Home > Reviews > 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR

Something MoRe

       It’s probably appropriate that the high-performance version of Mitsubishi’s Lancer sedan is called the Evolution. Every couple years the die-hard speed junkies inside the three-diamond division tweak the look, and if we’re lucky, the turbo engine of this all-wheel drive monster and add one to the Roman numerals. Right now we’re flying around corners in the ninth version of the entry-level sedan cum serious sports car. Of course, when we think it can’t get any better the Evo will evolve again, and we’ll be blown away—again. Sadly, the 10th generation is still a ways off, but in the meantime the Evo IX is more than capable of serious entertainment. To be sure we were as amused as we could be we asked for the top dog MR edition. We haven’t had this much fun since the office Christmas party.
      Like any good sports car the fun starts under the hood. The 4G63 turbocharged-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life 2.0-liter I4 has been massaged so that all models make 286hp for 2006. The revisions are rather extensive and include a revised cylinder head, head gasket, piston rings and stronger alloy for the pistons. A new magnesium valve cover and 7 percent higher capacity fuel pump round out the changes. The Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and Electronic Control (MIVEC) equipped engine ensures power is delivered smoothly. Torque fans benefit greatly because all 289 lb-ft of the Evo’s torque can be found at an accessible 3,500 rpm where the intercooled turbo is blowing at 20 psi. But you don’t need a spec sheet to tell you that because one run through the MR’s slick 6-speed manual and you’ll know the power sits at 3,500 rpm—it’s as obvious as Michael Jackson’s plastic surgery. Of course, you’ll want to keep the engine on the boil to find the 286 hp, which sits at 6,500 rpm. Trips to the 7,000 rpm redline happen remarkably fast. Drop the hammer and you’re through the first couple of gears almost as fast as you can control the clutch and shifter. But it’s essential to stay above that 3,500 rpm torque peak in hard driving because if you’re not in the boost the pace is similar to an average four-cylinder; not exactly the stuff enthusiast’s dreams are made of.
      Updates to the engine are extensive, but the exterior modifications are harder to ignore. Take for example the hollow carbon fiber rear wing, or the lightweight BBS wheels, or the impressive sounding but diminutive vortex generators. Actually, Mitsubishi claims the 25mm-tall shark fins on the trailing edge of the MR’s roof increase downforce. At the very least they are good conversation starters.
     Not all of the MR’s improvements are as noticeable as the vortex generators. The aluminum roof that lowers the center of gravity 3 mm will probably go unnoticed, although not unappreciated. Other changes for 2006 include the restyled front and rear fascias where darker lenses for the headlights and taillights give the Evo a more sinister appearance. The obvious goal up front was maximum airflow so there are gaping air intakes wherever possible. The large intercooler is easily visible through the front air dam and looks way cool.
      When you swing open the door you finally remember that the mighty Evo is based on the mediocre Lancer family sedan. The dash style is basic at best, and the stereo head unit looks state-of-the-art circa 1987. The doors are finished decently, but the dash plastics are overly shiny and hard. The Evo does get some upgrades that are worth mentioning. We like the 3-spoke MOMO steering wheel and the aluminum and carbon fiber shift knob and parking brake handle, all of which feel great in your hand. We recommend a nice pair of driving gloves for those owners in colder climates because the shift knob gets downright chilly. Would we trade the cool-looking aluminum knob for a finger-friendly, but boring, leather one: no way. The best part of the Evo’s cabin is the excellent set of RECARO seats. They can be finished in full leather as an option, but we recommend staying with the standard Alcantara and leather bolsters finish; they are superbly shaped and hold you like a vice. If you’re sliding around in these chairs you’re coated with Vaseline. Any shortcomings in the Evo’s interior are easily overlooked when you’re in those superb seats and working the shifter through the tight gates of the 6-speed manual.
      The Evo’s Brembo brake package isn’t outlandish by today’s standards, but step on the middle pedal with authority and you’ll think you snagged the USS Ronald Reagan’s arrestor wire. The four-piston front calipers bite on 12.6-inch discs and the two-piston rear calipers tighten down on 1-foot discs. The impressive braking force isn’t due solely to the first-class hardware: electronics play a role, too. Mitsubishi equips the Evo with Sports Anti-Lock Braking (SABS), which measures steering wheel angle and lateral G, among other things, to improve steering response under hard braking. Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) is also part of the package.
      Arguably the most important performance feature on the Evo is the Active Center Differential (ACD). Driver’s can choose one of three settings: tarmac, gravel and snow. The ACD then splits torque as needed through the center differential by varying the electronically controlled hydraulic multi-plate clutch, which replaces last year’s viscous coupling unit. All you really need to know is when you combine the ACD’s effectiveness with the front and rear limited-slip differentials the Evo becomes a handling champion.
      Another of the Evo’s many talents is its brilliance as a year-round sports car. Sure, other sports cars are called “daily drivers” but if your winter includes snow that actually covers the grass that Corvette of yours isn’t going anywhere. But if you wrap the Evo’s 17” wheels in Bridgestone Blizzaks, set the ACD to “snow”, and turn up the heater, winter suddenly looks a lot less unbearable.
      All of that is just pie in the sky if Mitsubishi prices the Evo out of the reach of most people. Luckily, they don’t. A MR like ours totals $36,894, which is impressive for the amount of performance you get, and even more so considering it’s a useable sedan to boot. The trunk is generous and kids will have no problem getting comfortable in the back.
     Mitsubishi has been lost in a dark room lately, but the Evo remains a bright spot. Here’s hoping the speed-junkies inside Mitsubishi never stop tweaking.



The Good:
Serious looks, serious seats, serious engine, serious go.
The Bad:
Cheap interior, wing blocks rear view, exhaust note more annoying than impressive.
The Verdict:
Serious fun.


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