Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10
Keywords: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10
Description: It's unlikely those who gush over the Evo IX will feel the same toward Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution X, as the IX's unadulterated persona is conceivably more endearing than the X's progression toward refinement and civility. Read the full article at Motor Trend.
The backlash among Evo enthusiasts was instantaneous. Once word came down that the 10th iteration of the Lancer Evolution (known as Evo X in Japan) was heavier than the outgoing 2006 model (Evo IX) yet possessed about the same level of power, rabid Mitsu fans began posturing that it wasn’t only slower but, due to a beefier structure, more sound deadening, and new electronic aids like Active Yaw Control (AYC), also (gasp!) duller than the raw, scalpel-like IX. Heir apparent? If you paid attention to the bloggers who’d been speculating about the performance of the X even before the Concept X bowed at the 2005 Tokyo motor show, it was more like “error apparent.”
To dispel (or confirm) these rumors, we grabbed an Evo X at the first opportunity and, in addition to subjecting it to our full battery of road and track analyses, we hauled it up to Reno-Fernley Raceway in the high desert of northern Nevada for a full day of track torture. With four miles of road course composed of 30 turns, 15 configurations, and enough elevation change to empty more stomachs than a Six Flags roller coaster, RFR is an ideal playground for assessing a rally-inspired street car. To raise the stakes, we brought along an Evo IX GSR (more commonly known as the straight IX or just IX) for a baseline comparison. We even had technical editor Kim Reynolds transport our long-term Evo IX MR to see how the new X would stack up against its most potent precursor (see sidebar). While your humble scribe and senior editor Ed Loh would hot-lap all three Evos, we enlisted the help of Erwin Nagl, chief instructor of the Pro Control Driving Academy at RFR and former DTM driver and BMW and Bondurant driving instructor, to slice and dice the best times. Grab your cutting boards; we got the blades.
Although we tried to get our hands on a topline Evo X MR, replete with a new Getrag six-speed dual-clutch “TC-SST” transmission, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, 18-inch forged BBS wheels, and two-piece front brake rotors, the timing of our test and vehicle availability meant we got dealt a preproduction, base GSR. With a standard five-speed manual, a KYB suspension, cast Enkei wheels, and one-piece front brake rotors, the GSR is the less polished of the two Evos, but it still boasts all the X’s essentials-a 295-horse (estimated) 4B11 turbocharged aluminum-block engine, Brembo brakes with larger discs (+1.2 inches front, +1.0 rear), and the Super All-Wheel Control system that encompasses an Active Center Differential, stability control, Sport ABS, and, new for this year, AYC, which apportions torque between the rear wheels. A close illustration of a production example, our early-build GSR did suffer from one “handbuilt” niggle: an asthmatic engine that seemed to suffer respiratory attacks near redline, a symptom Mitsubishi says was most likely an engine-control gremlin that would be sorted by production. Under normal driving conditions, the four-banger, as well as all the mechanicals around it, performed flawlessly, but as the tach needle tickled 7000 rpm, the engine came down with a soft wheeze, a symptom that most likely cost the X a 10th or two at the track and dragstrip.
Still, the X proved quick, needing just 5.4 seconds to dash from 0 to 60 and only 14.0 at 96.9 mph to consume the quarter mile. But quick is a relative term and compared with the IX GSR, the X could be best described as sluggish. Powered by the proven iron-block 4G63 turbo-four making 286 horses, the IX eclipsed both marks in 4.7 and 13.4 at 102.2, respectively. Seeing that the old GSR weighs a substantial 331 pounds less than the new one yet sports a near identical horsepower rating, not to mention a similar torque output-289 pound-feet versus the X’s 300 (estimated)-it’s not surprising that the IX was the brisker of the two.
So how exactly did the X come standard with a sumo wrestler in the back seat? For the lack of superfluous details, he’s there to add safety and structure. Utilizing similar weight-saving techniques as the previous IXs-forged-aluminum suspension bits, an aluminum roof, and lightweight wheels-plus an aluminum engine that weighs 27.5 pounds less, the X had to become a modern sport sedan: It needed a robust structure and up-to-date equipment to boast strong safety scores and thus broaden its appeal. So in lieu of the IX’s paltry two airbags, the X features seven, including front and rear side curtains and a driver’s knee bag. And encasing those new curtains are side structures that use high- and ultra-high-strength steel-materials not used in the IX-that translates to safer barriers.
Surprisingly, despite trudging the additional weight, the X stopped better than the IX (111 feet from 60 versus 113), was quicker through the figure eight (25.1 seconds at 0.74 g avg versus 25.5 at 0.73), and displayed superior grip on the skidpad, grasping for an Audi R8-tying 0.99 g compared with the IX’s 0.95. The X’s slightly larger Yokohamas (245/40R18 versus 235/45R17) deserve credit, but it’s the stouter brakes and new AYC that merit much of the glory. According to road-test editor Mortara, “Compared with the IX, the X rotates much differently. At first it feels like it’s oversteering, but stay on the throttle, and AYC keeps that outside tire going, pushing you through and out of tight turns with surprising speed.”
At the racetrack, AYC had similar effects. Nagl notes, “Initially, the X seems like it’s going away from you [oversteering], but once you get used to the feeling of AYC working and you keep your foot in it, you can go much quicker through turns.” Loh agrees: “You can hop in the X and go fast right away-it’s much more forgiving and easier to push than the IX.” Indeed, Nagl recorded his quickest time-2:36.046 seconds-early in his session with the X.
In many ways, the X feels entirely dissimilar to the IX on the track (as well as on the road). Whereas the IX is frenetic, raw, and noisy, the X is calm, cool, and collected. The steering, still with a quick ratio (13.3:1 versus 13.0:1), feels responsive and linear, yet no longer transmits harshness or bump steer through the helm as does the IX. Further, the X’s five-speed offers an easier action and better shift quality; its larger Brembos, which “allowed for braking much deeper into turns,” according to Nagl, feel stronger and easier to modulate than before; its ride no longer prompts a visit to the dentist. In light of the IX, the X is more refined than a packet of white sugar. Perhaps the best way to put the X into context is to say that it feels akin to a lighter, cruder Audi S4. whereas the IX will always seem like the closest thing to a four-door Lotus Elise. That said, the fundamental Evo traits-turbo engine, sublime chassis, and all-wheel-drive grip-remain in the X and are more capable than ever.
While the IX is half-baked in refinement, it has no problem fully cooking a racetrack. With engine and tires blaring into the cabin as if set to high through the audio speakers and the body vibrating from a subwoofer that isn’t there, the IX ran a lap of 2:34.558 seconds, about 1.5 seconds quicker than the X. Notes Nagl, “The IX is manageable and quite neutral, with some inherent push at first and a bit of power-induced oversteer exiting turns. Overall, it’s predictable, and the brakes, while not as good as the X’s, are impressive.” In the X, you can fly by the seat of your pants, allowing the electronic aids to compensate for ham-fisted errors; in the IX you have to always be a step or two ahead of the car, fully focused on what lies further on.
These traits make the IX more of a true driver’s car, rewarding the skilled pilot with a level of tactility that’s been dampened in the X. According to Loh, “The clarity and rawness of the IX has been smoothed over in the X, with no replacement in terms of excitement. Though the X may be more proper and polished when it speaks to you, the IX tells better stories.”
Like the new M3, the Evo X has matured into a great but more complicated road car that’s still capable and rewarding on the track. Sure, much of the go-kart feel from the IX has been supplanted with NVH-reducing measures, airbags, and such modern amenities as a nav system, cruise control, and Bluetooth, but the core still remains-you simply have to dig deeper to unleash it.
It’s unlikely those who gush over the IX will feel the same toward the X, as the IX’s unadulterated persona is conceivably more endearing than the X’s progression toward refinement and civility. For a majority of consumers, though, and certainly non-masochists and prospective Audi. BMW. and Acura buyers whom Mitsubishi is attempting to lure with the new Evo, the X is a car that can be comfortably driven every day, that delights with something other than a manic motor and darting maneuvers, and, perhaps more important, that says the person behind the wheel is more mature than a shot of tequila. As the best Evo ever, the X deserves to be sipped and fully relished. C’mon, you gotta grow up sometime.
Our long-term Evo IX MR, propelled by the same 286-horsepower engine as the IX GSR but with a six-speed manual and a Bilstein suspension, managed to record the quickest lap time of the day, a 2:34.363. A hair quicker than the IX GSR and nearly 1.7 ticks faster than the X, the IX MR established its blistering pace via “a nimbler chassis and phenomenal suspension,” according to Nagl, that delivered “crisper turn-in, quicker reaction, and better rotation than the IX GSR.” This bodes well for the X MR, which receives similar upgrades as the IX, but also the ultra-quick dual-clutch manual. In fact, Mitsubishi claims the new MR is quicker around a road course than the old version. We’ll see.
Reno-Fernley face-off To give both cars a thorough workout, we selected a particularly long and challenging configuration of Reno-Fernley Raceway that includes everything from high-speed esses to slow-speed and highly technical corners. It also features enormous elevation changes. For more about the track, visit reno-fernleyraceway.com or type 39 32’23.52″ N and 119 14’38.63″ W into Google Earth.
From our acceleration testing, we already knew the Evo X was suffering from a high-rpm misfire. This (and the car’s greater weight) help to account for its slower speeds at points 2, 3, and 4. However, it also was slower approaching the medium-speed transition at point 1 as well as the approach to the high-speed esses at point 5. Nevertheless, it posted the highest top-speed of 110.1 mph versus the Evo IX’s 108.6 mph (the red zones indicate speeds above 100 mph). And despite this, the two cars lap times fell within one percent of each other-not much.
Those strange-looking plots below are analogous to the familiar acceleration graph, except here we’re looking at cornering speed (in both directions) plotted against the radius of the turn. The result looks something like a fountain spraying numbers, doesn’t it? The more narrow and vertical the “fountain” the greater the car’s cornering capability. By comparison, our standard lateral-g tests offer just a single dot on either side of the vertical axis. Here, the Evo X’s plot suggests better cornering to the left as well as at higher cornering speeds.
The plots below are called G-G plots. Think of them as the squiggly trace that might be left by an ink-coated ball that’s been rolling around in a bowl fastened to each car’s floor. The twist here is that we’ve added a third dimension-speed-shown via colors on the vertical axis. Odd as these may look, they actually represent, in a single image, a car’s total-performance envelope. Notice the Evo IX’s high-speed braking and the X’s broadly spread gs.
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