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Headline:FastSaloons.com Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII FQ-300Date:03/11/2003
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com Mitsubishi Evo VIII FQ-300 Road Test  
Mitsubishi Lancer
Evo VIII FQ-300


19th - 26th September 2003.
7 days.

Roadtested by Neil.

One of the most eagerly awaited FastSaloons of the year arrived in the manner we expected it. In your face - full on - it's bright yellow paintjob about as subtle as it's massive single exhaust, huge rear spoiler and widely ventilated front end. This was going to be a good week....

Background

The Evo VIII was launched in early 2003 with the first cars being delivered in April. To see the Press release click here

Outside

The Evo has never been a pretty car, but this, the eight incarnation, is by far the most attractive. The ventilation dominates the front end of the car. A large intercooler is clearly visible behind the mesh in the front spoiler. The offset half size registration plate suits the car and makes it look like it really is a rally car with a temporary plate attached. The flush bonnet scoop is an important feature - and suits the other styling details. It is also less awkward than the large scoop on the Subaru Impreza.


From the side the rear boot spoiler takes the eye, it's huge. The rest of the profile is quite restrained. The six spoke Enkei 17inch alloys look good and fill the arches well. Peeping out behind them are big red Brembo callipers.


The rear takes the styling in a far less subtle direction. The Olympic hurdle boot spoiler and euro-tunnel exhaust will leave noone in any doubt why they have just been blown away. The FQ-300 badging is kept to a minimum: limited to the base of each front door and on the boot. The Evolution badging is slightly less subtle, and spans most of the boot.

Inside

Inside the FQ the trim levels aren't great nowhere near BMW or even VW quality but they are improved over previous models. The dash features a number of different plastics, including an attractive matt blue trim, but on the whole there are too many materials used. The dash itself is simple, and features very few controls. The radio was a funky Kenwood stereo with foldout front. This folded out automatic when you start the car and retracts when you either switch off the car or radio. You also have the ability to remove the front completely. The controls for the air conditioning and heating are at the base of the console in front of the six speed stick. The stick itself is not wonderful to look at but serves its purpose. Beneath the gearstick is a plaque (found on all Evolutions, RS + FQ) the number of this car was 290.
The dash has silver edged dials which themselves are dark grey with orange writing and needles. The strangest thing with the dash is the ridiculous speedometer, which is quite frankly too small. The dial is slightly smaller than the revometer but more importantly the graduations (marked from 0 to 180mph) only take up 1/3 of the space. Thus working out your speed is a bit too much of a squint. So if you live anywhere near a speed camera (lets face it you do) you'd better get very familiar with the needle positions. The remaining space of the speedo is taken up with warning lights (fair enough) and a mitsubishi logo (a little less easy to explain).

The revometer is far clearer, graduated upto 9,000rpm, with the redline at 7,000rpm. The dial is also home to the suspension / car setup display that has 3 settings: Tarmac, Gravel, Snow. A button to the right of the dash changes between these settings. And a light illumintes againt the current setting.

When you accelerate both needles swing to the right very quickly and the redline is met all to often.

The remainder of the dash contains three smaller dials: engine temperature, fuel gauge, and another small dial badged 'Evolution' which also contains some more warning lights.

The dash is viewed through a 3-spoke Momo steering wheel, which is trimed in leather and whilst having the appropriate metal to give the sporty feel also does feature an airbag. On the steering column the left stalk controls front and rear wipers (the later not something that is normally found on a saloon - but welcome) and the right stalk contains the controls for the lights.


The seats are very good. They are actually Recaro badged bucket seats. They hold you firmly both by your legs and by your body. The seat covering is not to my taste, it uses a combination of two-tone grey swede on the outside of the seat, and a blue metallic fabric on the actual seat cushions. In my mind Swede always looks like it will wear quickly and mark easily. The feel of the seats is, as you'd expect firm, but is comfortable and even though there is not much adjustment, the seat offers a very good driving position. After spending time in these seats, normal cars seats even some sport seats start to feel a little bit ordinary.


On the move

A stationary Evo is missing the point - it's like Kylie with an overcoat on. Fire up the Evo engine and you won't be disappointed, sure it's not as unique as the Impreza's boxer, but when the chips are down you know it will deliver. Unlike some of the turbo engines you are in no doubt when the turbo is up to speed. There is nothing subtle about it's entrance and once the turbo joins the party, things start to blur - the redline is reached and if your lucky you have the gearstick is hopefully already on it's journey to the next gear. The feeling that accompanies this is grin-inducing - nobody with even the smallest amount of petrol in their veins can fail to like the FQ.

One slight dissappointment is with the gearchange which feels notchy and not as tidy as you come to expect these days. This doesn't make you fluff the gearchange but you are aware that the stick doesn't move between gears without a bit of hassle. As the rest of the car is fantastic this is a minor annoyance but it would be good to eliminate it.

Unlike some fast saloons the Evo is no one trick pony - it excels in many areas - grip, handling and just general ability. The tyres aren't that big (235/45 ZR17 front and rear) but used in combination with 4-wheel drive and clever electronics they produce epic amounts of traction and security. Add to this the suspension which has been honed over the many generations and you get a car that you can confidently push and play with. Take a medium-sized roundabout, as found conveniently near to my home, and some liberal speed and the Evo just handles it - you can feel the car tighten, flex diagonally and more importantly dispatch the corner with disdain, hungry for the next one. From A-to-B the Evo will transport you at speeds where most cars would struggle to keep up - in addition you feel comfortable doing this - you never feel you are reaching the car's limit - In fact you get the general feeling you are only scratching the surface.



Most of the last few paragraphs shouldn't be too suprising for most people. What I did find suprising was the cruising ability of the Evo. On the Thursday of the test I spent a total of five hours in the Evo in two stints. Covering c. 350miles on mostly dual carriageway and motorways. The drivers seat was brilliant, very comfortable and it did not need any adjustment throughout the journey.

The 6-speed box means that the engine is revving at only 3,000rpm at 70mph (just over 3,000rpm at 80mph and c. 4k rpm at 100mph). This in turn means better economy and quieter cruising. The car has enough torque to mean that this doesn't hamper you - you can happily accelerate in 6th or of course drop the gear(s) and move into hyperdrive. Noise levels aren't bad either and for an enthusiastic driver the real world owning experience of the Evo VIIII is less demanding than say the VII or VI. Richard found his Evo VI Tomi Makinen a little too full-on even for him and his daily commute.


Over the ten days a number of people experienced the car from the passenger side and their opinions were pretty unanimous: - impressive acceleration, mix responses to dash - bit conservative, seats good, quality of interior, and interior size, general liking for the looks but some felt it was a bit 'old man'.

Practicality

On the practicality side the legroom front and especially in the back is good. The drivers seat is positioned for me (6'1') and as you can see the benefit of the Recaro sports seats is excellent rear legroom.



Boot space is not too bad although the rear wheels do intrude.

Performance





When it comes to extracting the most from an engine Mitsubishi is king (As our figures confirm !). In the case of the FQ300 the 1997cc delivers 301bhp at 6200rpm and 300lb ft @ 4500rpm or 150bhp/ltr and 150lb ft/ltr. Only Subaru comes close to achieving these specific output figures.

The Mitsubishi weighs only 1410kg (up 30kgs from the Evo VII) but still low enough to give the car an impressive 210bhp/tonne and 210lb ft/tonne - putting the FQ300 well up in our power league and in some good company ( See here ).

The engine bay is neat and it's good to see something a little different to the run of the mill black plastic engine cover.


Performance-wise our testing revealed real-life figures that were close to those achieved by Magazine tests.

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Magazine(1.53)(4.42)(11.99)
FastSaloons Figures 1.95 3.15 4.01 5.09 6.74 8.23 10.58 12.64

(*)The fastsaloons results are the average of a number of runs carried out under normal situations - and reflect realistic, repeatable numbers. (Tests recorded with the Race-Technology AP22 on private road). Other results show fastest time recorded by Car Magazine.

Economy

Well I think the Evo has our record for worst fuel economy - the first tank of petrol barely reached double figures - just over 10mpg. It's not all bad news though on a longer journey the car managed a more respectable 25mpg. But the warning is there - use the performance and you'll need your own personal petrol station.

In a world where 20,000 mile services are getting all the more common the Evo's 4,500 mile / service is a bit of an anomaly. This will certainly have a marked effect on running costs and needs to be taken into consideration.

Conclusion

The Evo VIII has been accused of softening the bloodline - it has been made nicer at the expense of its main purpose. But I for one think this is a good thing - The Evo appeals to lots of people and should not be a huge compromise. There aren't too many people in the fortunate position to be able to run two cars and so if you buy an Evo you should be able run it day-to-day. Sure there still is compromise economy and servicing for example. But the car itself is no longer that much of a compromise.

The age old rivalry between Subaru and Mitsubishi lives on and beyond that it is hard to see another natural rival - Both the Audi S4, BMW M3 are different propositions and are considerably more expensive (£36,155 and £39,735). So between the Subaru and Mitsubishi the Evo is more hardcore, faster, and more honed than the Sti. Subaru offers a Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP), which is the best match for the Evo producing as much power. Price wise the Evo is slightly more expensive (£28,999), but offers an additional 36bhp, over the cheaper (£27,500).

I have yet to sample the new Spec C Impreza, which certainly the magazines seem to be favouring over the Evo in recent tests. Whether the 6-speed box is the weakest link as some have suggested - or whether the FQ is not fast enough. The recently announced FQ330 may well take the crown back. We certainly can't wait to find out…


Thanks to Mitsubishi for the loan of the car.










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