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The Evo has landed

Rally car for the road: The Lancer Evo VI Tommi Makinen Edition brings rally car performance to a road near you.

Relief for Mitsubishi and Ralliart as barnstorming Lancer Evolution VI finally arrives

23 May 2001

PERFORMANCE car fans have another mouth-watering choice, with the long-awaited arrival of the rally-born and bred Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution VI.

Only 100 Evos are being brought into the country, and according to importer Ralliart Australia - Mitsubishi Australia's new performance vehicle partner - most have owners' names on them already.

All are Tommi Makinen Editions, very closely resembling the Lancers that made Makinen the World Rally Champion an unprecedented four consecutive times from 1996 to 1999 inclusive.

The first batch of 12 cars has arrived in the country and they are now road registered with full compliance plate approval. A second group of 56 cars left Japan last Monday, while the final batch is due to leave in the next few weeks.

The cars are being brought into Australia under the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS), which allows major manufacturers to bring in up to 100 vehicles without having to complete full volume compliance procedures.

They were built in September last year and originally scheduled for launch here in October. Instead, they have been sitting on the docks in Japan waiting for import approval. The problems have centred around satisfying the Federal Office Road Safety (FORS) on crashworthiness issues.

The process was also held up sourcing the necessary information from Japan and then translating the documents into English. Some customers have been put off by the delays, choosing to pass on their orders and wait until the Evo VII arrives next year.

The Tommi Makinen Edition model is effectively an Evo VI and a half, as it is actually a development of the Evo VI. It sits midway between the two Japanese-spec versions, being based on the stripped-out RS version, but including a number of features found in the GSR model.

The Evo VI is powered by the same 4G63-type 2.0-litre engine, albeit now in a high state of tune, that was first used in the Galant VR4 to start Mitsubishi's long line of rally successes. It produces 206kW of power at 6500rpm and peak torque of 373Nm at 3000rpm and is coupled to a close ratio five speed manual transmission and constant four-wheel drivetrain.

To transmit its power effectively it also employs an Active Yaw Control system that uses the rear differential to transfer torque between the rear wheels when cornering. It is essentially a vehicle stability system that operates in conjunction with the ABS anti-lock braking system via a number of steering, throttle and G-force sensors to provide grip and stability in all conditions.

The suspension set up is standard Lancer by design, but it uses aluminium arms front and rear and specific springs and shock absorbers. Brembo supplies the brakes with ventilated discs all round using four-piston callipers at the front and two piston units at the rear.

The 17-inch alloy wheels are the same as those used on Makinen's world rally car and are finished in whiter regardless of exterior colour. Only four exterior colours are available - red, white, black and silver - but each can be fitted with the racing stripes and decals similar to the actual rally car.

The interior features special Tommi Makinen Edition Recaro front seats trimmed in red as well as a leather Momo steering wheel and gear knob with matching red stitching. Standard equipment includes dual front airbags, air conditioning, central locking and electric windows and mirrors.

At $79,990 the Evo Makinen's are a pretty expensive ask, and it has no true direct competitor ... right now. Early in the new year the Subaru Impreza WRX STi arrives. Now that should be interesting.

DRIVE IMPRESSION The press release pictures of the Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition don't do it complete justice. While it looks suitably like a rally car for the road, it looks even more purposeful in the metal - ready and raring to go for a back road thrash.

Its name might be a mouthful but its performance is mouth-watering. Mitsubishi and Ralliart quote 0-100km/h and standing quarter mile figures in the high five second bracket and low 14s respectively and it feels every bit that quick, if not quicker.

The close ratio gearbox keeps the turbo spinning in the power zone, firing you out of corners time after time, while the Active Yaw Control keeps the car tracking straight ahead, balancing it between understeer and oversteer (unless you try to outdo the laws of physics).

The engine is very free spinning, happily charging all the way to the 7000rpm without protest. It's not noisy considering its application and it doesn't get rough at any stage in the rev-range. The power is not a surprise but the liveability is.

That said, the Evo VI is definitely not the car you would choose for a daily highway commute. It suffers from significant tyre noise, as well as some groans and rumbles from the rally-tuned engine up the front and it is pulling a relatively high 2800rpm at 100km/h in top gear.

The quick ratio steering takes some getting used to, as it is more direct in its responses than almost any other road car sold in Australia. Once you've settled into its stride though, it allows you to place the car with precision and accuracy.

Surprisingly, the Evo VI is as happy trundling around the suburbs as your average Lancer GLi, pulling cleanly from 70km/h in fifth without drivetrain snatch or so much as a stutter. The clutch is progressive in its action and easy to use, weighted not much heavier than a standard Subaru WRX.

The suspension comes into its own when the action hots up, as it seems to become more compliant the harder it works, with the car exhibiting very little bodyroll even when loaded up through corners.

The ride is certainly stiff, but it is not likely to shake any fillings loose. However, how the interior trim and hard plastics hold up after a few years of travel will be interesting to see. The bodyshell feels tauter and tighter than a WRX, so possibly it will fare better in that department.

Whether it fares better than STi on the road we'll have to wait and see.

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