Mike Stevens | Apr 14, 2008

There's been a great deal of conjecture about the next generation Lancer Evolution, dubbed the Evo X—although MMC don’t want to use the next obvious moniker of ‘X’ this time around; it want its hero car to be called simply "Evolution", which the average Joe on the street simply won’t understand.

Regardless of its name, the 4th Generation of the Evolution Lancer is proving to be something of an engineering marvel. Once again the car is back and packed with more acronyms than you could spell out with a packet of alphabet soup. AYC, ACD, S-AWC and this time around SS-T, but what do they all mean?

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The SS-T is the standout acronym this time around, and thanks to the Getrag Corporation with its new 6DCT470 Transmission, the outcome is very special. Getrag says the key benefits to the Dual Clutch Transmission are: “No interruption of traction when shifting thus excellent shift quality; low fuel consumption and an extremely short design”. Traction and acceleration is seamless due to the operation of the gearbox, and don’t make the same mistake I first did: thinking this is just another pseudo-auto with a manual function. Instead, think of the DSG from the Volkswagen/Audi stables - only better.

The new box is split in two parts with one clutch dedicated to 5th, 3rd, 1st and reverse gears, and a second clutch on 6th, 4th and 2nd gears. The clutches are hydraulically-operated but are told what to do and how fast to do it via two computers: the ECU of the car, and the Twin Clutch SS-T computer. How does that translate to driving? While accelerating in 2nd gear, 3rd gear will get preselected with the clutch ‘in’ and as soon as you pull the trigger on the paddle shift, the change is effective. It really is quick.

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But it doesn’t stop there. The DSG units found in Volkswagens and Audis are very similar, and this is where the EVO ‘X’ starts to differ. The SS-T has a small toggle switch just below the shifter with three very different settings.

When a selection has been made from Normal, Sports, and Super Sports, things rapidly change. Mitsubishi says that the ‘Normal’ mode is for use around town and other normal driving situations. Normal mode scheduling uses relatively low-speed shift points to deliver unobtrusive shifting for maximum comfort together with optimum fuel economy.

The ‘Sports” mode is for use when driving in the mountains or when engine braking is required, and Sports mode scheduling uses higher shift-points and quicker shifting to deliver instant throttle response (for a closer man/machine relationship). But it’s the “Super Sports” mode that grabbed my interest. Compared with “Sport” mode, “S-Sport” mode scheduling keeps the engine spinning at even higher revs while allowing lightning-fast shifting. For real race-track-style driving, this is the station most owners will keep their cars dialed in to.

When each of these modes were tested, each yielded a different boost peak. Not only do the revs sit higher the further up the mode you go, but the shifting becomes quicker, if not violent in the “Super Sports” mode. The ECU manages it all, communicating to the SS-T and vice versa: so, in “Normal” mode the boost peak was 1.3 bar, “Sports” peaked at 1.5 bar and “Super Sports” peaked at a thumping 1.8 bar (which for a standard car really is amazing).

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And this is where it gets weird. If you dial up “Super Sports”, turn the Active Stability control off yet leave the box in Drive, you still get an amazing run. In fact, if timed, I think we would have seen the car quicker in Drive than if we were changing the gears manually, as the SS-T just does it with aplomb.

As you begin your approach to a corner, the SS-T thinks about what is happening around the car—it notices the small steering inputs, the engine speed of the car, and overall speed, and, before you know it, the car is downshifting, blipping the accelerator and matching revs like a pro. It holds onto gears on the up-shift to its redline ceiling of 7,000 RPM before another gear is snatched and the car is pushed onward and ever forward. If ever there was ever a box to get excited about, this is it!

I really am hard-pressed to think of a box that is as smart and as aggressive, yet as user-friendly as the SS-T found in the Evo X. Those three attributes are so rarely together in any gearbox. It’s violent when it’s needed for those few track days a year, and yet I could see my wife being able to use the car and not coming back with complaints about its difficult nature, or tales of how she scared the senior citizens at the bowls club.

I don’t care what Mitsubishi want to call the next generation Evolution Lancer, it’s a 10 for me. A 10 out of X!

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