Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Touring

Ah, the Evo. Let’s pause for a moment, and thank the powers that be us North Americans can finally appreciate this little beast. It was not so long ago the management at Mitsubishi saw no market for this car here. That a street version of a World Rally Championship race car would have no appeal to us. The recipe is both simple yet extraordinarily complex at the same time. Take your bland bread and butter compact, then add the most exotic technology you have access too, throw in fender flares and spoilers, and of course, a borderline insane drivetrain to rival some of the best sports cars out there, and there you have it. The Evo.

The Evo has enjoyed (or been dogged by) its reputation for being brassy, loud and obnoxious, and a little rough around the edges in comparison to its obvious rival, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Regular readers of The Garage may recall our video review of an Evo MR, and it was during that time our friends at Mitsubishi told us a more luxurious Touring model would be joining the Evo family. Naturally, we were curious. An Evo with a hint of refinement? Is this a car you can take to finishing school? Read on to find out.

Before you purists start pulling your hair out, fear not. The MR Touring is mechanically identical to the top-tier MR. Same 2.0L, 291hp, 300 lb. ft. of torque monster you know and love, mated to one of the best twin-clutch transmissions available, and of course, Mitsubishi’s hyper-complex Super All Wheel Control all-wheel drive system.

So, you may ask, what’s the deal with the Touring? From outside the car, the only visual feature that separates it from a regular MR is that it’s rear wing has been clipped in favor of a very subtle lip spoiler. During my week with the Evo MR Touring, I somehow managed to escape the attention of the local authorities. Still, the aura of absolute menace that permeates from this car was ever-present, and no friend or relative of mine that encountered it bought for a second this a mild mannered sport sedan. Our test car’s optional Phantom Black paint only served to accent the fact this is not a car to be messed with.

The real story with the MR Touring is in the interior. You get the same Recaro sport seats that offer unrivaled lateral support, but now they are heated, and covered in leather.  A power moonroof, additional sound insulation and rain sensing windshield wipers round out the extra features. Still, you are constantly reminded that the basic architecture and materials are sourced from a car that starts at $15,000USD.

The Evo MR Touring is not a $15,000 car, obviously-far from it. Equipped with the special paint, and an easy to use GPS navigation package, our Evo rang in at a considerable $43,959. Every car magazine out there is beating you over the head that you are now at a price equal to a BMW 335ix. Forget that. If you are considering an Evo, the notion you are cross-shopping a BMW is absurd. In any case, this is a lot of money for a car with, despite the leather, economy car grade materials, that Honda and Toyota easily surpass, even at $15,000. Even so, I was able to enjoy the ample talents of the Evo on Connecticut’s delightfully twisty Route 66 while my four year old was fast asleep.

But no one buys an Evo because of its interior. You are buying one of the rawest, most visceral cars money can buy, armed with a dazzling array of power and technology. But why make an MR Touring? The answer is simple, and I found it in myself. Ten years ago, I would be gung ho for the base Evo GSR. Now that I’m in my late 30’s, I really don’t want to be driving a car that looks like it’s meant for a 21 year old. And I would like a little luxury to go along with the performance.

The Evo MR Touring straddles that fine line brilliantly. As if you could take the car and show up at a posh cocktail party, with the Butthole Surfers playing and wearing a pair of Doc Martens. The Evo itself was never a car for everyone, but I applaud Mitsubishi for adding a dash of refinement, and a hint of restraint that takes nothing away from the driving experience.

One suggestion though-most of my generation, and the Evo MR Touring’s target market has at least one child, and the joke of a trunk in this car is a deal breaker. So come on Mitsubishi, gives us a Sportback Evo MR Touring!

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  1. David says

    Trunk is a deal breaker for the MR! But no "super" all wheel drive for a Ralliart is a deal breaker as well. Components such as brakes, suspension, wheels and even a turbo can get swapped out, but traction control would be difficult to change. A deal breaker on the Ralliart Sport Back

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