I try to write a review of every car I drive, but this is not always possible. In 2015 for many, mostly personal, reasons I missed a few. One of those was the infamous Mitsubishi Evo.
It’s loud. The interior feels at least a decade old. Its five speed manual transmission is a gear short. Its boy-racer looks are a throwback to the first days of The Fast and a Furious and Gran Turismo video game. It wouldn’t be a challenge to write a poetic essay on everything that is wrong with this car, but that would be unfair and shortsighted.
The Evo looks like it always did, a domesticated rally car to enthusiasts or like a real-world interpenetration of a cartoon character to Camry owners. Inside it feels like it did in 2003 when it first came to our shores after years of teasing. And it drives like nothing else on the market, not even like it nemesis, the Subaru WRX. That’s because the Evo never made excuses about its appearance, its economy, or frankly anything else. And like a youngest sibling in a big family, it never evolved with the times. The Evo always cared about one thing and one thing only – its driver.
Let’s start off with the steering, it’s so… so… fluid. And that’s because unlike everything these days from a Corolla to a 911, it has a hydraulic power steering, not electric. It’s quick and direct but not twitchy, and gives back more back than just about anything else with a license plate and a roof. It’s one of the best.
It has only 291 horsepower. I say only because that amount is no longer as impressive as it was in 2003. Thankfully it only has 3530 pounds to haul around, which makes the Evo pretty quick. It once was fast but now it’s just quick, sorry. The 4B11 engine is port-injected and it has a compression ratio of 9:1, much lower than today’s direct-injected turbo engines, and the fuel economy is abysmal. Still, it makes a damn good 300 lb-ft of torque at 4000RPM, and while present, the turbo lag isn’t annoying.
Because this is a quickly revving engine, especially in the 3000-4000 rpm peak powerband (somewhere between 3500RPM and the 7000RPM redline), frequent shifting is required. Much like the steering, the shifter and the clutch pedal feel like they are actually mechanically connected to the car, just like they were in 2003. Sixth gear would be welcome for highway driving but I almost want to say that it isn’t necessary and it might take away from that simple purity and always-on-its-toes feel of this car.
This is where the whole car and driver involvement comes together. There are no shift lights, no paddles, no gear displays. Driver’s eyes can remain on the road and there will be no question which gear the car is in, where the wheels are positioned, or what it’s going to do next. Like a great dance partner or a lover, the Evo becomes one with the driver.
The Evo is something far from being a good car but that does not matter, after all beauty can often be found in imperfections. But it has something magical, something that can no longer be bought new. In a way it’s like an air-cooled 911 or naturally aspired BMW M car. Years from now people will yearn for a car like this, so get it while you can. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to experience this machine at its peak, and sadly its end.
Mitsubishi provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. Images: ©2016 Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski, All Rights Reserved