Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
Pros: Handling that's sharp as a diamond, brutal power delivery
Cons: Dual-clutch gearbox occasionally finicky, lack of cargo space
Mitsubishi's compact Lancer sedan has been dominating rally events since the mid-1970s, but few have been as sharp, agile, or as powerful as the current tenth-generation Lancer Evolution.
Just like your local ice cream store, Mitsubighi offers the Evolution in several different flavors. Although a new Special Edition model for 2011 allows buyers to partake in Mitsubishi' six-speed dual-clutch gearbox on the cheap, we're still somewhat smitten by the high-trim MR. Not only is its $39,735 price tag aligned with two other competitors, but it sports a few tweaks that enhance its position as an incredible rally weapon.
All Lancer Evolutions make use of the same turbocharged, DOHC, sixteen-valve 2.0-liter I-4. According to Mitsubishi, the forced-induction four-banger is good for 291 horsepower at 6500 rpm, and 300 pound-feet of torque at4000 rpm. We believe it -- once the boost comes on, the 4B11 engine pulls like a runaway freight train, firmly shoving your spine against the form-fitting Recaro front buckets.
Power is nothing, however, without control. Mitsubishi directs that power to all four wheels via its S-AWC all-wheel-drive system, which can split power not only between the front and rear axles, but also vector torque to the inside and outside wheels, helping the car rotate during cornering. Drivers can adjust how the system reacts on different surfaces at the push of a button; pre-programmed settings adjust the center differential, ABS, and stability control for optimized performance on tarmac, gravel, and snow.
The six-speed dual-clutch transmission is an equally interesting bit of technology, but it's a little bit of a mixed bag. In manual mode, the gearbox is superb, as shifts, triggered by column-mounted paddles, are performed in milliseconds. When placed in automatic mode, however, the transmission isn't as refined -- gear changes can sometimes be abrupt and harsh, and we occasionally found the transmission hunting for the right gear.
We've often lauded Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution for laser-sharp handling, but the MR takes things even further by adding firmer Bilstein struts and stiffer Eibach springs. 18-inch forged aluminum wheels are sourced from BBS, and their light weight helps reduce unsprung mass. As in the Evolution GSR, the MR's four-wheel disc brake system is sourced from Brembo, but MR cars receive two-piece front rotors with aluminum centers.
All these ingredients add up to one impressive performance sedan, but living with the car in the real world isn't always easy. Sure, there's room for four adults, but they had better not bring much luggage with them. The Lancer Evo's trunk holds a scant 6.9 cubic feet of cargo, and a fixed rear bulkhead (which houses the battery and the wiper fluid reservoir) means there's no way of expanding that space into the cabin.