Rumors of the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's demise continue to be greatly exaggerated. The scuttlebutt for the past few years has been that the Evo's on life support, with an eco-conscious, hybrid-powered replacement waiting in the wings -- and we'll believe that when we see it. Meanwhile, the tried-and-true Evo X is back in 2014, 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, don't be. Although we've panned the current Lancer for its outdated engines and transmissions, the Lancer Evolution's unique turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder and twin-clutch automated manual transmission are still among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, keeping 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, particularly with this year's updated touchscreen displays.
The Lancer Evolution's weaknesses are well known by now. It's stiff, noisy and cheap inside, and the steering wheel doesn't telescope. If this bothers you, go buy a BMW. Enthusiastic Evo drivers will relish leaving you in the dust on twisty 2-lanes.
Yep, it's the same old Evo for 2014, 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.
What's New for 2014?
Like other Lancer models, the 2014 Evo gets a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen interface and an optional 7-in screen with revised navigation software.
What We Like
Very fast; incredible handling thanks to sophisticated all-wheel-drive system; nicely executed dual-clutch automated manual transmission; lots of performance for the price
What We Don't
Noisy engine; stiff ride; cheap interior for the price; steering wheel doesn't telescope; poor fuel economy for a 4-cylinder engine; tiny trunk
The Evo is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder that makes 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The GSR comes with a 5-speed conventional manual transmission, while the MR gets 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.
Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates stand at 17 miles per gallon city/23 mpg hwy with the manual and 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with the automatic -- poor numbers for something with a small 4-cylinder engine, regardless of how much power it makes. Consider that the new 2014 Chevy Corvette returns up to 29 mpg hwy with its 455-hp V8.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution sedan is offered in GSR and MR trim levels.
The GSR ($35,790) features a 5-speed manual transmission, 18-in 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 a 6.1-in touchscreen, USB/Bluetooth integration and an auxiliary input.
The MR ($38,990) 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'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 a 7-in touchscreen and music storage.
Like every Lancer, the Evo has an unusually accommodating back seat for a compact car. Its trunk is shockingly small, though, measuring a roadster-like 6.9 cu ft.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 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 gave the regular Lancer its highest rating of Good in all tested categories.
Behind the Wheel
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. Materials quality, however, is definitely not an Evo strong point. Other than the Recaros, the entire cabin screams "economy car," so be prepared for quizzical looks from non-enthusiast passengers when they hear how much you paid.
We're of two minds about the Evo's turbocharged 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 upshifts, which allow the turbocharger to do its thing without interruption. Also, the 5-speed manual isn't an especially engaging piece of machinery.
Critics say that the Evo drives like a video game, 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 chore to drive in a civilized fashion on account of its stiff, noisy ride and incredibly responsive steering.
Other Cars to Consider
Subaru WRX -- The 2014 WRX isn't that far behind the Evo in terms of power, and it's a much better value. Plus, there's a new WRX around the corner that may be worth waiting for.
Ford Mustang GT -- The V8-powered Mustang GT makes an easy 420 hp, and you can probably find one for cheaper than the Mitsubishi.
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 at full song. Look for a deal on leftover previous-generation models as the new 2015 Cooper hits dealerships.
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's obnoxious (we think) rear wing.