2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Evo VIII Four Seasons Test

Ian Dawson

Our Evo saw its share of track time, and, naturally, that's when we really loved our yellow screamer. "At Grattan Raceway, the Evo was as wonderful and in its element as it had ever been," noted one of our hotfooted staffers. "The brakes are great, and the car easily rotates." (The cheaper and lighter Evo RS, a real stripper, is even more of a blast on a track.) After a summer and fall of high-spirited track days and some rigorous road use, however, the Evo surrendered its brake pads at 20,287 miles, which cost us $706.23. We also had detected a grinding noise in the gearbox when shifting into fifth gear, so the synchro was replaced under warranty.

Our Evo developed a keen appetite for Mobil 1 synthetic oil, requiring a quart or two every 2000 to 3000 miles, especially with heavy track usage. Our expenditures on oil, oil changes, and tire swaps (we wore out the stock Yokohamas, so we replaced them with Toyo Proxes T1-S tires, then ran Yokohama AVS Winter rubber when the snow started to fly) were modest enough that, even with the brake work, our total out-of-pocket expenses for the year would have been fairly reasonable given the Evo's level of performance.

Rear Spoiler View

Unfortunately, all such fantasies of a cheap year dissipated at about the ten-month mark, when the clutch started slipping. Replacement of the clutch disc and pressure plate-wear items, dontcha know-didn't fall under warranty. Instead, $1257 fell out of the Automobile Magazine piggy bank, which raised our total annual out-of-pocket expenses, including scheduled maintenance, to a not inconsiderable $4043, or $337 per month, proving once again that performance seldom comes cheap. That said, a Sun Belt owner who doesn't need snow tires and doesn't participate in track days as often as we did probably will spend only a fraction of what we spent to keep his or her Evo on the road.

The stiffly sprung Evo was not exactly our staff's first choice as a freeway cruiser, but it still hit the interstates for many trips, the longest at the hands of motor gopher Stuart Fowle, who sped to Colorado for spring break. "Much like a postman," Fowle declared after 3000 miles, "the Evo always delivers, whether in rain, sleet, snow, or shine. The Recaro seats were incredibly comfortable, the powerful engine and all-wheel drive propelled me through the Rockies with ease, and the xenon headlamps brightly illuminated even the darkest mountain roads."

All was not bliss as he crossed the Plains states, however. "Unfortunately, there's no trunk pass-through, so my snowboard became a back-seat passenger. The rally car-inspired styling is not for everyone, which I learned after receiving a middle-finger salute from two farm boys in a Chevy truck in Nebraska. Police officers also give the car long, hateful looks. And the lack of cruise control killed my ankles and knees."

Contributor Kirk Seaman and his wife, Susan, took the Evo to Chicago for a weekend, and their impressions pretty well summed up our year: "We knew that the Evo had a reputation for a rough ride, and the lack of cruise control seemed daunting for a four-hour trip. Our apprehension, although well founded, melted in the face of complete turbo-induced bliss. Yes, it rode roughly over bad pavement, and yes, the lack of cruise control was a pain, but the Evo won us over with its rawness, its edginess, and its complete focus on capturing the spirit of the World Rally Championship.

"Not once did our backs ache or our legs hurt or our tushes tire in the Recaro seats, and we loved the mechanical sounds of gears, turbo, and exhaust-this car has an immediacy and an intimacy that are very satisfying. All of the driver interfaces-steering, brakes, gearshift, and throttle-show that the Evo is serious about communicating with its driver.

"The Evo reminded us of our first new car, a 1988 Mazda 323 GTX. It had the heart of a racer, loved to rev, and brought a little bit of rallying to the road. We adored that car, and it didn't have cruise control, either."

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