I adore the Evo. It makes no sense at all as a daily driver because it's so loud and horrible on fuel, but it's the most visceral car you can buy today. There is absolutely nothing refined about the car. And that's why I love it.
Every single penny over the base Lancer's sticker price went into making the Evo go faster, turn in more quickly, and grip better. The infotainment system is a cruel joke, but if you program your favorite radio stations into it, the steering wheel-mounted buttons make it easy to change channels without taking your eyes off the road. This is a great thing because you'll probably be travelling a lot faster than you expect to be at any given moment.
You have to turn the headlights on and off yourself, the climate control system supposedly has automatic settings, but it needs constant adjustments to regulate the temperature, and, oh, the GSR forces you to shift for yourself, too. Don't even think about loading up the tiny 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space during the winter because you'll constantly need to unload the trunk to fill the washer fluid reservoir. Yep, the washer fluid and battery are located in the trunk to improve weight distribution. The only luxury touches I could find in the cabin are the superbly comfortable and supportive Recaro bucket seats.
I didn't miss the Bilstein dampers that come standard on the more expensive Evolution MR as much as I had expected. With the base dampers, the Evo still has a stiff yet fairly forgiving ride. I would look for a set of adjustable dampers for the car if I ever take the plunge and own an Evo so I could be more comfortable on the street and rotate a dial to firm things up for track days. You will need time on a familiar track to explore the Evo's handling limits because the Advan tires have such high limits that once you surpass them, you'll need lots of runoff room.
Like a face tattoo, the Evo isn't for everyone. It's a middle finger to every bland car on the road. I need more time behind the wheel.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is like that hot girl you briefly dated in college: wild, fun, and guaranteed to put a smile on your face, but ultimately a bit too crazy and rough around the edges to settle down with. Each time I drive an Evo I fall for the explosive acceleration that literally can pin you to your seat. I become addicted to the strong, grabby brakes and tight, unflappable handling. Despite all that, I could never live with the Mitsubishi Evo as my only car. The battery and washer-fluid reservoir eat up trunk space, the engine is loud and thrashes at highway speeds, the suspension lets you know the exact location of every pavement crack, and the turbo-four engine drinks fuel like it still costs $2 a gallon. The Evo is fun for a weekend fling, but I'd never make it a permanent member of my family.
The best thing about this press car is that it had a manual transmission. Mitsubishi normally sends us Lancer Evolutions equipped with a loud, lurching dual-clutch transmission. The five-speed gearbox is the antithesis of smooth and civilized, offering plentiful resistance until the car is thoroughly warmed up and frequently refusing to engage reverse on the first try. Even so, it's much more exciting to select gears with my right hand and left foot than simply flicking the dual-clutch transmission's shift paddles.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Has there ever been such a wonderful, terrible car? Remember, the Lancer pretty much ranks dead last in the compact segment -- that is, among vehicles costing $15,000 to $20,000. The compromises needed to transform it into an Evo do it no favors: it costs a lot more, is much noisier, has a significantly smaller trunk, has the turning radius of a small pickup truck, and drinks gasoline like a large pickup truck. As a car, the Evo has almost nothing to recommend it.
But as a performance machine? Well, that's something rather different. Simply put, this is about as much fun as you can have for less than $40,000. Here's an example of such fun: stop at red light, crank wheel to the left, and floor it. In most cars, you've either gone nowhere or are spinning into the car next to you. In the Evo, you've just exploded through a hard left turn, the all-wheel-drive system masterfully distributing 300 lb-ft of torque to take you exactly where you want to go.
Perhaps more amazing than the pure technical capability, though, is the way this capability is communicated to the driver. Other all-wheel-drive performance cars, including the Subaru WRX STi and the much more expensive Nissan GT-R, feel artificial and numb. The Evo has sharp and nicely weighted steering, firm brakes, perfectly positioned pedals, and a very precise manual gearbox. These are characteristics that we prize in a $50,000 Porsche Boxster. Mitsubishi integrated them into a $35,000 Lancer.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor