Mitsubishi Evo's performance makes you act like a kid again

Driving the Mitsubishi Evo during the Pacific Forest Rally seemed like the perfect test.

The Mitsubishi Evolution X is the brand’s flagship performance car.

Nearly 300hp has been stuffed under the hood of the plain Lancer sedan, and connected to a sophisticated all wheel drive system to make the most of its power. It’s a muscle car in Japanese fashion, and it’s been a hugely successful race car on tracks and in rally, the kind of racing where real cars drive on real roads, real fast.

But could it be a comfortable road car, or would its stiff suspension, lack of creature comforts and race car pedigree reduce an adult to a petulant child, squealing “are we there yet?”

Driving an Evo from Vancouver to Merritt, B.C. to watch the fifth round of the Canadian Rally Championship, the Pacific Forest Rally, seemed like the perfect test. One of the teams competing at PFR was that of Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard, both rally champions many times over. They had won the last six rallies held in Canada while competing in a Mitsubishi Evo.

The test model was a GSR, the base model Evo, with the handling package that includes uprated suspension, forged wheels and two-piece front brake rotors. Battery and washer fluid reservoirs are relocated to the trunk for better weight distribution, so you need to pack light. Inside, the car is fitted with Recaro seats that aren’t far off from race buckets. They’re also very skinny, but they are heated.

The Evo hustled us from the airport to Hwy 5, the sound of the turbo spooling whining each time we picked up speed, enticing you to push the throttle harder. That was, until we figured out how to find the fuel economy readout on the dash. From there on, cruise control did the driving, at about 110km/h, using under 10L/100kms. It was what I imagine hell to be like, all that power, restrained by a wallet.

In the morning, we looked at the car for the first time in daylight. Those hoping a $46,598.00 car would have high quality materials for the interior ought to look elsewhere. The interior — seats aside — is the same as a base model Lancer. The only aux input to the stereo in our tester was a set of RCA jacks. No headphone jack or USB input. Our music stayed silent.

Arriving in Merritt for the rally, we were immediately noticed. Not by the locals, but by those in town for the rally. Evo’s are rare, even in Canadian rally. The Evo came to Canada quite late. Only the X was ever available here as a new car.

Over the two days of competition, L’Estage’s Evo did battle against a field almost entirely made up of Subarus. Mitsubishi vs. Subaru has been one of the major fault lines in rallying, ever since the mid 1990s, when both teams were at the pinnacle of the sport. In fact, L’Estage’s main rivals in both Canada and the U.S. drive factory-backed Subarus.

By the end of the event, L’Estage had finished a calculated and secure second place, enough to net his fourth career driver’s title. The win went to factory-backed Subaru driver Pat Richard.

On Sunday morning, I had to head back to Vancouver to catch my flight. This time, there was less of a rush, so with the help of a friend who organizes classic car tours in B.C., I planned a route that would give the Evo a chance to show itself off.

Heading south, I quickly found myself on a twisty, two-lane highway, snaking along river valleys and through mountain passes to Princeton, B.C.

The steering happened so fast it was almost psychic. The brakes were incredible, even on the steepest downhills. The engine put its power to the ground — via massive and very sticky tires — so well that even the steepest climbs vanished like the tiniest speed bumps.

From Princeton, I picked up Hwy 3, which led toward Hope, through EC Manning Provincial Park, including some ear popping elevation gains and losses. Despite a brisk pace, the car never once hinted it was near its limits — probably because its limits can only be found at speeds approaching the insane.

And yet, inside, I was held by seats that were as comfortable in hour six as they were in hour one. The bolstering that seemed excessive at the start of the trip had held me in place so well that my body, which would have been tired of the bracing in lesser seats, was just fine. The suspension, though firm and very communicative, wasn’t abusive, and seemed to get better as speeds increased.

The Evo may have been born to rally, but as you can expect of a sport where real cars compete on real roads, its upbringing makes the Evo the perfect companion for any road, summer or winter, paved or otherwise.

In the end, I did get reduced to childlike behaviour. I giggled, I laughed, I talked to it as if it was my imaginary friend, and I nearly threw a tantrum when I had to return the keys.

  • Mitsubishi Evo's performance makes you act like a kid again CHARGES MAY APPLY Subject: wheels On 2011-10-25, at 1:49 PM, Richardson, Mark wrote: 2012 Mitsubishi Evolution in british Columbia. Photos by Andrew Harvey for the Toronto Star. Mark Richardson Editor, Wheels The Toronto Star (416) 869-4819 direct Evo 009.jpg 20110930_ahp_PFR_0428.jpg

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