There are those who will tell you the Mitsubishi EVO VIII has gone soft and cashed in its bad-guy reputation for the quiet life.
This article was first published in MOTOR magazine's March 2005 issue.
Okay, drive an EVO VIII back-to-back with an EVO VI and it’s easy to see that the newer car has grown up more than just a fraction. But traded the baseball bat for a crochet hook? Not even nearly.
See, while it has a more soothing ride than the EVO VI and it doesn’t have quite the same rushy power delivery of before, it’s still nothing short of a sensation and second on the ladder in PCOTY proves it. And while you don’t loose ALL your fillings crossing a tram-track in the VIII, there’s still a very real chance you’ll be visiting the dentist at some stage.
Because unless you’d driven a VI recently, you’d still call the VIII a rough riding little bastard of a thing. You’d probably also be tempted to name the VIII’s turbocharged four-banger one of the most exciting production engines ever.
See, what it lacks in capacity, it more than makes up for in attitude. Unlike the STi, the EVO is making plenty of power and torque from about 3000rpm upwards and by the time it’s tagged 4000, things are happening very rapidly.
It’s not as smooth or refined sounding as the Sube’s (in fact, it’s a rough-arsed little mutha with a wicked induction yodel) however it never, but never, leaves you waiting for a good punch in the kidneys. Basically, you ain’t gonna die wondering with an EVO VIII.
The way it gathers itself up and fires off into the distance defies the written word to describe it, but if you can imagine being fired out of a very large cannon, you’re maybe getting close. Similarly, the grip level is something you really need to experience to believe.
Toss it into a fast corner at Winton and it’s neutral right up until about nine-and-a-half tenths at which point it suddenly becomes completely throttle-steerable. Trail the gas into a bend and it’ll step a few inches wide at the back, thump the noise pedal at the apex and the torque going to the front hoops pulls you straight out the other side at a tremendous pace.
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Technology is, in this instance, your best friend. The main detractor is it’s so obviously based on the ’umble Lancer. It doesn’t look sexy (tough with the scoops and wings and such, true, but not sexy) and the interior is well downmarket.
Standard kit levels are nothing to write home about, either, but as you rocket through a hairpin on your fave piece of hotmix, the engine rushing you towards the next corner and the chassis feeding back all the important info, the lack of climate-control air-con will cease to be important.
SICK OR TREAT?
It had the EVO’s historical core strengths – power down, an arse-leaning on-throttle cornering stance and mid-range gristle – but Old Yella didn’t show us the lineage’s best stuff. It was a very tired example, who’s preparation had been cursory at best.
Its clutch issue is well documented, but the gearbox baulked, the body wobble-boarded and its tyres were remnants. We could go on, but would a fit EVO have added the PCOTY trophy to its BFYB gong? We’ll never categorically be certain, but in all probability, no.
The technical trickery stuffed into it can only hurl it so far beyond its mass market origins, yet it won’t give up, keeps punching and will drive itself into the ground in search of speed. It was beaten, yes, but not by preparation. One car is coming on song just as the EVO’s tremendous abilities have finally been exhausted. And that car is in the Champion’s League.
PCOTY 2005: 2nd Place
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII specs:
Engine: front-mounted 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve turbocharged inline four
Power: 195kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 355Nm @ 3500rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 21.2 litres/100km (55L tank)
0-400m: 13.84 @ 161.2km/h
0-1000m: 25.50 @ 202.7km/h
Winton lap time: 1:40.88
Winton top speed: 166km/h