Gaudily adorned with science fiction-style inlets, vents and spoilers, the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX exudes all the visual cues of a wannabe street racer. But unlike most poseurs masquerading as sports cars, the Evo actually delivers on its implied promise of speed, speed and more speed.
Boasting an astounding 143 horsepower for each liter of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant, the Evo is tuned to deliver acceleration that’s on par with some Ferraris. Thrusting to 60 mph in well under five seconds, staggering power is delivered to all four wheels with the urgency of a heart attack, and biased via an active center differential. Keep revs below 3,500 rpm, and the engine feels bogged down. Allow the engine to spin above that magic mark, however, and the turbocharger catches its breath, forcing air back into the engine and instigating a seemingly unstoppable surge of revs that quickly push the tachometer well past its indicated redline of 7,000 rpm. If you’ve ever seen the film “The Fast and the Furious,” you’ll recognize the visceral ripping and wheezing sounds of the Evo’s turbo wastegate.
We sampled three trim levels of the Evolution IX and each offered varying degrees of sensory feedback. The base RS version, starting at $29,774, offers a startlingly Spartan driving experience: weight reduction is so extreme that the stereo system, power windows and power locks are deleted. Insulation is also stripped away, providing passengers with louder renditions of engine noises and intrusive road sounds such as pebbles kicking up against the underbody. The $33,874 SE adds more civility (as well as a large spoiler), and the top-of-the-line $35,189 MR model features an aluminum roof panel, a rear vortex generator and more supple Bilstein shock absorbers, among other niceties.
Any variant of the rally-based Evo lends the driver an aura of boy racer invincibility, and they all offer quick steering, glue-like road grip and impressively agile handling—at the expense, of course, of ride smoothness and comfort. Interior trim is of adequate quality, though Alcantara Recaro seats take the edge off some understandably inexpensive materials. Rear seats are spacious enough, though the site of a child’s car seat in one of these land missiles produces a paradoxically mixed message that implies irresponsible parenting, misplaced youthful yearnings or a strange combination of both.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX may not be the most sensible sedan on the market, but for driving enthusiasts seeking a $30,000-plus four-door sports car, it’s hard to find a five-passenger vehicle that matches its impressively high-performance limits.
Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; 4-year/50,000-mile full maintenance program; 4-year/50,000-mile roadside assistance.
Text and photography: Basem Wasef