Pros: Very fast; incredible handling thanks to sophisticated all-wheel drive system; nicely executed dual-clutch automated manual transmission; lots of performance for the price
Cons: Noisy engine; stiff ride; cheap interior for the price; steering wheel doesn't telescope; poor fuel economy for a 4-cylinder engine
What's New: The 2013 Evo is unchanged.
As it turns out, rumors of the 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's demise were greatly exaggerated.
The scuttlebutt last year was that the Evo was out of the game, with an eco-conscious, hybrid-powered replacement waiting in the wings. In fact, the tried-and-true Evo X is back in the saddle for 2013, guns blazing with that familiar mix of turbocharged acceleration and phenomenal all-wheel drive handling.
If you're worried that the Evo is a little long in the tooth now, don't be. Although the regular Lancer sedan feels a little outdated, the Lancer Evolution's unique turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 and twin-clutch automated manual transmission are still among the best in the business. As for the exclusive all-wheel drive system, it's an all-time great; it keeps the car on course with such precision that we can't imagine how it could be improved. And the Evo has more than enough technology to compete with its contemporary rivals.
The Lancer Evolution's weaknesses are well-known by now. It's stiff, it's noisy, it's cheap inside and the steering wheel doesn't telescope. If this sort of thing bothers you, go buy a BMW. Enthusiastic Evo drivers will relish leaving you in the dust on twisty two lanes.
Yep, it's the same old Evo for 2013 and that suits us just fine. With all the numb, gadget-packed transportation pods on dealer lots these days, it's refreshing that Mitsubishi stubbornly keeps building one of the most capable and engaging cars in the world.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is offered in GSR and MR trim levels.
The GSR features a 5-speed manual transmission, 18-inch Enkei alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, a large rear spoiler, Recaro front sport seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, a color trip computer, cruise control, automatic climate control, Mitsubishi's FUSE voice command system for phones and music devices and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input.
The MR steps up to a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, automatic xenon headlamps, 18-in BBS alloy wheels, Eibach springs, Bilstein struts and a subtle rear lip spoiler (instead of the GSR model's huge wing).
Options abound for the Evo. Highlights include a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with satellite radio, keyless entry/ignition, a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a hard drive-based navigation system with music storage.
The Evo's standard Recaro front seats provide wonderful lateral support for both hips and torso; however, they're not height-adjustable, so you'd better like the rather low default height that Mitsubishi has chosen. Moreover, the tilt-only steering wheel could be a deal breaker for drivers with long legs. On the bright side, the Evo's deeply hooded tachometer and speedometer are crisp and attractive and they bookend a great-looking color LCD trip computer.
Ergonomics are good except for the optional touchscreen navigation system, which is surrounded by small, similar-looking buttons that aren't necessarily intuitive. Materials quality is definitely not an Evo strong point -- the entire cabin screams economy car except for the Recaros, so be prepared for quizzical looks from non-enthusiast passengers when they hear how much you paid.
Like every Lancer, the Evo has an unusually accommodating backseat. A number of compacts with cramped backseats have debuted in recent years (we're thinking of the Cruze and Focus in particular), so the Evo's high rear bench and satisfactory head- and legroom are especially welcome.
The Evo's trunk, however, measures a roadster-like 6.9 cu ft.
The Lancer Evolution has been around a while, but you wouldn't know it from the available technology features. Most notably, there's the standard FUSE voice recognition system, which lets you control your Bluetooth-compatible phone and portable music device via voice commands. It's Mitsubishi's version of Ford SYNC and it works quite well.
Then there's the Evo's optional hard drive-based touchscreen navigation system with digital music storage. We like the color LCD trip computer, too, which hasn't always been featured in the current car. Sure, the Evo's interior still looks cheap, but you can't deny that it houses a lot of desirable tech.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The Evo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The GSR comes with a 5-speed conventional manual transmission, while the MR has a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual with column-mounted paddle shifters. A trick adjustable all-wheel drive system with a side-to-side torque distribution algorithm (Active Yaw Control) is standard on every Evo.
We're of two minds about this engine. On the one hand, the noises it makes remind us more of a vacuum cleaner than we'd like. But on the other hand, it makes the Evo go fast. Very fast. As for swapping cogs, we actually prefer the twin-clutch automatic for its seamless up shifts, which allow the turbocharger to do its thing without interruption. Also, the 5-speed manual isn't an especially engaging piece of machinery.
Fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon city/23 mpg highway with the manual and 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with the automatic -- pretty poor numbers for something with a small 4-cylinder engine, regardless of how much power it makes.
The Evo comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, active front head restraints and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee, full-length side curtain).
The Evo hasn't been crash tested, but the Lancer sedan on which it's based received an overall score of four stars out of five in government crash testing, including four stars each for frontal and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the regular Lancer its highest rating of Good in every crash test category.
Critics like to say that the Evo drives like a videogame, and they're right -- but if we were Mitsubishi, we'd take that as a compliment. The Evo's engineers have built a car that can make almost anyone look like a hero on winding roads and that's no mean feat. Most of the credit goes to the incredibly effective all-wheel drive system with Active Yaw Control, which instantaneously transfers torque to the wheels that need it. In hard driving, the sensation is one of being yanked through the corner by the hands of the driving gods. Unfortunately, the Evo is a bit of a chore to drive in a civilized fashion on account of its stiff, noisy ride and incredibly responsive steering.
Other Cars to Consider
Subaru WRX STI: Like the Evo, the aging STI is still kicking and it remains a formidable foe with its turbocharged boxer four and rally-inspired all-wheel drive system.
Ford Mustang GT: Lest you come away from this review thinking that the Lancer gives you the best performance for the buck, we should mention that the V8-powered Mustang GT makes an easy 400-plus hp, and you can probably find one for less coin.
Mini Cooper John Cooper Works: The JCW isn't often mentioned in the same breath as the Evo, but we think it belongs here. Don't be fooled by that cute face; the JCW is a focused driving tool and we much prefer the way it sounds when driving hard.
As noted, we prefer the automatic in the Evo, so our choice would be the MR model. It doesn't hurt that the MR ditches the GSR model's obnoxious (we think) rear wing.
What do you think of the new Lancer Evolution? Let us know in the comments below