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Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-300 GSR SST Review

Sat, 28 Jan 2012

We get the Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-300 GSR SST in for review

We get the 2011 / 2012 Mitsubishi EVO X in for a week to review in its lowest powered guise – the FQ-300 GSR SST. Is it still a real Evo?

What can we say about the Mitsubishi Evo (or to be precise, in this case, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-300 GSR SST) that hasn’t already been said? It’s the almost affordable supercar for the Playstation Generation that performs feats of handling and acceleration which belie its prosaic roots, and has become an urban legend amongst those with low-slung trousers and faces that resemble a Pepperoni Pizza.

At first look the Evo X seems as barking mad as every other Evo, a lineage that stretches back thirty years. All the clues are there: big wheels, big spoiler, purposeful nose and the general feel that Halfords had a big hand by providing accessories from its go-faster range of goodies, aimed at those with a baby Citroen to accessorise. But the Evo X is a lot more than that.

Get inside the Evo X and things feel a bit more normal. It’s not a luxurious place to be, but with some half-decent leather, very supportive seats and a decent amount of kit, the Evo X is a perfectly  decent place to be.

As the top of the tree model trim, the GSR SST Evo X comes with SatNav, a nice Fosgate music system with HD music server, the usual must-have connect-ability and a computer display that seems to tell you everything you need to know except your inside leg measurement (unless we missed that setting). It doesn’t feel special, but it does feel competent.

Under the bonnet lies the magic of the Evo, a 2.0 litre turbo lump that delivers a very useable 295bhp in bottom of the range FQ-300 guise . It’s not a great sounding engine, and unlike Evos past it doesn’t signal its intent with every shimmy of your right foot. But maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe the Evo X has grown out of its hooligan phase and in to a grown-up super saloon?

That thought is brought home by the SST gearbox. Its’ an automated twin-clutch manual (SST stands for Sports Shift Transmission), and doesn’t seem quite right on an Evo. We’re not Luddites – and on the whole we’d opt for a decent modern auto on most stuff – but an SST gearbox on the Evo X just seems to soften the experience and make it feel that bit less mad.

Not that there’s anything really wrong with the SST ‘box – it does a perfectly good job – but it does feel like it can’t keep up sometimes. But most of the time the SST ‘box does a commendable job, and unless you want to play at hooligans all the time it is probably the best option in this grown-up Evo.

The whole grown-up feel continues to invade your brain as you take off in the Evo. The expectation is for a back-breaking ride and a daily appointment at the chiropractors for those of us past the first flush of youth. But the harshness of the old Evos is gone, to be replaced with a ride that’s much more compliant. Not exactly soft, but far from the painful experience it once was.

That pliability  in the setup doesn’t really go away as you start to push the Evo X to do what it was put on this planet to do – perform. Initially you think it’s gone soft and can’t possibly pull off the organ relocating stunts as you barrel round a bend that are the trademark of the Evo. But even in this low-powered version of the Evo X the turn-in is very  good and the level of grip astonishing. You’d have to do something very stupid to get in to trouble, and even injudicious application of a heavy throttle on the wrong side of an apex does little to unsettle the Evo.

The interior of the Evo X is not a bad place to be

The only problem is that it now feels as if it’s the Evo, not you, that’s doing all the work. The steering and suspension are brilliant, but there’s not a whole lot of feedback coming through. Instead of feeling your way you end up trusting that the Evo will get it right. And it does – almost every time – but you do feel more like a passenger than a driver.

But is tuning out the madness a bad thing? Just like Lamborghini, Mitsubishi has decided that a car doesn’t need to bite at the most unexpected moment to be fun. Mitsubishi has taken away the madness of the old Evos and replaced it with a car that offers just as much performance, grip and handling as ever, but wrapped up in a package that looks as mad from the outside as ever, but under the skin is an incredibly quick and very safe super saloon.

Does that make the Evo X less appealing? In a strange sort of way it does, but it does widen its appeal. Instead of appealing just to those with enough testosterone of youth to ignore the madness of Evos past and indulge in its harshness and OTT demeanour, Mitsubishi has instead delivered an Evo that could do the daily commute with aplomb and turn its hands to B-road demolisher at the weekends.

All of which makes the Evo X a much better car than any Evo past. It’s quick, quiet, fun to drive (once you’ve put your faith in its ability to deliver) and can demolish a back road as well as almost anything on the road – and all at a price you’d pay for a half-decent family car. So perhaps the Evo X really is the right car for 2012.

But we do miss the Evo madness.

(34 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK