The disappointing Lancer Evo X

Posted on October 8th, 2008 in Driving Emotion,Mitsubishi,Opinion,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

Look, I am sorry to say so, but I just don’t think the Lancer Evo X lives up to its hype.

In fact, as a driver’s car, I don’t think it even lives up to the (immense) promise that drives of previous Evos would lead you to expect.

There are four separate problems.

Firstly, the engine drives like an old-fashioned turbo. That is, despite the hoopla about variable valve timing, super lightweight turbo assembly and all the rest, the engine is slow to come on boost.

In fact, the engine really only gets going at just under 3000 rpm – say, 2800. Redline is 7000 rpm so that gives you just over 4000 rpm of powerband. Not terrible, but certainly nothing special.

And despite being an all-new design, the engine feels old because of the way in which boost is developed. Not only is it late to arrive, but it feels like the wastegate is kept completely closed until a boost ceiling is reached. So, especially with the (evidently) large turbo, the boost rise is not linear with throttle – instead, at a constant throttle position, it swells.

Unlike any turbo car I have driven for years (but so reminiscent of turbo cars of the mid-Nineties), the Lancer is car where you give it a bootful and then slowly lift-off as turbo boost arrives.

That is, if you want a constant, part-throttle torque output. 

So late to boost and then the old ‘elastic throttle’ type of boost development that makes fine throttle control from about 2000 – 3500 rpm difficult.

And then there’s the twin clutch transmission, lauded by (apparently) one and all. Yes, it is quick to change gear – very quick. But what the others don’t tell you is that when driven gently in city conditions, the system can be lumpy and unrefined.

Like, I’d be occasionally apologising to passengers if I drove a manual car this badly…

And, worse of all, when you want lots of acceleration, the ‘box can be slow to change down. And it has to change down to give you acceleration – there’s no torque converter to multiply torque and cover any short-term hole in response.

In the same way, off the line the car is an absolute slug for the first few moments – the trans first lets revs rise and only then engages the clutch. A traditional auto would just be jumping out the hole.

So old-fashioned boost characteristics mixed with a trans that at times is clearly worse than a well set-up – but traditional – automatic.

And then there’s the handling.

There’s bags of grip but when you step over the edge of adhesion, instead of that wonderful yawing action that used to be the signature of Evo torque-splitting changes, the stability control simply brakes a wheel and yanks the car around.

The upshot is that on a winding road, I find the Evo a difficult and frustrating car to drive fast. You need to be on the power way before the apex – so you can overcome turbo lag – and if you’re waiting for a responsive transmission to help you out, well, you’ll be waiting for a very long time.

Use the steering wheel trans control paddles to keep the turbo on-song (an expression I don’t think I have even written for five years…) and the car gets going: but then, incredibly, I keep waiting for this supposedly awesome rush of power… one that never actually arrives.

But Jeez, you’re saying to yourself: doesn’t this wanker ever say anything positive? How can its performance be anything less than mind-blowing?

But think about it – the Evo has only 217kW to haul around its 1625kg (7.49kg per kW).

A bog standard Toyota Aurion has 1590kg  and 200kW (7.95 kg/kW) – the Lancer is only 6 per cent better! Of course, it’s the shape of the power curve that matters, something best indicated by torque. Well, the Lancer has 366Nm at 3500 – and the lowly Aurion has 336 at 4700. So yes, the Lancer with its forced induction gets going harder at lower revs – its torque curve is fatter. But it’s also a heavier car…

The point is not that the Aurion is a supercar; the point is that the Lancer needs another 50 or 75kW if it’s to have the performance it deserves.

Irrespective of what a stopwatch might say, time and time again I’ve been waiting for the performance to really arrive, to fling me down the road to the next corner. But, even in 9 degree C ambients, it’s never come.

Perhaps I really want a lot of power on the straights because with the delays in the transmission response and the delays in boost, I find it a frustratingly difficult car in which to gain any kind of cornering driving flow.

As I write this, I have been driving the car for two days. Perhaps it will get better over the next five, but first impressions are often the best…

74 Responses to 'The disappointing Lancer Evo X'

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  1. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 18th, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I wrote the test the other night. It appears Oct 28.

    It was an odd test to write: I just sat down in an armchair and wrote it on my laptop, not referring to any of my written notes and getting only a few specs at the end to fill in the blanks I’d left. (Normally I sit at my desk and write on my main PC, referring constantly to my handwritten notes and the manufacturer’s information on the car.)

    I felt I had so much to say, and my memory was so vivid, that the story largely wrote itself.

    In short, the car does a few things extremely well and rather a lot of things in a way which is poor, below average or only average for a sporting road car.

    It’s car that I expect to drive in modified form before the end of the year; I really think that the aftermarket could easily make very substantial improvements.

  2. Brad said,

    on October 19th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I’m on Julian’s side still, the EVO X isn’t as good at the track as an EVO 6.5 or 9, and it isn’t as good on twisty roads as an EVO 9 either. And if you want to drive comfortably, the VR-4 is still a better car (and still a turbo 4wd from Mitsubishi)

  3. Mike said,

    on October 22nd, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Yes, I think it will be interesting to see what the aftermarket offers for this car, and any performance gains to be had.

    Interesting suggestion on the Evo and Colt comparison. I think a drive story on these two cars together would be a good read.

  4. Ed said,

    on October 23rd, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    “At 160km/h, Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution X begins to make sense. At 180, flicking down, then powering through a tightening sweeper, it begins to look more than simply sensible. Push on past 200km/h, ignore the pitching, the roar of the tyres and jarring of the suspension; and revel in the penetrating howl of the engine and the responsiveness at the wheel – because here, its genius emerges.” —
    an interesting coment on the car from The Motor Report.

  5. BG said,

    on October 28th, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Maybe closer to home.. regarding the opening story in the review – I could imagine a different ending: “Cutting through the hills I know so well, I exit a corner and see a radar trap far ahead; I back off the throttle and take it easy. At that moment I realise I’m still in super sport mode.. the engine continues to spin at 5000 rpm. Now I’m getting pulled over for hooning. Dah

  6. Andrew said,

    on October 31st, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Julian, how does it compare to the old auto Evo – the Evo VII GT-A?

  7. Julian Edgar said,

    on October 31st, 2008 at 7:32 pm
    I didn’t write the story but I drove the car a lot and I agree with the points made.

  8. James W said,

    on November 19th, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I always seem to agree with Julian’s comments, he tends to hit the proverbial nail on the head.

    Julian I think your approach is to be applauded – you look at these cars as if you had to live with them for 2-3 years, rather than just taking it for a hoon and commending the car.

    I’m sure the Evo X is a fun car to drive. Absolutely certain of it. But I don’t think I’d enjoy driving it day to day – I didn’t enjoy driving any of my ‘old school’ (read: late 80’s early 90’s) turbo cars that were all about on-off driving.

    Julian I’d be really interested to hear your comments (if you get the chance, of course, I know the whole deal with only being able to drive what you’re given) on the Ralliart Lancer. It’s a tamed down version of the Evo and has a different gearbox, with parts coming from different models.

    I think that Dan made some reasonable points, and he definitely exhibits a level of knowledge that is respectable. However, I think he’s has definitely taken a different approach, which probably won’t be as relevant to readers of Autospeed.

    Like I said earlier, Julian you seem to take an approach towards reviewing cars where you put yourself in the seat of the buyer, purchasing an every day car, probably the only one in the household. I believe that is a much more useful review for the majority.

    Once again, keep up the good work.

    PS. I’m also enjoying the blog format!

  9. Julian Edgar said,

    on November 19th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    To their credit, Mitsubishi is lending us a Ralliart Lancer for a test.

  10. James W said,

    on November 19th, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Wow! That’s awesome, look forward to your thoughts and review.

  11. kenx said,

    on December 4th, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I own Evo MR for about a month now and i have to agree with everything Julian Edgar says. Too bad i did not find this page earlier, maybe i would give evo mr a second thought. Sometimes the car is brilliant – when you are in right mode, right rev for the situation – but when unprepared – it happens only 1 in 10 times.

  12. Ford Man said,

    on December 5th, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Carsguide have just awarded the Evo MR – 8th best car of the year!

    Ho ho ho…..

  13. Julian Edgar said,

    on December 5th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I drove two slightly modified ones today – SST and 5-speed manual. I very much stand by what I wrote in the test.

  14. Mike said,

    on December 14th, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I’m also looking forward to the Lancer Ralliart test. As a former owner of a GSR, will be interesting to see what the Ralliart is like, and also how it compares to the latest Evo.

    A note on the Galant / Legnum, I’ve seen a few of these later model 2.5 litre twin turbo V6 VR-4s on the road lately. They look quite nice, and are certainly a welcome addition to the import market.

  15. K7 750 said,

    on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Julian, what if the Evo X you were driving was a manual? Surely in that case you are in control of what “mode” the car will be in simply by dropping down an gear (I’m fairly certain that the manual doesn’t get all the different modes). To me it sounds like the majority of problems you are experiencing are stemming from that. Personally, I wouldn’t even look at the auto version. I don’t care if it’s 0.2 seconds slower to change gear, to me, three pedals is the only way to go. I understand that you are only going on what you have been given but I would like to know your thoughts on what a manual Evo X would be like.

  16. Julian Edgar said,

    on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I’ve since driven a manual Ralliart Lancer turbo. The lack of bottom-end in that car was quite obvious, and the Evo is even worse in its turbo matching than the Ralliart.

  17. Dan said,

    on February 23rd, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Mitsubishi have not made such a car as a manual Ralliart Lancer turbo. Don’t you mean a TC SS-T equipped Ralliart Lancer?

  18. Julian Edgar said,

    on February 23rd, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Dan, sorry – my mistake. I meant the manual Evo. I have also, since the original blog was written, driven the twin clutch auto Ralliart.

    In summary, the maual Evo had some advantages over the twin clutch auto Evo, but the lack of bottom end power was still obvous.

    A Ralliart (ie better bottom end) with a manual 6-speed would be my on-paper pick.

    Thanks for the correction.

  19. better than u said,

    on April 2nd, 2009 at 6:10 am

    I find it interesting when most of the JGTC drivers from best motoring, Japanese tune shops and US/UK car magazines are all saying evo x is one of the best car in its category, and they also mention is it also a very capable car to many different driving environment, from street all the way to track day events.

    I guess Australians are just not capable to realize the true power of this car, pathetic.

  20. Ben said,

    on April 2nd, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    There’s the true power of the car in it’s own environment, then there’s what the car is like to drive normally (which is most of the time…).

    Also, please refrain from calling millions of people pathetic. It would tend to stir a few of them up.

  21. Andy said,

    on January 20th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    from a punter who knows nothing….i bought a standard manual x here in NZ and loved the handling but was a bit surprised at the lag it had – got it upgraded to a FQ330 and now its friggin awesome – little lag at all and carries acceleration way higher – handling is even better – now getting an upgrade to FQ360 once the pats arrive, though may go straight to a 400 upgrade. Ive had an S4, RS4 – loved them, but love this in a different way – I think purely from sticking aorund corners really – insanely cool – but hated the auto just cause it felt less controllable around corners…

  22. Max said,

    on August 13th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    No Matter what you people say, Evo is a damn good car, i am buying 1 on thrusday, Yes it’s slow for 1st , but after that, how does my ass look boy???.. for 60k ur getting 0-100 under 5 sec, come on should not be concerned about fuel, oh if you are Toyota Corola is ur car. Good Luck with “Oh What a feeling”

  23. billy said,

    on October 4th, 2010 at 7:37 am

    the evo is the best car hands down.

  24. Max said,

    on December 12th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    who ever wrote this article does nott have an EVO X, i am certain about that, u can’t judge EVO X in 1 hour or in 1 Day, Not a word of lie, My EVo could keep up with C63 AMG, for like 10-15 seconds(Proved), obiveousely it won’t keep up with v10 for long, bare in mind, My evo is stock, but don’t take this article in consideration if u r buying an EVO X MR, trust me i am an Owner, and i would say take a test drive for MR before u even make a decision, Down side for EVO X MR, 15-16L/100km,