When Mitsubishi unveiled its Lancer Evolution VII racecar at the 2001 New York Auto Show, it was fitted with a 280-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive. Two years later, a street-legal version emerged.
Sometimes dubbed "Evo," the road-rallye-inspired model was the eighth Evolution car since 1992. The first one competed in the 1993 Monte Carlo World Rally Championship. Each prior version had been available in Japan, but the Evolution VIII was the first one sold in the United States.
For 2004, Mitsubishi introduced a Lancer Evolution RS. Weight-saving measures cut nearly 150 pounds from the RS, and a rear crossbar and front limited-slip differential were intended to aid handling. Deleted items included the wing spoiler, rear wiper, air conditioner, audio system, power accessories and ABS.
Engine output on all 2005 models grows by 5 hp to 276 hp, and an active center differential is standard. An Infinity 315-watt audio system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer is optional. A new MR Edition, billed as Mitsubishi's highest-performing street-legal model, features Bilstein shock absorbers, a six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox, an aluminum roof and lightweight forged-aluminum BBS wheels.
A redesigned 2006 Evolution IX with a 286-hp engine debuted at the 2005 New York Auto Show.
Despite some styling similarities with Mitsubishi's Lancer sedan, the Evolution adds many noticeable extras that befit its performance orientation. Widened front fenders and unique headlight assemblies project a stronger appearance and improve aerodynamics. A lightweight aluminum hood with a large vent opening helps dissipate engine heat.
The horizontal and vertical wings of the rear spoiler are made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. Torsional rigidity is said to be double that of the regular Lancer. Enkei alloy wheels on the Evolution VIII and RS hold high-grip 17-inch Yokohama tires. Standard high-intensity-discharge headlights on the MR Edition have an auto-off feature. A sunroof is optional.
Seating for five occupants includes Recaro front bucket seats. A three-spoke leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel is installed. Round performance gauges are illuminated full-time with a red hue.
Under the Hood
Equipped with an intercooled turbocharger, the Evolution's 2.0-liter four-cylinder generates 276 hp at 6,500 rpm and 286 pounds-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. It teams with a five-speed-manual gearbox in the Evolution VIII and RS and a close-ratio six-speed manual in the MR Edition. Full-time all-wheel drive is standard, and a single 4-inch-diameter tailpipe is visible at the rear.
Four-channel antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard on all models but the RS. Side-impact airbags are not available.