For over twenty years, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has captured the hearts and minds of enthusiasts all over the world.
Now, however, it seems that Evolution will be coming to an end after Mitsubishi released a Final Edition of the Lancer Evolution X. As a tribute to the great Evo, here is a recap of what 10 generations of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series.
The development of the Lancer Evolution was born out of a need for a competitive car for the World Rally Championships. Mitsubishi had already had considerable success in international rallying. Models like the Lancer 1600 GSR had racked up wins in off-road rallying from 1973 to 1979, followed by the Starion in the 1980's as a touring car and as a rally car, as well as the venerable Galant VR-4 in 1992.
The Lancer Evolution series started out as a homologation special for Group A rallying in the early 1990's as the Galant VR-4 was deemed too big to navigate the tight roads of international rally events. In order to enter WRC, Mitsubishi was required to build and sell 2,500 Lancer Evolutions to the public with its spec as close as possible to the rally version.
The first Evolution model had the Galant VR-4 drivetrain and engine shoehorned in the smaller and lighter Lancer body. It came with two model trims namely the RS which was a bare, competition-ready car and the GSR which had the conveniences of a compact executive sedan. At the time, the 4G63T put out 247 PS and 309 Nm of torque.
After a short model year run, the Evolution II took over the Evolution I in 1994. A notable change from the Evo I was a bigger rear wing which would follow the Evo's life until the end. Power was also increased to 256 PS.
The iconic rear wing grew in size for the Evolution III which was introduced in 1995. Apart from that, The front bumper bow featured a larger air intake for the radiator, intercooler and brakes. Under the hood, a new TDO5-16G6-7 Turbo, new exhaust system and increased compression boosted the power to 270 PS. The Evo III proved to be the car that Tommi Makinen needed to win the WRC Driver's Championship in 1996.
A new generation Lancer in late 1996 meant that Mitsubishi worked to develop an all new Evolution. Apart from the new sheetmetal, the Evolution IV reached the Japanese “gentleman's agreement” of 280 PS and the introduction of Actve Yaw Control. As with the previous Evolutions, the Evo IV had an aggressive front bumper and a huge rear wing.
The Evolution V came out in 1999 and now had a beefier body kit to make way for the wider track. The rear wing got an upgrade too and had the ability to be adjustable to improve rear downforce. Improvements were done under the hood and boosted the torque to 373 Nm. Mitsubishi claimed the power at 280 PS but those who have driven it claim it felt like more than that.
Nearing the new millennium, the Evolution VI was released on the road and on rally stages. The Evo VI's main highlight was the Tommi Makkinen Edition. Apart from the TME scheme that runs throughout the car, it came with 17" Enkei wheels, a leather Momo steering wheel and shift knob and a quicker spooling turbo.
The Evolution IV, V and VI highlighted the most dominant years of Mitsubishi in the WRC as Tommi Makinen won the title 4 years in a row from 1996 up to 1999.
For 2001, the bigger Cedia body came in and ushered in the Evolution VII. The new shape Evo introduced another trick from Mitsubishi's technological sleeve: an the Active Center Differential. In conjunction with the AYC, it eliminated understeer allowing the car to throttle steer through the twisties. While official power figures stayed at 280 PS, torque was up to 380 Nm.
The Evolution VIII received the Boulay treatment for its front grill but the Evo VII is more than just a nosejob. The Evo VIII saw the introduction of the MR model which featured a vortex generator, an aluminum roof panel and a revised ACD and AYC system for sharper handling. The VIII also sa the FQ models in Europe which started with the FQ320, FQ340 and all the way to the FQ400 which did 0-100 in 3.5 seconds easily putting it in supercar territory.
The Evolution IX was the last of the Cedia based Evos and introduced a rather interesting addition to the lineup. Mitsubishi took 2,500 Lancer wagons and decided to shoehorn the Evo IX's engine and drivetrain in it. Both sedan and wagon Evo IX's got the uprated 4G63T, now over the “gentleman's agreement” with 291 PS and a stump pulling 392 Nm of torque. Along with ACD and AYC, the Evo IX was quick on and off the road.
We now arrive at the final Evolution, the Evo X. With the “Gentleman's Agreement” out of the way, the Evo X put out 295 PS and 422 Nm of torque making this the most powerful Evo straight from Japan. Outside its home market however, Ralliart UK came up with a very limited and very powerful Evolution called the FQ440 packing 450 PS. Only 49 were made and they all came in Frost White.
With the Evolution set to bow out by the end of the year, Mitsubishi gave one last hurrah with the Final Edition with its upgraded suspension, exhaust and exclusive badging but that does little to lessen the sadness of enthusiasts everywhere. It's hard to imagine the scene without the Evolution. Unfortunately, it's unlikely we'll ever see a car like it as Mitsubishi is focusing on efficient, fuel sipping cars and WRC rules now don't require homologation specials if ever Ralliart wants to join again.
The venerable Evo may be gone soon but the memories of its rally victories and the smiles of its owners will never be forgotten.