Performance super-saloon is here – and we’re first to deliver our verdict
With a massive following among driving enthusiasts, the new Evo carries huge responsibility. Does it live up to the reputation of its predecessors? Most definitely! Mitsubishi’s super-saloon is more stylish and easier to live with than ever – but thanks to the new engine, slick-shifting SST gearbox and hi-tech suspension system, it delivers the goods on performance. The interior lags behind Europe’s best, but the Evo X is still a fantastic car.
The Evo has landed – and we have driven it first! In an exclusive test near Mitsubishi’s base in Japan, we put the all-new performance saloon through its paces.
After nine generations, the firm has started with a clean sheet of paper. And the result is the Evo X – which is more attractive than before, and offers a Volkswagen DSG-style twin-clutch gearbox and incredible performance.
Arriving virtually unchanged from the Prototype X concept, the new car looks absolutely fantastic. Compared to its boxy predecessor, the Evo has neater proportions and a more athletic stance. And it takes some of its inspiration from Europe, with an Audi-style grille and Alfa-like tail-lights.
This new, more mature approach is a conscious one. Mitsubishi feels the Evo needs to move away from its boy-racer image – but it’s determined to push performance and handling to the next level. So every major component has been upgraded, with the Evo X getting a new turbo engine, twin-clutch SST (Sport Shift Transmission) system, Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) and fresh rear suspension.
The 2.0-litre MIVEC direct-injection unit delivers 280bhp at 6,500rpm and 422Nm of torque at 3,500rpm, with 0-60mph taking only 4.9 seconds.
But, strangely, because the power delivery isn’t as brutal as before and the engine is more refined, the Evo doesn’t feel quite as manically fast.
However, the SST gearbox more than makes up for this, changing ratios at lightning speed and bringing a completely new edge to the car. Three shift modes are available, selected by a button next to the gearlever.
In Normal guise, SST behaves like a smooth auto. In Sport mode, gearchanges take place at higher revs and throttle response is sharper. And in Super-Sport, shifts happen at 6,500rpm, throttle response is more aggressive and the transmission blips the engine on downchanges under heavy braking.
You can take over control with the steering-wheel paddles at any time, and the whole set-up improves driving enjoyment considerably. A five-speed manual gearbox is also available for those buyers who prefer a more conventional transmission.
The handling, meanwhile, is sensational. Despite a weight increase of 100kg, the four-wheel-drive system offers amazing agility and grip. And the S-AWC set-up is stunning. It dabs the brakes should the car slide and, together with Active Stability Control (ASC), Active Yaw Control (AYC) and an Active Centre Differential (ACD), pulls the saloon around corners more quickly and with less roll than before.
Turn the ASC off and you can slide the car at will – but you’d better be quick to catch it. Still, with a revised steering set-up, tweaked multi-link rear suspension and a stiffer chassis, feedback is better than ever – and so is the ride, which is less crashy. Brembo brakes deliver huge stopping power, and pedal feel is excellent.
If there is a downside, it’s the cabin. Even though you get a sporty two-tone steering wheel and fantastic Recaro seats, the plastics are cheap and the design flair that’s evident in the exterior styling seems to have been forgotten. However, the new car is slightly bigger, so there is more in the way of space for occupants.
There’s no doubt the Evo X is a significant leap forward. It’s not as manic as its predecessor, it looks much more stylish and it has one of the best transmissions in the world in the SST gearbox. It adds up to a truly fabulous all-rounder. Mitsubishi really has raised the bar again.