It is with a heavy heart that I must report that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X’s production run is about to come to an end, with planned replacement. Our friends at Autoblog reported today that while no official end date has been named, Mitsubishi said the end is coming. This news is bittersweet for us North Americans, who for years jealously watched the Evo, well, evolve as a technological tour de force on the international rally circuit-especially those of us in Canada and New England where rallying actually has an audience. We begged for this car, and enthusiasts rejoiced when Mitsubishi finally green-lighted the car for these shores.
And what we got was an awesome, but also flawed car. Performance was, simply put, exceptional. The handling was unbelievable. By that, I mean one of the best handling cars I have ever driven. The steering? Kinetic. Instant. Brake feel also ranks as one of the best out there. Needless to say, acceleration and the sound from the engine room all conspired for what amounted to a tremendous amount of fun. The perfectly sized steering wheel, aluminum pedals and super supportive Recaro seats were a delight to sit on, see and touch, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the Evo’s metal shift paddles were the best I have seen in a production car. Even if I wasn’t in manual mode, I’d find myself touching them. Ok, I admit, that makes me sound a little weird, but sit in an Evo and you will understand.
Yes, the car came from econobox beginnings, and looking around the interior, the hard plastics and bland design served as constant reminders. Trunk space was pathetic, and positively inexcusable for a modern compact car. Terrible fuel economy and a tiny fuel tank make for frequent trips to the pump. Have you seen the TV commercial of the guy who walks into a gas station/convenience store to the song ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name’ from ‘Cheers’? The ad is for a Chevy Cruze diesel, but I am guessing the song is for the local Evo owner.
But once you slip into that Recaro seat, you forgive the Evo of all its sins, because driving it is just that good. I drive a new car every week, but still, my one drive in an Evo on Connecticut’s Route 66 stands out as one of my favorite drives in years. Sure, my wife and son enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of rural Connecticut and the tunes from XMSirius satellite radio, but the fun I was having behind the wheel is immeasurable. The Evo is one of those rare cars that just begs to be driven. A car where you look for an excuse to leave the house, and always wanting to take the long way home.
With the loss of the Evo, our automotive world will be a little less fun. But, the car business is cut throat, and Mitsubishi is a minnow here in a shark tank. Yes, the Evo was an enthusiast favorite and served as the brand’s halo car, but the reality is Mitsubishi is making more money selling crossovers, and wants to allocate more of their resources to EV’s. The bottom line was, as harsh as it may sound, the Evo stopped making sense for Mitsubishi. The company pulled out of the World Rally Championship years ago. Subaru is introducing an all new WRX, and Mitsubishi simply has no answer. When the last generation WRX went on sale as a softer version of itself, and in hatchback form only, I found a college friend of mine traded his old WRX in for an EVO. When I asked him why, he said he was disappointed Subaru no longer offered the WRX as a four door sedan. So he just bought an Evo instead. And before you give me the ‘Oh, Americans always prefer sedans’ stereotype, I’ll have you know he’s British. When he told me of this, and knowing the WRX had sort of gone soft, I wondered if Mitsubishi would capitalize on this. Then I recalled that I once sat in his dorm room while he chomped on dried seaweed, so my friend may fit in a peculiar demographic. Subaru heard the outcries from their fans, and quickly addressed them. They made the WRX more intense, and finally delivered a four door version. And for us, the new WRX is our our own rally monster car available to us once the Evo vanishes from dealer lots. It was a hell of a ride, but I swear I will never forget my Evo trip on Route 66. And that is what makes a car great. Thank you, Mitsubishi, for giving us a taste.