Second in space, first on the moon.
Through rural Kentucky's dappled afternoon sunlight, over humpback, switchback, no-turning-back two-lanes, the simple genius of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution seduced all who belted themselves in. Forget that, as of this writing, the 2004 Evolution is already half a year old. Like all legitimately masterful cars, the Evo seems more youthful every time you drive it. Some inexplicable, age-defying alchemy is stirred up by its linkages, firing pistons, and brake calipers, and so the impact of the driving experience is always undiminished. This makes the Evolution not just our 2004 Automobile of the Year but also very likely the automotive icon of the decade.
Although a few cars came close to the Evo in our AOY voting--the Mazda RX-8, the Cadillac CTS V, the Porsche 911 GT3, and the Audi A8L all had their fans--nothing came close on the street. Our New York bureau chief, Jamie Kitman, put it this way: "The Evo has all the power one could use on a Kentucky backroad, with all the tools to deploy it, which you can't say about a lot of cars, even some of the greats we tested. So fast, such brakes, so much roadholding."
The speed Kitman alludes to puts the Evo in perspective. It storms to 60 mph in an unbroken rush of turbocharged power, hitting the mark in 5.1 seconds (according to testing done for our June 2003 issue). It is in some astoundingly expensive company. Aside from the competitively stickered Subaru WRX STi, which lacks the Evo's X-factor, all the other cars in the five-seconds-or-less category start at around $50,000. M3, E55, RS6, 911 Turbo, Modena, Gallardo--the Evo is a bantam among heavyweights.