Mitsubishi Evo

There has been something rumbling deep in the belly of the Auto Express underground car park over the past few weeks... and it's the unmistakable sound of blue thunder. Complete with its striking paint job and enormous exhaust system, we are now the custodians of one of the first official Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX models to have landed in this country.

  • Razor-sharp steering, scarcely believable on-boost acceleration, accurate gearchange, decent practicality and economy so far, striking paintwork
  • Exhaust noise at motorway speeds harsh ride on bumpy B-roads, disappointing radio an sat-nav screen

There has been something rumbling deep in the belly of the Auto Express underground car park over the past few weeks... and it's the unmistakable sound of blue thunder. Complete with its striking paint job and enormous exhaust system, we are now the custodians of one of the first official Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX models to have landed in this country.

What's more, we were so keen to get our hands on the car that we met it off the boat and helped to make it suitable for use in the UK.

As with every Evo to arrive on British shores, WX05 EGJ's first stop was the workshop of a tiny Southampton firm which carries out the necessary modifications to make the Mitsubishi legal to drive on our roads.

The mechanics are responsible for more than that, though. Fresh from Japan, unmodified Evos develop 305bhp. But that's not enough for us Brits, so SVA UK is employed by Mitsubishi to produce 326bhp or 345bhp editions, and to fit the UK-only 'FQ' tuning kit. We opted for the mid-spec FQ-320 choice, and gave the firm's experts a helping hand fettling the newest member of the Auto Express long-term fleet. The biggest job is to remove the standard induction and exhaust systems - and throw them straight into the bin!

To develop the kind of output Mitsubishi wants for UK customers, aftermarket parts are fitted to help the engine breathe more easily, increasing the horsepower and producing a meaty exhaust rumble. Then, with the mechanical adjustments complete, this thrilling machine was ready.

With months of Evo motoring ahead of us, we will be able to see whether our hearts, heads and indeed wallets can live with the rally-bred four-door on a day-to-day basis. However, the first hurdle was to exercise suitable right-foot restraint to get through the running-in period.

An unexpected benefit of enforcing the strict half-throttle and 3,500rpm rules, however, was that we could assess the Evo IX's character without finding ourselves becoming distracted by its immense performance. And there's plenty for us to enjoy from behind the wheel.

The Mitsubishi's steering is ultra-direct, while the brakes offer tremendous stopping power and can be applied via the short travel pedal with amazing accuracy. With the first 1,000 miles of careful driving now complete, though, the initial moment of full-throttle acceleration is one never to be forgotten. Unleashing maximum power reveals just how astonishingly fast this all-wheel-drive saloon really is - and it's a sensation which is impossible to match at this price.

Back in the heavy traffic of central London, this performance is less of a benefit - although the Evo IX has already proved itself more adept at stop-start motoring than its VIII predecessor. A light touch is required on the accelerator and clutch pedals, although the Mitsubishi is surprisingly versatile and well behaved. As a result, any kangarooing in town is due to the shortcomings of the driver rather than the machine.

So have we had any early gripes? Well, yes. One point of consistent criticism is the radio. The manufacturer has fitted our car with its optional DVD-based satellite-navigation system, which is controlled via a fold-out touch-screen on the dash. The route mapping itself is excellent but - given the hefty £2,530 price tag it carries - the tacky user interface, unfathomable radio and low-grade speakers are unforgivable.

The hard ride quality has been another common cause of complaint. While it's surprisingly compliant at low speeds, attack a B-road at a higher pace and you are guaranteed to be shaken and stirred. And it's the compromises in comfort and refinement that will test our patience to the limit as the miles continue to roll by.

Only time will tell whether we can learn to live with the Evo's drawbacks. But one thing's for sure - we will never get bored of its acceleration.

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