http://autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070928/FREE/309280001/1065One of the most anticipated cars of 2007 is finally here—the 2008 Lancer Evolution X, which goes on sale Oct. 1 in Japan (January in the U.S., where it is dubbed simply Evolution). We recently sampled the new Japan-spec car around the handling course at Mitsubishi’s proving grounds in Hokkaido and were pleasantly surprised at how this iconic rally-bred machine has evolved.
Aesthetically, the folks at Mitsubishi have done a great job in carrying over the Evolution DNA to this 10th incarnation. Both the aggressive front air dam, almost unchanged from the Concept X show car, and the slanted headlights make the car instantly recognizable. To help keep the all-new aluminum engine cool, the hood features a large central air duct and a pair of air outlets, while the trunk spoiler and diffuser work in conjunction to help keep the car planted at high speeds. It’s only the Alfa Romeo-ish rear lights that spoil the show in what is a very stylish car.
The base GSR model comes with 18-inch Enkei wheels; order the MR and your Evolution X will be fitted with lightweight BBS wheels, saving about two pounds per wheel. But it doesn’t end there; the package also includes more aggressively tuned Bilstein dampers, a set of lighter two-piece brake discs and very sticky Yokohama A13 tires. We’d pick the MR upgrade with our eyes closed, as the difference it makes out on the road is marked, even if you do sacrifice a bit of ride comfort. But if you are looking for comfort, the Lancer Evolution X is not the car for you.
It takes one look at the interior to realize that this is a car made for the sole purpose of having fun. The very supportive Recaro bucket seats take center stage, while the rest of the cabin benefits from touches like the twin-binnacle instrumentation and sport steering wheel. Despite the design being a step up from the Evolution IX, we were disappointed by the quality of the plastics, which are very hard and easy to scratch.
Mitsubishi has stepped up performance with a host of new additions. The all-new 2.0-liter MIVEC turbocharged engine features an all-aluminum construction and a more responsive mid-range punching out 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque in Japan-spec models (U.S. spec is 295 hp and 300 lb-ft). But the biggest addition is the optional Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission. Operated by two paddles behind the steering wheel, it offers seamless and lightning-fast shifts and smooth rev-matched downshifts. Three shift modes dictate the smoothness and speed of changes as well as how aggressively the engine revs are used. We found the TC-SST very impressive—so much so that we can recommend it over the five-speed manual with little hesitation.
Handling also gets attention and new electronics, with yaw control torque vectoring on the rear differential combined with a more advanced center differential, faster-reacting ABS and all-new Active Stability Control. These combine to give optimal grip and handling in any situation and allow the driver to push right to the limit.
With the far stiffer body and redesigned rear suspension, the Lancer Evolution X has once again stepped up its game. We await what Subaru will do with its new WRX STI to keep pace.