The Evolution MR and I had only brief, late night and early morning encounters. For the first time, I was happy to find an automatic transmission in an Evo as I was in desperate need of minimum-effort transportation. Thus equipped, it actually proved to be a remarkably laid back chariot, with credit going to its light steering, surprisingly compliant ride, and supportive Recaro sport seats. My only complaint was that, as usual, I could have benefitted from a booster seat to better see over the hooded gauge surrounds.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I know the Evo MR has a dual-clutch transmission -- we spent a full year living with an MR and I frequently drove that car. Yet each time I get in an Evo, my left foot instinctively pushes in the clutch pedal and when I'm driving an MR I end up with two feet on the brake before I remember the MR only has two pedals. Even though this transmission has been out for a few years, I still think the Evo is one of the few cars that really wants a manual transmission. Sure, the dual-clutch works well enough and the transmission readily downshifts even in normal mode, but the Evo is so raw the automatic feels out of place.
Mitsubishi hasn't done a lot right in recent years, but the suspension tuning for the Evo MR is almost perfect. The Bilstein dampers do a spectacular job of soaking up impacts that you'd expect the stiff Eibach springs to send right up your spine. You still feel all the bumps in the road, but the MR is not too stiff to live with on a daily basis.
The Evo is a great car for those who value speed and grip above all else. The cabin is incredibly loud. The tires wear very quickly. The fuel economy is abysmal and it only drinks premium gas. None of that matters when you find an empty road or track and you can stretch the Evo's legs. It doesn't matter if you're on pavement or dirt, in the dry or in a blizzard. The Evo is always incredibly fast and predictable. It isn't nearly as refined as other high-performance $40k cars, but it's not supposed to be. Drivers looking for a raw, visceral ride with all-wheel drive will be thrilled with the Evo. Just make sure to get the manual transmission for the full experience.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Want proof the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a no-holds-barred performance car? The hood, roof, and front fenders are made from aluminum to saved weight; the washer-fluid reservoir is located in the trunk to improve weight balance, even at the expense of cargo capacity. This really is a grin-inducing, street-legal rally car. I especially like the BBS wheels and subtle trunklid spoiler that are unique to the MR trim level.
MR trim levels of the Evolution also are equipped with Mitsubishi's dual-clutch transmission, and I agree with Phil that the gearbox doesn't really suit this car. Having recently driven a Subaru WRX, I found my left foot instinctively hunting for a clutch pedal each time I started the Mitsubishi. While shift performance is excellent, especially when using the paddles, you just don't feel as involved as with a manual-transmission performance car. There also are a few oddities about the gearbox: it produces far more clunks and whines than Volkswagen or BMW dual-clutch units, and the engine stays running for about two seconds after you remove the ignition key so that the transmission can set itself into the neutral position.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
It is possible to make my commute from our offices in downtown Ann Arbor to my home in Chelsea almost completely on unpaved roads. This fact only becomes a boon when the keys to a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (or Subaru WRX STI) are dropped on my desk. No matter the road surface, the Evo is wickedly fast - the raspy and fiendish-sounding four-cylinder causes devilish cackles from both the exhaust pipes and my own vocal cords. That power is thanks to the large turbocharger that has been bolted onto the Evo's 2.0-liter engine; however, the result of the forced induction is significant turbo lag. When the power comes on, it hits with the wallop of a rocket booster that the all-wheel drive system has no difficulty turning into clawing grip on whatever is beneath the wheels.
The downside to having such a rally-ready car sitting in your garage is that it will probably do just that - sit in your garage. The suspension, brakes, and shifts from the dual-clutch transmission are all too harsh for normal driving and the interior is a dour, depressing sea of cheap black plastic. That combined with the powertrain's all-road prowess makes the Evo feel almost fragile at times, especially when the low-rent interior rattles over rough roads.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Despite everyone's complaints about the dual-clutch transmission, I would like to point out that the big shift paddles to control it are fixed to the steering column rather than to the steering wheel. This means that they are readily available and identifiable to your fingertips for quick shifting, no matter how much the steering wheel might be rotated at any given moment. It's a rare setup, one shared with Ferrari.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I took for granted our Four Seasons Evolution MR during its stay with us, but with apologies to Joni Mitchell, "you don't know what you got 'till it's gone." A night with a 2012 MR has me once again longing for Mitsubishi's rally weapon.
Why? The power is certainly intoxicating, but I just can't get past how sharp this car feels. The Evo's chassis tuning alone is almost enough to forgive the car for it's dumpy interior and crude on-road manners (hope you don't need a vertical seat adjustment, and never mind the constant drone of tire noise). The steering is razor sharp and delightfully tactile. Body roll is, predictably, virtually unheard of, yet the car isn't horribly harsh over broken surfaces. Phil Floraday notes that this car's dampening is stupendous, and I'd have to agree: I found myself on several occasions bracing for a bruised kidney when approaching a pot hole, but the Evo soaked up quite a few sizable imperfections without little complaint.
I'm still on the fence about the dual-clutch transmission. It's a little ungainly and uncivilized when you're not beating on it, but it can be snappy and attentive - at least after launch - once you take it out of its normal drive configuration. In fact, the super sport mode is unlike any automatic gearbox I've seen, as it will literally hold onto a gear until you come painfully close to hitting the redline. Personally, I found myself using the big, solid, column-mounted shift paddles the majority of the time, since none of the three shift profiles exactly suit my tastes.
A manual would, but that would also mean downgrading to the less expensive Lancer Evolution GSR - and that would also mean I'd have to surrender the MR's Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers. I can't tell if that's a fair sacrifice, as every single Evo we've had land at our doorstep has been a fully-loaded MR. Drive both before you buy, and see if it's a compromise you can live with.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor