2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

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$20,127–$29,783 Inventory Prices
(4.8) 6 reviews
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    19-20 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    291-hp, 2.0-liter I-4 (premium)
  • Drivetrain:
    All-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Performance
  • Sporty seats
  • Heavy-duty brakes
  • Lots of safety features

The Bad

  • Styling not all that different from regular Lancer
  • Ride may not be sporty enough for some
  • Manual transmission lacks sixth gear

Notable Features of the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

  • 291-hp turbocharged engine
  • Manual or automated-manual transmission
  • Standard AWD
  • Standard Bluetooth streaming audio
  • Standard USB port for MP3 players

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Road Test

Joe Bruzek

Don't let its four doors fool you: The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a sports car before anything else, with heaps of performance fun in a small package — but not without compromises.

Standard all-wheel drive maintains some practicality for snow-goers, who can outfit the Evolution with winter tires when temperatures drop. I drove an Evo GSR with a five-speed manual transmission and winter tires; the more-expensive Evo MR has a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Acceleration
The Evo's 291-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is a stout engine that feels more powerful than its specification suggests. The engine is at its strongest in the middle of the rev range, a very usable spot for both normal and performance driving. The engine doesn't have to be revved to its redline for drivers to experience brute acceleration.

At lower speeds, annoying turbo lag restricts acceleration for the first few seconds, until engine speed builds. At one point, I turned a corner and had to floor the car as a fast-approaching SUV barreled down on me. I waited, then waited some more, until finally the engine picked up and caught me off guard with a rush of power that kicked the rear end out into a slide.

The lag is an issue when you want to move hastily from a stop, unless you ride the clutch and give generous throttle for a quick start. Done right, it's a rewarding experience, with acceleration that pins you to the back of your seat. Do it wron...

Don't let its four doors fool you: The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a sports car before anything else, with heaps of performance fun in a small package — but not without compromises.

Standard all-wheel drive maintains some practicality for snow-goers, who can outfit the Evolution with winter tires when temperatures drop. I drove an Evo GSR with a five-speed manual transmission and winter tires; the more-expensive Evo MR has a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Acceleration
The Evo's 291-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is a stout engine that feels more powerful than its specification suggests. The engine is at its strongest in the middle of the rev range, a very usable spot for both normal and performance driving. The engine doesn't have to be revved to its redline for drivers to experience brute acceleration.

At lower speeds, annoying turbo lag restricts acceleration for the first few seconds, until engine speed builds. At one point, I turned a corner and had to floor the car as a fast-approaching SUV barreled down on me. I waited, then waited some more, until finally the engine picked up and caught me off guard with a rush of power that kicked the rear end out into a slide.

The lag is an issue when you want to move hastily from a stop, unless you ride the clutch and give generous throttle for a quick start. Done right, it's a rewarding experience, with acceleration that pins you to the back of your seat. Do it wrong, and the car falls flat on its face — or worse, burns miles off the clutch or breaks parts.

Winter Handling
I had my hopes up for testing the Evo with winter tires in the snow. Mother Nature had other plans, though, and Chicago's January brought 50-degree temperatures and dry roads.

Even so, our tester's winter tires didn't give up the Evo's fun factor in the warmer temps, despite not having as much bite as the standard summer tires. The previous GSR I tested on a racetrack with summer tires felt sure-footed. When that grip gave up, the Evo was prone to oversteer more than understeer. With winter tires, the car first pushed the front tires into a corner before the rear end stepped out.

With its Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system, the Evo handles much like a rear-drive vehicle. The all-wheel drive works seamlessly to distribute power to the wheels with the most traction by monitoring wheel speed, steering-wheel angle, throttle and the vehicle's yaw angles.

The Evo's steering and handling match up perfectly to quickly dart the car one way or the other at the slightest twitch of the steering wheel. This was apparent even with the winter tires, though the Evo's true handling potential can be experienced only in the summer on proper tires.

One More Gear, Please
The closely geared manual transmission really, really needs an additional gear; this transmission's five gears aren't enough for daily driving. That's mainly because, at 70 mph, the engine buzzes loudly running at more than 3,000 rpm. I tried to shift into a nonexistent 6th gear more times than I'd like to admit.

The gearing keeps the engine in the right speed for optimal performance, but it seriously needs a 6th gear for 60-mph-and-above cruising. The GSR's mileage is rated 17/23 mpg city/highway. That's roughly the same as the Chevrolet Traverse — a full-size, seven-seat crossover. The GSR isn't alone, however, because its main competitor, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, is rated the same. See the two compared.

The similarly fun-to-drive BMW 135i with rear-wheel drive is rated 20/28 mpg with a manual transmission. An Evolution MR with a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is rated 1 mpg worse than the manual, at 17/22 mpg.

A few editors noted how difficult it was to push the shifter into each gate. I agree. I found that the faster I shifted, the smoother the action became. It's almost as if the car was begging to be driven hard.

Interior
The Evo's optional Recaro seats are among the most aggressively bolstered I've sat in outside of purpose-built racing seats. I always felt the sides encroaching on my spleen; truthfully, I don't really know where my spleen is, but I felt it was being encroached upon.

Not everybody will find a comfortable position in the Evo, as there's no height adjustment with the optional seats, nor is there a telescoping steering wheel. I'm a slender 170 pounds, and even I felt jammed into the driver's seat. The front seats are a great attribute on the track, where they kept me from sliding around. For everyday driving, though, the grip is a little much.

The rear seats are typical for a compact sedan, with enough comfort for short trips and decent legroom and headroom, but you wouldn't want to be stuck back there for too long.

The Evolution's beginnings as a modest Lancer are hidden well, with unique trimmings and colorful gadgetry between the main gauges. The Evo's height-adjustable headlights and multiple terrain modes are commonly found in more expensive cars and SUVs. Still, our $38,395 tester has its value embedded in the Evo's performance rather than in luxury features.

It's too bad the Evo's monstrosity of a wing on the trunk completely obstructs the view of cars and people through the rearview mirror. I like the look of the ridiculous wing, which is standard on GSR models, but even though it's an Evo signature and looks good, I would go without it — or even the smaller spoiler offered on the MR — because of visibility issues.

Under that wing is a tiny trunk with 6.9 cubic feet of cargo space, down from the regular Lancer's 12.3 cubic feet. The space is limited and the rear seats don't fold down because of additional chassis bracing, as well as relocation of the washer fluid reservoir and battery to the trunk for weight distribution.

Safety
The Lancer Evolution misses the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick designation because of its roof strength/rollover test's Acceptable score. Otherwise, frontal, side impact and rear crash test ratings score the agency's highest rating of Good. All ratings require the agency's highest mark of Good to be a Top Safety Pick, which the Evolution misses because of the additional weight added by the all-wheel-drive system. The agency's roof strength tests are a measure of roof strength to curb weight.

Standard safety features include federally mandated front airbags, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. There are side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants and front seat-mounted side-impact airbags.

To see a list of all the standard safety features, click here. To see how well child seats fit in the Evolution, see here.

Evolution in the Market
The Evolution GSR's performance appeal is huge. It's a sports car that's not so subtly disguised — see the big wing — as a small sedan. Its all-wheel drive may be a reason to enlist this car for daily-driver duties, to handle all weather conditions, but otherwise it doesn't offer much practicality beyond its sedan configuration.

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Latest 2012 Lancer Evolution Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.3)
Performance
(5.0)
Interior Design
(4.0)
Comfort
(3.5)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(5.0)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Very reliable, sports car

by Iu1ian from Sgf mo on July 23, 2017

It is a real sport car dressed up in compact car, you need to test drove it, to appreciated,it is a fun car Read full review

(5.0)

Amazing car!

by EvilYeti from Clearwater, FL on May 10, 2017

Great, reliable power! Steering is tight, seats are comfortable, and is inexpensive for parts. My favorite car thus far. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution currently has 1 recall

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Mitsubishi

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, 10-years/100,000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty, Carfax vehicle history report, fresh oil and filter, and toll-free assistance line.

  • Limited Warranty

    Certified Pre-Owned Mitsubishi’s get a 10-year/100,000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty, up to ten years from the vehicle’s original in-service date or date of first use, or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Zero deductible for covered repairs completed by a Mitsubishi dealer in the USA.
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 60,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 123 point inspection and reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Lancer Evolution received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker