Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Tried & Tested: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (Evo X) with TC-SST

Living with an iconic moniker like ‘Evo’ (not the auto mag) or ‘Evolution’ does have its plus point of customer ‘blind’ loyalty and faith. A close associate of mine – who is incidentally a German car fan - just signed up for one without batting an eyelid, being one of the first thirty owners in Malaysia who took delivery of the latest Lancer Evolution (X) with TC-SST. On the flipside, expectations are high for this all-new Evo X since its predecessor, the Evo IX MR was such a capable, brute beast with plenty of grip and intoxicating turbo kick!

Mitsubishi Motors has done well in styling the Lancer 2.0 GT, so much so its biggest selling point must be its pseudo-Evolution X outlook and image. A check with the on-road population in Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya would reveal almost half of ‘em running around with after-market square frontal registration plates shifted to the right, while the tranverse bar dissecting the grille and air-dam gets darkened out with black paint. (Errr...the slim shady keeps it in the centre!). To the regular Joes and Janes (?) the new Lancer GTs must have been heaven sent. But for someone who forked out a third of a million Ringgit, I could feel the disdain of how too much unassuming the real McCoy can be. Strangely, not many cars in front ever gave way to my onslaught in a 295bhp and 366Nm sports machine. In fact, no other motorists ever could ever discern an Evo X in motion having front ventilated bonnet and fenders made of aluminium, the truly superb AFS bi-Xenons being projector items, those rolling lightweight 18” BBS alloys with all-round Brembos or those ‘pregnant’ wheel arches and the shorter tail/rear bumper plus the taller rear spoiler. Not helping much is the ‘Evolution’ badge at the rear that is smaller than your regular RM1 ball-point pen. My esteemed associate at NST-CBT - when he earlier took out this very same Mitsu - was even asked by a petrol attendant: "Is this a real Evo?".

Here is a lethal driving machine that is almost as famous as James Bond. But...just imagine the suave (and well-toned bodied) 007 wearing a pair of synthetic leather shoes in the upcoming ‘Quantum of Solace’. That’s how you feel as you usher yourself into the cabin. Don’t get me wrong: the fancy heated, leather-suede combo RECARO seats, leather-rimmed multi-function steering, leather-stitched gear knob, sporty shift gate, TC-SST toggle switch and magnesium alloy paddle shifters are indeed excellent. It’s things like the ever-remnant plasticky dash-top, door trim, sharp-edged inner door handles, unlabelled (red sticker missing) door lock switch and lateral rear view mirrors lacking tinting that just doesn’t cut it for this top-of-the –range model.

You will also wonder how the powerful 9-speakers Rockford Fosgate audio with a bassy sub-woofer in boot, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wiper fit into all of the earlier cost-cutting deficiencies, especially the ever-nasty low rent interior plastics. The piano-black glossy inserts, much like a Samsung flat panel TV frame – on the dash and front door trim - could have been real aluminium bits to lift its cabin ambience from all sombre black to something classier, with a more convincing sportier intent.

In all these scheme of things, you’d also probably not expect a sunroof, but there IS one as standard fitment for the 2008 Lancer Evolution in Malaysia. Before I get hate mail accusing me of nitpicking and being long-winded, I still feel obliged to highlight the auto-function for all four windows of my 2005 Colt Turbo Ralliart. There is only a stingy, singular item for the driver’s window of this RM323k Lancer Evolution, that also just for one-touch winding down i.e. semi-auto. Gosh!

So after all the bitching, has the latest edition of Lancer Evolution gone soft? If you are referring to the ride and cruising comfort, that’s a very welcoming and emphatic, yes. All for the betterment of things, since the latest E90 M3 sedan (with M-DCT) is indeed ‘softer’ too in this respect while the new 911 Carrera 4 and C4S with PDK (997 facelift) driven in Berlin recently were almost as pliant. As for the latest Evo’s cornering prowess: an emphatic no. This all-wheel driven techno-gizmos on Dunlop SPSport is what I likened to a budget, smaller engined GT-R laden with S-AWC which encompasses active yaw control, active centre differential, sports ABS, traction control etc. I have not managed to unsettle it with my rather amateurish skills and I reckoned most of us could not take the new Evolution to its absolute limit given its enormous AWD traction. All I managed was to sense a wee bit of oversteer into one of the corners I had taken at higher-than-normal speed (I was alone in the car) and the electronics were quick to rein me back into safety zone.

What about the TC-SST then? Leaving the drive in ‘Normal’ mode, the twin clutch gearbox changes very smoothly with gears mostly left in 4th, 5th or 6th. Fair enough, granted it’s destined to optimize fuel efficiency (for the record, the term fuel economy cannot be found in the new Evo’s lingo or dictionary). Toggle the TC-SST switch forward into 'Sport' and the automated ‘box downshifts upon braking just before a corner, accompanied with blips of the throttle; resulting in rev range mostly 3500rpm upwards, wherein lies the new turbocharged all-aluminium 4B11’s responsive and torquey powerband.

With engine braking you get even more traction into and out of bends. Wicked and lovely. I have not sampled the SST’s 'SuperSport' mode seeing that I am thankful enough already for MMM to loan me this car. For Evo X owners who’d like to try this, apparently you can do launch control at 5,500rpm and the clutch will bite and blast the Evo off like there’s no tomorrow, for the robotic gearbox that is (yes! this can and will cause premature wear and tear it seems). On more than a few occasions in ‘Normal’ mode, I found the SST to be a wee bit slow-witted executing upshifts e.g. from 4th to 5th and 5th to 6th. Perhaps its fuzzy logic software has yet to get my 'drift' of things. In all fairness though, the SST’s downshifts engagements are definitely more incisive than VW’s DSG. And in Sports-manual mode the gearbox doesn’t downshift for you at all, only until you reach a toll-plaza should you have forgotten to paddle down to lower cogs, it just jumps to gear position ‘1’, lest you’d stall the car.

The new Evolution’s steering is a bit of a letdown though, since upon licking the 2nd rung of triple digit speeds the rack loses communication somewhat and becomes a tad too feathery in weighting. Yep! It requires you to have near rigor mortis – conviction and tension - at your wrist and elbow cruising at higher motorway velocity. It's not like the new Evo is unstable, far from it actually, but it can be tiring and stressful ''watching-over" the steering on long interstate jaunts. Just for heck of it, the Civic Type-R’s rack comes into contrast here, but that’s another story for another day (in another post).

In these times, I supposed most of you would like to know of the fuel consumption I have managed over my near three days of sampling the latest Lancer Evolution. The picture immediately above is worth a thousand words then. For the record, it averaged 16.5l per 100km (much like a 3-litre Mercedes E280 AMG Sport Package) for my mostly granny-on-a-Sunday drives, whenever my kids were put in the backseats (and my wife was seated beside me). The good thing was they didn’t even get carsick (motion sickness and the associated partial-projectile mess)…you can’t achieve this familial state of bliss in the old Evo IX can you?

Mini picture gallery:

Windshield cleaner reservoir moved to the back for better chassis weight distribution.

This would make any BMW owner proud of their 50:50 weight distribution obsession.

Lancer's A/C vents lack air-flow control and complete shut-out roller or slide lever.

All metal panels at front are of aluminium, but our Sunway boys will likely peddle carbon-fibre items soon enough. Note vents on top of hood.

Boot space is almost of a C-segment hatchback's.

The Lancer Evolution looking comfortable blending into a bungalow house

Related posts:
First Drive: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with TC-SST
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X GSR
Full Road Test: Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 GT

Monday, 20 October 2008

Coming soon: Civic Type-R vs Lancer Evolution (X)

A shootout between a RM199k Honda Civic Type-R and the RM323k Mitsu Lancer Evolution? Possibly a mismatched duo or perhaps a comparo bordering on insanity, you may wonder.

Well, both of them are top-drawer, high performance halo models of their respective range, yes? One wears the the much-revered Type-R 'talisman' while the other has the iconic WRC-bred Evo heritage.
Coincidentally (seriously!) both of them have ended up on the test platter of this writer over the last weekend. And the findings are rather baffling and outcome not as straightforward as A, B, C.
Watch this space for more details soon...

In the meantime, you may want to read this:
First Drive: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with TC-SST

Naza Group of Companies Export Initiative for 2008-09

Naza Group of Companies today announced that their effort to export the Naza range of vehicles through subsidiary, Naza Corporation had seen positive response. Since early 2008, the Naza Group has been actively exporting the company’s range of supermini cars like the Naza Forza and the Peugeot 206 to countries like Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

At a press conference today held at the PKT Container Freight Station (CFS) which is located in Klang, the Naza Group through Naza Corporation announced that they had received strong orders for the Naza Forza for the Thai market. To date, back orders for the Naza Forza - which was launched on 26 March 2008 during the Thai Motor Show - had already reached 1,100 units. The factory in Gurun, Kedah is increasing production to meet the demand for the Thai market. Naza Corporation is also in talks to export the Naza Forza to countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Mauritius. The Kia Picanto and Peugeot 206 both have orders amounting to 600 units and 500 units respectively for the Thai market. All those units are expected to reach the Thai market before the end of 2008. The strong demand for Naza Corporation’s range of supermini cars can be attributed to the global move towards smaller and more economical and fuel efficient models.
For the Indonesian market, Naza Corporation has received firm orders for 600 units of the Kia Pregio van. Malaysia is the only country in the world outside Korea that manufactures the Kia Pregio van in RHD.

The importers are bullish about the new Malaysian made imports due to the preferential tariff available with the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme for vehicle exports between ASEAN countries. With the tariff in place, importers enjoy an import duty for Malaysian made vehicles of only 10%. Vehicles exported from Malaysia however must comply with the 40% local content ruling to quality.

SM Nasarudin Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama SM Nasimuddin (seated at centre, above), Executive Chairman and CEO of Naza Corporation Sdn Bhd said that the company is firmly behind the export drive and is aggressively sourcing for new markets to enter into. This is to ensure that there is a continuous source for business which will guarantee that the production facility in Gurun, Kedah stays at its optimum capacity. At the moment, the export effort is mainly contained within the Asian region, especially to Thailand and Indonesia which are the more prominent vehicle consuming nations within ASEAN. However, there are definite plans to expand the Group’s export activities even further and the African continent has been targeted as one of the potential new markets. The export drive brings about obvious benefits to both the factory in Gurun and also the vendor base through optimization of capacity.

To further support the export initiative, Naza Corporation has also been endorsed by their Korean and French principals, KIA Motors and Automobiles Peugeot to manufacture and export relevant new models for the region. With the new models and also a strong order bank, Naza Corporation targets an export potential of 8,000 units for 2009.

To ensure that the export initiative is sustained, Naza Corporation has recently set up a dedicated export team to support all export markets. The export team not only handles sales but also all after-sales issues pertaining to the exported models. For faster response time and feedback to any form of enquiry that may be received from their foreign partners, Naza Corporation has also set up a special Technical Hotline which will offer assistance.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

On Test: Honda Civic Type-R

I have always loved Honda's K20A engine for what it represents: smooth, willing and sweet to the redline; having owned the 7th gen Accord for quite a while back in 2004.
However, I didn't quite subscribe to the early understeer tendency and easy chirping/squealing of its front tyres - which I blamed on the FWD dynamics (and maybe poor OE-grade tyres) - and decidedly switched to a rear-wheel drive sedan ever since.

In addition, my first car back in the 1990s was a Proton Wira 1.3GL manual, which was incidentally also in white. Thus, it was with a tinge of scepticism that I took out an 8th gen Civic Type-R (sedan) for my NST-CBT Car of The Year (COTY) 2008 review. Yep! It's another front wheel driven car equipped a stick shifter, albeit a 6-speed 'box.
Also, having driven the Golf GTI Mk5 (DSG) countless times, I swored that this has to be one of the best FWD car around. Now I guess that the crown - in my book at least - will be taken over by the Civic Type-R, with another accolade added to it: the best front-wheel-drive AND manual tranny car I have ever driven so far!

Watch out for the full test report coming up soon and possibly a mini shootout with the new Lancer Evolution (X) :)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Peugeot 407 Test Drive Campaign in Malaysia

Nasim Sdn Bhd will be having its Peugeot 407 Test Drive Me campaign at Peugeot Blue Box Glenmarie and Peugeot Bangsar - from 10am until 7pm - on 18 & 19 October 2008. This Peugeot 407 Test Drive Me campaign ensures that customers are able to better understand the new Peugeot 407, not just by looking at the car but to feel the intangible strengths that the new Peugeot 407 carries, the comfort that every driver and passenger ought to receive, the enhanced performance, control of the drive and also the safety features marked by the Euro NCAP 5 star rating.

Customers are encouraged to slot some time for the weekend to visit any of the participating showrooms to test drive the new Peugeot 407. A mystery gift and refreshments await those who visit Peugeot Blue Box Glenmarie and Peugeot Bangsar on 18 & 19 October 2008. For more information on the event, customers are able to contact Peugeot Careline at 1-800-88-6292.