Q&A: Mitsubishi on the Soon-To-Be Late, Great Lancer Evolution

What's next for Mitsubishi?

Chris NelsonwriterRobin Trajanophotographer

I wanted to get someone at Mitsubishi on the phone to ask how he or she felt about the Lancer Evolution going away, but whom would I call? There's no team toiling away on an eleventh-generation car, and I assumed all the engineers that worked on the project had packed up and left. So I asked one of Mitsubishi's press contacts to get me on the horn with a person of importance in Japan. "Shouldn't take more than 15 minutes over the phone," I said. "A few simple questions."

A surprisingly difficult task, it turns out, so I sent along a set of questions with a note that said while the questions could be answered via email, a phone call would still be preferable. A few days passed before the answers hit my inbox. Looking through them, I couldn't find a source. I emailed the press contact again, asking whom I could attribute the quotes to. The press contact told me it was a "group effort" and that while the answers are credible, there's not one person authorized to speak about the Lancer Evolution.

Which is how I got these lackluster answers to straightforward questions, pieced together collectively by people at Mitsubishi--none of them being the person or persons I wanted to speak to in the first place. Or maybe they were?

AM: What does the Lancer Evolution going away mean for Mitsubishi?

MMC: Mitsubishi Motors Company (MMC) is moving forward, focusing its resources on SUV and EV/PHEV models, and continues to develop and launch attractive vehicles with a distinct "Mitsubishi Motors" flavor. The Lancer Evolution has reached full maturity as a high-performance all-wheel drive sedan; but we will apply technologies honed from the Lancer Evolution, like S-AWC all-wheel-drive control, to other models that MMC has, like the Outlander and Outlander PHEV.

AM: How did the Lancer Evolution help shape Mitsubishi's story over the last 25 years?

MMC: The technologies developed from the Lancer Evolution have not only contributed to raising the bar of motive performance, but also to increased driving feel that provides assurance and driving pleasure for all Mitsubishi Motors vehicles that employ technologies from Lancer Evolution. MMC will continue to improve on those technologies in those vehicles. The technologies honed from the Lancer Evolution include: all-wheel-drive control, body rigidity, increased engine performance, and improvements in cooling performance, etc.

AM: What did you think about the Subaru WRX STI/Evo rivalry?

MMC: Subaru's WRX STI and Lancer Evolution have been in a friendly rivalry over the years, which has been a great help for both companies to develop and enhance their technologies through mutual competition.

AM: What do you like most about the Subaru WRX STI? What do you want to see from subsequent versions of the sedan?  

MMC: What Subaru does is up to them; however again MMC feels that it has enjoyed the WRX STI and Lancer Evolution's friendly rivalry over the years. That rivalry led to development and enhancement of technologies ahead of their time through mutual competition.

AM: What did you love most about the Evo? Is there any hope that another Lancer Evolution could come around?

MMC: As said before, the Lancer Evolution has contributed greatly to MMC technologies that will continue to evolve in other MMC vehicles. The Lancer Evolution series comes to an end with the Final Edition that will be launched in the Japanese market in the near future.

AM: Is there an Evo-inspired sport crossover/SUV coming from Mitsubishi?

MMC: We are committed to SUVs and EV technologies in our future as part of Mitsubishi Motors' growth strategy, but it's not appropriate to talk about how they will be packaged at this time.

I share this with you only because, while the "interview" is pretty useless, it helped me draw a couple of conclusions about Mitsubishi and the Lancer Evolution's future. One, Mitsubishi will likely never sell a conventional sports car again. And two, if there's not a single person still with the company who can speak to the Evo's importance, I find it doubtful that any forthcoming sport crossover would have an iota of the Evo's ability or rough-edged charm. If that's not the case, Mitsubishi, feel free to give me a call, but don't make it a conference call, please.

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