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a nice little review of both the gsr and the mr from the testing grounds in AZ.

I spent yesterday driving the '08 Mitsubishi Evolution X GSR & MR on Firebird Raceway's west track and an autox course setup on a skidpad I run frequently in my STi with the AZ Region solo.

The entire morning session was completely dry, and I was able to both track and autox both models. The entire afternoon session was soaked, and I had plenty of time to drive both models on track and in autox... most journalists don't like the rain so it was pretty much myself and one or two others playing in the final hour or so.

I have not yet driven the '08 STI, so I can't offer any comparison. I'll be working on my full review for some time, but here are some initial stats and driving impressions.

Both models use the new 4B11 2.0-liter 291-hp/300-lb. ft. torque engine, replacing the venerable 4G63.

The top-of-the-line MR will only be offered with a twin-clutch automanual (steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or auto-stick, or just leave it in D), officially called the 6-speed Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission, or TC-SST. It has three engine performance modes (in addition to three torque-delivery modes), with the ability to turn off active stability control in all modes--though not completely disable it, as there was still noticeable yaw assistance on the road course in the wet if the car got significantly out of shape.

The GSR will be offered only with a five-speed manual. NAV is available only on the MR, as part of a 30-gig HD system.

The GSR will be available in February '08, starting at $34,000. The MR will be available in Spring '08, starting at $39,000.

The Evolutions were pre-production models, and Mitsubishi engineers where on hand making various mapping tweaks to the cars as individual issues came up. Most frustrating for them no doubt was the inability of the TC-SST to withstand multiple back-to-back autox runs without the clutches overheating, putting the vehicle in limp mode. Granted this type of abuse is extreme and wouldn't likely be seen in standard autox competition, but it's still disconcerting for a model held in high esteem among the autox community.

There is a "secret" launch mode for the MR, and it worked well if the car (clutches) had cooled for a while, working for me in three consecutive tries with less than two minutes between runs.

The GSR, being a standard 5-speed, had none of these issues and the one example available for autox withstood dozens of back-to-back runs without any problems.

Compared to the Evo IX, the new models are more refined, softer riding and is that my imagination, or is the steering less sharp and more like an STI? Checking the specs, my feeling is confirmed, as the X's ratio is 13.3:1, versus the IX's speedier 13.0:1. It's not much of a difference, but to my butt it was noticeable.

Power-wise, the bump isn't significant over the last Evo.

In autox, the 5-speed earned TTOD honors driven by Scott Lear of Grassroots Motorsports. I was two-tenths back in second place, driving the MR, and three-tenths back in the GSR (though I ticked off my fastest GSR time in six runs, and Lear had about 60 ). The rain came before I had a chance to knock him off his throne. I felt like there was more potential to be faster in the MR, but it had a learning curve in adapting driver to the very aggressive automatic mode, which was faster than trying to out-think/drive the system by autoshifting "manually."

This proved true as well on the road course... the MR is a video-game like driving experience. Put it in track mode, leave the shifter in D and mash away at the brake or gas. I'm an old school road racer and while I can appreciate that the MR might be faster for most drivers, the manual is the only way to go for me to be completely engaged in the driving experience.

On track, the GSR's 5-speed was secure and shifts were easy, with a touch of STI-like synchro-mashing while downshifting into second.

As a bone-stock autox car, either the GSR or MR are highly competent. I have no idea what tire pressures or alignment settings might have been, but every vehicle behaved very neutrally, with very little understeer and easy power-on oversteer typical for an off-the-shelf Evo. Tires are Yokohama ADVANs in 245/40 on either 18x8.5 cast Enkies (GSR) or 18x8.5 forged BBS wheels (MR).

Of interest to aftermarket tuners and tinkerers, the MR's complex integration of transmission and drivetrain will make performance enhancements something of a challenge compared to previous Evolutions. No doubt the enterprising and skilled will find ways to enhance the system, but it's not going to be easy. The GSR should be much more straight-forward when it comes to modding.
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