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


BMW.Toyota said...

After reading your review, I just have to get one. Yummy!

Koonx said...

oh... we don't paint the middle... we use stickers or we do nose job... :)

drlong said...


Ever thought of turbo-charging your Lancer GT? :)

Koonx said...

we'll wait & see...