to that of 195kW/343Nm STi.

Differences from the Evo VII that was never sold here include high fatigue resistant pistons, tapered (not conical) “beehive” valve springs that are claimed to offer a 50 per cent reduction in mass per valve, an alloy crank pulley and the same twin-scroll turbo but with 123kPa of maximum boost pressure instead of 107kPa (up 15 per cent) at 3500rpm or 1000 fewer revs.

The new Euro III emissions-compliant engine, with flat torque curve between 3000 and 6000rpm, may offer more torque at lower revs and changes to the single-plate dry clutch make it quieter, but fact is it doesn’t match its predecessor’s performance.

So Evo’s claimed 0-100km/h performance drops from high fives to 6.1 seconds – and its standing 400-metre figure blows out from low 14s to 14.5 seconds. Top speed remains a respectable 245km/h, while official combined fuel consumption is a frugal 10.9L/100km.

New gadgets include a manual water spray system to aid induction charge cooling, which is also automatic, while an instrument panel-mounted switch allows the driver to alter the rear diff’s AYC behaviour by selecting between tarmac, gravel and snow options.

Now known as Super AYC, the active rear differential system features planetary gears instead of bevel gears - a set-up that’s said to increase by 10 per cent the amount of torque to be transferred as well as acting faster than Evo VII’s AYC. The front open diff and viscous-coupled centre diff are unchanged.

Mitsubishi says the result is higher potential cornering speeds and better linearity under partial throttle, while the new Sports ABS adds steering wheel and longitudinal/lateral sensors to be more predictive on loose surfaces. EBD is also part of the braking package that continues to include four-piston front and twin-piston rear Brembo callipers with 17/16-inch front/rear discs.

Evo’s power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering also continues, as does the reasonable 11.8-metre turning circle, while a temporary spare wheel is claimed to save 7.2kg. Tyres are Bridgestone RE050 Potenza, 235/45 R17.

Also carried over are the cross-braced MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension systems, with 24mm/22mm anti-roll bars respectively, although up front the damping is revised and at rear thicker damping rods and attaching points are used to increase camber stiffness.

Inside, Evo VIII presents a dark, off-black sports theme with blue dash highlight panel to match the standard cloth-trimmed Recaro sports bucket seats and centre and lower consoles are titanium-look.

The usual array of standard equipment continues, such as twin front airbags, air-conditioning, remote central locking, leather-bound Momo steering wheel/gearshifter/handbrake lever, six-speaker Eclipse AM/FM/MP3/CD sound system and front foglights.

The Datadot vehicle identification system is standard, and among forthcoming Evo VIII options will be a tracking and alarm system, BBS gold 17-inch alloys, brake cooling fins, a rear strut brace, upgraded suspension pack, coloured alloy pedals, scuff plates and more.

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Did you know?

Lancer Evo VIII is available in white, red, silver, blue, yellow and black

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