Evolution^2: The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution through the years
A little history on the Subaru WRX STI's greatest fea
For 2018, Mitsubishi will end the Lancer forever (or until it gets a new body in the form of a horrendous, ugly as sin FSUV, or Fcking Sit Utility Vehicle.) Not much before that, they killed off the sportiest version, the Evolution (Evo). But the reason why is understandable. The Evo was starting to suffer from WRX STI disease, or when they keep making the same model over and over again for years on end. The car just wasn’t what it was. So today I have decided to go down memory lane and look back on the evolution…of the evolution
Like the other articles, this will go over a brief overview of most (there’s not really a point of going over the ones that haven’t changed much from generation to generation). If you guys want me to, I might make one on the Evo’s only true rival: the WRX STI. Leave your comments below.
1988-1992 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4
I know what you’re thinking. “This isn’t an Evo!” or “Clickbait!” Or some JDM fanboy crap like that. However, to understand the Evo you got to know the VR-4 first. When Mitsubishi decided to enter the WRC, (their plan was originally enter the Starion into Group B but everyone knows what happened there), they entered the Galant into Group A rules stat that they have to homologate (or make a road going copy of) the Galant for sales. In this case it was ~5000 units. When Mitsubishi made their required amount, they sent it across the world (most of which landed in the U.S.). Using a 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder making about 200 HP Fun fact: the sixth gen Galant used the same underpinnings as the Starion that Mitsubishi didn’t rally. As rallying continued on, they (the manufacturers) decided to go with smaller, nimbler cars such as the Lancer, Ford Escort, Toyota Corolla, etc. With that’s out of the way, let’s actually get on with the car in question…
Gen I: 1992-1993
After the Galant was deemed to large for rallying, Mitsubishi went with the Lancer instead. But, like the Galant, it had to be homologated for street use. So that’s what Mitsubishi did. Using the same twin cam, two liter turbo four, it was said to make 247 HP going to all four wheels through a 5 speed manual. At the time of it’s release, there were two models available. The GSR and RS trims. The former had all the normal things you would find in a car of it’s time. A/C, heater, radio, etc. (back when cars were simpler). The RS was a different story however. Rather than have all those luxuries, this one had none of the stuff. By getting rid of the A/C, rear wiper, radio, as well as switching to lighter wheels, it saved 150 pounds compared to the GSR model.
Gen II: 1993-1995
Building off of the first generation Evolution, Mitsubishi added a couple things.
Here is the list of what they changed compared to the first gen Evo
-Longer wheelbase (15mm)
-Front and rear tracks that were ever so slightly wider
-Bigger wheels (a whopping 15 inches now!)
-Power is now up to 256, while torque stayed at 228
-Minor suspension tweaks to make the car more stable at speed
Other than that, the second gen Evo was hardly any different from the first
Gen III: 1995-1996
This is where the Evo really started to gain pace because of a guy named Tommi Mäkinen. Meanwhile, on the road, the third attempt at it gained a new(ish) styling, more downforce, more power (270 from the 2.0L “4G63T” turbo four cylinder.) From here on out, the world began to take notice of what Mitsubishi was up to.
Gen IV: 1996-1998
The first real update to the first generation body style Evo, this one gained massive foglamps, even more power than before (thanks to a twin-scroll turbocharger, which added 10 HP), and this was the introduction of Mitsubishi’s “AYC” system (Active Yaw Control). Basically, it’s a torque splitter between each wheel, applying more power to the wheel with the most traction. Not just AYC was included. Now it had an active differential at the back to help manage the rear end easier.
Gen V: 1998-1999
This is really the first Lancer Evolution to not have the same body style as the previous ones did. On the outside, there was a new wing (which is mighty large, even by today’s standards), which is also adjustable, as well as more wheel (it now had 17” alloys), as well as flared arches. Underneath, the 2.0L four pot was claimed to have “276 hp” insert Dr. Evil with quotations here, but, like many Japanese makers at the time, people believe that Mitsu lied about it and is actually making around 300. Tommi Mäkinen raced one, too. (By now the Evo spread globally)
Gen VI: 1999-2001
Arguably one of the most famous Evos ever built (partly because of, you guessed it, Tommi Mäkinen, who even got his own special edition which is pictured above.) Like the V before it, the VI got new (more or less) bodywork and got different pistons, larger intercoolers as well as titanium-aluminide wheels (which would end up being a first for a production car). As well as the RS and GSR models, Mitsubishi added a third model to the lineup, dubbed the RS2 Audi intensifies which was the middle ground between the hardcore RS and more luxurious GSR. Power remained at 276 (or so they say.)
Gen VII: 2001-2003
Big changes happened now. Rather than going off of the old (by this point) Galant chassis, Mitsubishi went with the Cedia base (pictured below)
The reason as to why Mitsubishi had switched bases is because the FIA had decided that Mitsubishi now had to play by the WRC rules, which didn’t require a homologated version. Like the VI, V, and IV before it, the VII had an active rear diff and AYC, but this Evo had a trick up it’s sleeve. It now had a limited slip diff up front too (a helical to be exact). To top it all off, it also got a better rear diff, and an active center differential. This gave the VII very capable, almost supercar like, abilities. Yes, this is the one that was in 2 Fast, 2 Furious (driven by Brian O’Conner.) While power didn’t increase, torque did. It was up by a massive 7. Yep. 7 Lb-FT. Up to 282. But it’s better than before so it’s a minor win, but the overall package was a big improvement from previous generations
Gen VIII: 2003-2005
FINALLY, the Evo was going to cross the Pacific and come to the Americas. It was unmatched, with 271 HP on tap, it wasn’t slow either. But it’s like King of the Hill. This time, somebody came to knock the King off his thrown. That would be the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. It was incredibly similar to the Evo, and even made 29 more horsepower. But, in a review of the two, Car & Driver put the Lancer out on top. (You can read about it here). Like it’s predecessors, the eighth gen had both the GSR and RS models, but also had SSL and the MR. Later in it’s life, there would also be the many FQ versions. There was the FQ300, FQ320, FQ340, and FQ400. All of which had 300, 320, 340, and 400 HP. All of which were sold in the U.K.
Gen IX: 2005-2007
The ninth Evolution now had started to peak out (making about 300 HP from the same, DOHC, 16v turbocharged 4G63T four cylinder), but to keep things interesting, a wagon was built. You read that right. Mitsubishi made possibly a rally lovers dream (if they had a family). Although almost the same as the sedan (it had a slightly smaller turbo to aid in low speed accelerating), it was made in fewer units and was never sold outside of Japan (officially). Only about 2500 were ever built
If you’ve made it this far you are a true hero. I hope you appreciate my time and effort going into these things.
Gen X: 2007-2016
For the last generation Evo (Insert crying face here), Mitsubishi abandoned the old 4G63T and replaced it with the all new 4B11 that made 295 HP and 300 LB-FT of torque. But, that new engine couldn’t help it from being one of the greats. In fact, here is what C/D had to say about it “The Evo X is less communicative, larger, heavier, and slower compared with the previous Evo. It’s the inevitable trade-off that occurs when a car strives for more refinement. The steering, for one, no longer has that high-tension-wire responsiveness that made the old car such fun,” wrote Michael Austin for C/D. “If you’re still with us, you’ll be glad to know that the Evo X drives like nothing else in the world. You simply point the car where you want to go, and the various elements of the all-wheel-drive system sort out how to make it happen.” There were three transmissions offered with this last one. A 5 speed manual (which seems to be a trend with Evos), a 6 speed manual, and a 6 speed dual clutch automatic. In the U.S., there were a handful of trim levels. There were the GSR, the MR, the MR premium, the MR touring, and the SE (and don’t forget the Final Edition). In the U.K., however, there were even more FQ models! They had the FQ300, FQ330, FQ360, FQ400, and FQ440. Making between 300-440 HP (based on model).
To sum it all up then,
To wrap things up, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was a rally bred hero that was in a league of it’s own for the longest time. But as time went on, it just wasn’t what it used to be. I’ve always preferred the Subaru to the Mitsubishi, but maybe because I hadn’t taken a close enough look at it. Regardless, it is gone rallying in the heavens, and let’s pray to the car gods (and goddesses) it doesn’t come back a FSUV. Let me know which Evo you liked best and if I should make a Subaru one just like this one. I will catch up with you guys later. Bye!