Last weekend started out rather strangely.
Having sauntered down to the carpark Saturday morning, I couldn’t resist having a long look around the silver Evo X that had just been dropped over to me. Sure, I’d seen and been in the new Evo before, but another look over the flared guards and vented bonnet wouldn’t do any harm. Yep, impression confirmed, it still looks the goods.
Sliding into the well-bolstered Recaro driver’s seat, it became immediately clear that this is a car for those sporting a narrower girth than mine, and while I’m nudging 100kgs, my girlfriend tells me that I’m definitely not fat (and she’s always right…). So if you are… fat that is… and want an Evo, I would recommend ‘trying it on’ first.
Intriguingly, a mysterious CD had been delivered to me the night before by a short guy in a tux. He wouldn’t let me see his face. Handing it over, he told me “be sure you play this before driving off in this car”… so before I did anything, I slotted it in and hit play.
“Klosey, TMR has previously reviewed the SST equipped Evo. Our informers tell us that you are the only rabbit at the TMR hutch who can be trusted not to turn a manual box into a loose collection of cogs and teeth. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to evaluate the manual Evo X. You must determine if the manual can still hold its own against the all-singing, all-dancing SST dual-clutch.
This CD will self-destruct in two seconds…”
Smoke filled the cabin…
Partially blinded by the stinging smoke, and despite finding it hard to breathe, I fired up the Evo and headed out on my first TMR mission. A few tunes were obviously out of the question.
The first thing you notice about the manual Evo, is that the gear shift has a ‘plasticky’ clunk to the shift when the box is cold, but that soon disappears and just requires a little sympathy on the part of the driver. The second thing you’ll notice is that there is a distinct lack of any adjustment (compared to the SST equipped cars) aside from the AWD system. No ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ or ‘Super Sport’ modes. To change gears faster, you move your hand faster; simple. So, there is nothing to do, no choices, nothing to fiddle with, you just select ‘tarmac’ or ‘gravel’ and swap the cogs manually.
I have to confess that, when I’m behind the wheel, I just can’t be bothered mucking around with paddles and transmission settings or flipping gears manually in an auto or double-clutch equipped car. I usually jump in, drop them in ‘Drive’ and leave well enough alone.
I spent a couple of hours with Dan McCoey on the previous weekend, and Dan knows the Evo X better than most who will read this. There is no doubt, according to Dan (and I believe him), that the SST-equipped Evo’s are sporting one of the best twin-clutch boxes sensible money can buy. They are quicker than the manual in a straight line and capable of swapping cogs better than a seasoned race driver on the track – but at the end of the day, what you have is a gearbox that is calling the shots for you.
If getting the best out of the gearbox means leaving it in ‘Drive’, then in my book, that’s an automatic. If it’s the complete driver’s experience that you are chasing, maximum possible involvement in the driving process, then you’ll be wanting a manual – right?
Hitting the open road revealed what we all already know about Mister Bishi’s thundering Evos. The Evo X might have porked up a little, but this is no cosseting, luxurious and carefree drive.
With a distinct absence of sound deadening (inside or outside) and aluminium front guards, the front diff sings a merry tune, and at times the only thing louder was the roar from the R-compound Dunlop SP sport 600’s. The daily commute has never been the Evo’s forte, and that hasn’t changed.
With the Evo X, Mitsubishi has chosen a new close ratio five-speed gearbox. While some may think it is a gear less than expected (and a gear less than the car it replaces, the Evo IX), there is method in Mitsubishi’s madness. The Evo X is a performance car first and foremost, built for track days, competition and winding mountain roads. Everything else is secondary.
A five-speed gearbox provides the added strength and durability that comes with five thicker, hardier cogs, over a six speed’s added ratio. With motorsport in mind, Mitsubishi engineers have fitted both first and second gear with triple synchromesh, while third, fourth and fifth are fitted with double synchromesh. This gearbox is built to handle power and do so reliably, and in this respect it is superior to the SST. If big power is your thing, and modifying an Evo X is on the agenda, then it’s the manual that you’ll be wanting.
Heading up over Mt Macedon and down the east slope, the tight turns and switchbacks saw the Evo X in its element. The first four gears are tightly spaced, allowing you to punch through the cogs quickly, keeping the Evo’s all new aluminium 4B11 2.0-litre turbocharged and intercooled engine nicely on boost and nudging the rev limiter.
Belt it into a hairpin, mash the brakes before turning in (did I mention the brakes – they are 350mm Brembo’s that are outstanding both in feel and effect), grab second gear and punch the accelerator as hard as you like and let the Evo do the rest. The rear squats, the Evo’s electronic brain has a chat to the AWD system (having taken input from a bunch of sensors) and fairly spits you out of the corner. No understeer, no oversteer just ‘twang’ out of one corner and onto the next. It’s an adrenalin junkie’s dream and very addictive.
When the road straightens out, a change into fifth will see you drop around 1,000rpm or so, fifth gear being Mitsubishi’s compromise between rapid forward motion and a car that can cruise at 100km/h, with some pause between mouthfuls of 98 octane. If you do plan on using the Evo X for highway work, then the six-speed SST equipped car will cruise at highway speeds more economically.
The drive back from Mt Macedon was a chance to reflect on just what this slightly insane little car was all about (and who the hell that little guy in the tux was). I really can understand enthusiasts mortgaging their homes, and getting second jobs to plant their butts in those tight Recaros. The Evo X is a fitting evolution of the species and while it may appear a little softer on the surface, dig a little deeper and there is no doubt that the Evo has never been more serious, especially in manual guise.
With the recent advances being made in gearbox technology, and with manufacturers now embracing twin-clutch gearboxes in droves, its easy to think of the traditional manual as yesterday’s news. In fact writing this, I almost feel as though I am trying to defend the manual Evo X, but it doesn’t need my help.
I’ve driven both, and I’d take my Evo X with a clutch pedal thanks.
“A week with the Evo X begins with you questioning the lack of what in most cars are basic expectations: things like sound deadening and a seat that fits your arse. It ends with the realization that you are going to need a therapist to help you cope when it eventually leaves you…”
- Sense of involvement that manual provides
- Excellent Recaro seats
- Stunning grip and handling
- New generation styling
- Brembo brakes
- Feral undertones
- Recaros a little too snug fitting
- Uninspiring exhaust note
- Engine sounds like a Singer Overlocker on crack
|Engine:||1998cc in-line four DOHC|
|Fuel system:||ECI multipoint / Turbo|
|Output:||217kW @ 6500rpm, 366Nm @ 3500rpm|
|Performance:||0-100km/h: somewhere in the 5 sec range|
|Bore/Stroke, mm:||86.0 / 86.0|
|Transmission/Drive:||5 Speed Manual / AWD (S-AWC)|
|Consumption:||13.8 L/100km on test (mix of highway cruising and giving it a good shellacking).|
|Brakes: Front:||350mm Ventilated Discs four piston calipers|
|Brakes: Rear:||330mm Ventilated Discs two piston calipers|
|Wheels:||18 x 8.5-inch Enkei (BBS MR model), 245/40 R18|
|Suspension: Front:||Independent, MacPherson struts, A-arms and coil springs.|
|Suspension: Rear:||Multi-link with coil springs. Anti-roll bar.|
|Price:|| $59,490 5-speed manual |
$64,490 6-speed TC-SST
$71,690 MR (TC-SST standard)