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Headline:FastSaloons.com Evo VIII MR FQ-340 Road TestDate:24/12/2004
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII MR FQ-340 Road Test  

FastSaloons.com
Review


Mitsubishi Evo VIII MR FQ-340



Our Thoughts
FQ? RFQ? The last Evo we tested was the FQ-330, is the MR
FQ-340 substantially different? Does the formula just keep get better or is it just clever marketing?


Background

Mitsubishi unveiled it's latest MR range of Lancer Evolutions at the Tokyo Motor Show (October 2003). At the time the 'MR' (Mitsubishi Racing) was described as 'fine-tuning the Evolution VIII package with a host of detail improvements'.

So what were these detail improvements? Well the first thing was putting the Evo on a diet. The Evo VIII already benefited from an aluminium bonnet and a carbon-fibre wing. However, the engineers took this further by introducing an aluminium roof and side impact bars.

In order to maintain the structural rigidity of the monocoque, the aluminium roof was reinforced in key areas with steel braces. Self Piercing Rivets (SPR) and special adhesive was used to bond the aluminium to steel. The result of this was a 4kg reduction in weight and more importantly a reduction in the cars centre of gravity. The later has the same effect as if the roof was 50mm lower.

In addition UK cars have heat-treated Team Dynamics alloys. These wheels are of the same design and construction as those used in the BTCC (British touring Car Championship) and weigh only 8.3kg. That represents a 0.8kg / wheel saving over the previous Enkie wheels.

The MR also benefits from unique Bilstein shock absorbers, honed on the famous Nurburgring Nordschleiffe racing circuit. Mitsubishi Ralliart and Bilstein worked together to ensure that they harmonise with the front strut and multi-link rear suspension. The effect of the new shocks is to improve traction and road holding, so vehicle stability is enhanced during cornering and braking.

The electronics have also been 'tuned' in response to feedback from competition drivers. The existing Evo VIII unit gave priority to the Super ABS system in order to stabilise the car under heavy breaking. Doing this effectively disengaged the Active Centre Differential (ACD) and Super Active Yaw Control (AYC). In the MR this has been altered meaning that these systems still function even when the Super ABS is operational. Through a series of high-speed bends, for example, the system will continue to control the yaw movement of the car, even if the driver is braking. The result is that the car's agility and stability are both improved and the car responds more accurately to steering input on the entry to a corner.

Finally the existing steel clutch has been replaced with an aluminium unit, giving a 800g reduction in mass of the Super AYC. High strength steel has also been used for the differential hypoid gears, increasing the fatigue strength by 20 percent.

1st Impressions - Exterior Styling



Dark Styling = Menacing Looks
Gun Metal grey is my favourite colour for a car ever since Cobra (a pretty rubbish Sylvester Stallone film in which he had a really cool American car in that very colour). On an Evo the colour looks one hundred percent right.

On the face of it the car is exactly the same as the previous generation Evo VIII FQ-330 we tested back in June. However on closer inspection the MR has a few subtle styling tweaks. The headlamps and rear light cluster are now darkened / smoked. The effect, especially on our Gun Metal grey test car, is to increase the cars menacing look. Another very subtle change is that the external faces of the rear wing are now in dark grey. The lip above the exhaust is also finished in carbon fibre effect.

The MR is available in just four colours, including the colour featured on our test car, which is available only on the MR cars, Gun Metal Grey Mica. The other colours are Cool Silver Metallic; Solid Red and White Solid.

Other than that the only differences is the badging, limited to the rear of the car, there is now a red MR on the end of the Evolution VIII text. The later is now in black rather than the silver on the non-MR cars. You also get the small model designation MR-340.


Interior Styling



Interior never going to win prizes, but certainly a comfortable place to be.
Inside things look familiar with the layout and general feel of the cabin being identical to the previous Evo VIIIs. The MR gets carbon fibre trim and an unique plaque (our car was MR FQ-340 #056).

The FQ-340 gets a special high-grade leather and Alcantara Recaro seat. In fact the same seats that were in the FQ-330. The rest of the MR range gets black suede-look seats.

Once again the pathetic speedo has to get a mention. Why Mitsubishi insist on such an unusable speedo is beyond me. Basically 0-180mph is represented in about 1/3 of the dial. You need bloody good eyesight to see the speed under normal conditions. When your pushing hard, forget it.

Ride, Handling & Steering




MR tweaks really seemed to have worked. Evolution is the word.
The car shares the same underpinnings as the rest of the MR range, and this is not a bad thing. It just serves to illustrate how good things are, as the increase in power does nothing to upset the cars balance and general poise.

Initial impressions are that the car's ride is quite hard but it is not so hard as to effect comfort. On A-roads and better you are not overly aware of it. On B-roads you do feel the bumps but again not to the extent where I'd consider it a compromise.

The steering is very direct and the car can feel a little skittish at first. Not that the car ever feels anything but in control, its just the steering and car react so quickly that if you over-do your inputs the car is right with you. Therefore where other cars may hide your 'mistake' the Evo doesn't, not that it will let you make big mistakes, it just show your little ones.

The overall feel is that the car is really well planted. This is a significantly different feeling to that you would get in a Quattro-equipped Audi. In an Audi the feeling makes the car feel heavy, to me at least. The Evo on the other hand is able to communicate its traction in a way that does not belay the fundamental dynamics of the car. You are always clear that you are at the wheel of a lithe sports car.

It is also a relief to know the car stops well too. We tested the brakes numerous times and each time the car was stopped almost as savagely as it starts. Even on a very wet road the car stopped without having to engage it's ABS. Also and fundamentally even under extreme braking the car remains very stable.


Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The Evolution VIII MR range utilises a revised version of the familiar 1997cc 4-cylinder (4G63) twin scroll turbo engine. The range starts with the FQ-300, which is not merely a rebadged FQ-300 (which we tested last November) the MR engine has been specifically tuned for mid and high speed performance. In particular the top-end performance has been achieved with the introduction of a larger turbine nozzle and complementary revisions to the cam profile. To address the bottom-end performance the turbo waste gate now employs a second solenoid to optimise the air flow and the silent shafts have been revised to make them lighter.




345bhp / 321lb ft / 4.4secs to 60mph and 157mph limited top speed.
In the MR FQ-300 the effect has been to increase power to 305bhp at 6,788rpm and although the torque is lower at 289lb ft it is available 1,000rpm lower down the rev range at just 3,500rpm. The result is a 4.8sec 0-62mph time and a limited 157mph top speed.

The MR FQ-320 gets an upgrade kit developed by Ralliart in the UK in conjunction with HKS. The upgrade concentrates on airflow and includes an induction kit, revised intercooler piping and a new exhaust and down pipe. The result is 326bhp at 6,600rpm; 300lb ft at 4,500rpm; 0-62mph in 4.6secs and again a limited 157mph top speed.

Which brings us to the MR FQ-340 which has the same upgrade kit as the 320 but also gets a supplementary ECU which is hardwired to the car's existing engine management system and controls the ignition timings and air/fuel mixture. This change alone gives the car 345bhp at 6,750rpm; 321lb ft at 4,895rpm; 0-62mph in 4.4secs and the same 157mph top speed.

You may be forgiven for thinking the MR FQ-340 is all about peak power, but there is a sizeable amount of torque available too. This means the car pulls well from most of the rev range. Something that not all high-powered turbo cars could claim to do. Certainly not the FQ-400 as tested by TopGear recently. What this means in practice is the 340 is actually a car you could live with day to day. The only thorn in its every day appeal is that you are constantly tempted into sampling its stellar acceleration, and I'd be worried about my self-restraint and more importantly my licence.

Vocally the engine is pretty subdued given its output. The exhaust livens things up a bit and so passers-by are alerted to your presence. Under full acceleration the car has a strong purposeful sound, which is constantly being interspersed with rapid gear changes.

It would not be over-exaggerating to say that the 340 is the fastest saloon we have tested. The raw numbers just don't do justice to the experience from within the car. The acceleration is brutal, addictive and very wrong.

Thankfully the gearbox is good too. The combination of 6-speed manual and this engine means that when presented with a large club-right foot, the revs have not far to go before the next gear change. The car has an indicated 7,000rpm redline but in our car at least it was still pulling hard up to 7,500rpm.

Full figures listed below (note the tests were taken in the wet):

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII fq340 (VIII (12/03 - 04/04))
(4.2)
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII fq340 (VIII (12/03 - 04/04))
FastSaloons.com

(1.95)

(2.99)

(3.87)

(4.92)

(6.59)

(8.04)

(10.14)

(12.21)
*All FastSaloons.com stats are performed on private roads and repeated several times with the average displayed.


Practicality



No actual FQ-340 economy figures. Best not thinking about that one.
Basically this is the third Evolution we have tested and as we have commented before the car is surprisingly practical, with plenty of legroom in the rear, thanks in part to the slim Recaro front seats. The boot is big too with a 430litres of space.

Here we generally talk about fuel economy and alas Mitsubishi do not publish official figures for the FQ-340. The only numbers we can relate are those of the MR FQ-300 and MR FQ-320:

ModelUrbanExtra UrbanCombined
30016.7623.5320.49
32016.426.321.6
340N/AN/AN/A


If we were mathematicians then the sequence implies even better fuel economy from the 340 but as realists we know it won't be. Push hard in any of the MR range and you will be getting, at best, high teens, but you have to pay somehow for the performance.

Interestingly all 3 cars have the same published C02 emissions rate of 334 g/km.

Here too we must applaud and harangue Mitsubishi. Both the 320 and 340 despite being pretty aggressively tuned cars get the same warranty and servicing as the rest of the Evo range. Unfortunately, the service interval is only 4,500miles and so servicing costs are somewhat on the high side, when you compare the cars to those of other manufacturers that have 20k+ service intervals.


Conclusion

I can't explain how much I enjoyed this car. Well I can try. This is the best performance saloon we have ever driven. We've driven quite a few so they aren't hollow words. Quite simply you will not find a faster, more sorted saloon anywhere. Introduce the price and you can double the sentiment.

My initial reactions to hearing the introduction of the MR FQ-340 was that it was just going too far. You can imagine my reactions to hearing about the MR FQ-400! But having driven the 340 it really works there is a noticeable power hike from last years FQ-330 and the car did seem to have more directness to that car too. The small tweaks that the MR range introduced do work, and no more so in the most powerful car of the range.

So to the price at 32,999 the 340 is 3,000 more than the 320. A cynic would immediately point out that 3k for an ECU upgrade is taking the proverbial. But it really is a good car and you are getting a car that whilst on paper is only 15bhp and 5lb ft more powerful, in the real world is a devastating piece of kit.

Rivals are few and far between given that performance all-wheel drive saloons themselves are a bit of a rarity. Audi's S4 Quattro costs 36,850 and is not really offering the same experience as the FQ. So it's left up to the Evo's old rival the Subaru with its 27,990 Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Type-UK fitted with the prodrive performance pack (PPP). Which apart from being the car with probably the longest name in the UK, is a car that actually competes more with the MR FQ-300 as it comes with 301bhp and 299lb ft of torque. But it is about the closest car on the market to the FQ340. And whilst it is not as savage, it does offer similar performance, is more sophisticated and will cost less to run thanks to it's longer service intervals.

But we remember we said if you are looking for the fastest, safest mode of transport to get you from A to B (and probably C to D, E to F just for the hell of it) the Evo is the cheapest fastest way to do it, Other than dropping a couple of seats and getting a lot more basic.

We love the Evo. For all its power and acceleration it is wonderfully manageable and easy to handle. The all-wheel drive gives you the security without ever making you feel less agile. We will be introducing the FastSaloons.com leaderboard around the time this review goes out and it will come as no surprise that the FQ-340 tops it.

Neil
Related Links:
Our Review of the Mitsubishi Evo VIII FQ-330

Our Review of the Mitsubishi Evo VIII FQ-300

Full Set of Photos taken during the test

Mitsubishi's UK website

Quick Section Links:
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion









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