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Review

Past master (Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-330 GSR SST) car review

03/02/12

AS FREDDIE Mercury once sang: who wants to live forever? Mitsubishi’s Evo X is the last of a long line of rally-bred racers for the road, but its time is almost up.

Emissions laws and increasing motoring costs mean the Evo has found itself cast out of polite society. It won’t meet the next set of European emissions regulations and with real-world fuel economy comfortably below 20mpg, you can’t really argue that the Evo is a sensible buying decision.

To be fair, every generation of the Evo has been madder than a badger with a hangover. It’s just that the tenth incarnation has found itself a bit of an anachronism; a blast from a more affordable past in a future that doesn’t quite fit it any more.

Be that as it may, in the face of its impending demise there’s an awful lot to celebrate about the Evo X. It’s a driver’s car like few others, and in certain key ways it’s like a cut-price Nissan GT-R.

Evos have always been famous for having phenomenally advanced on-board computer systems that adapt to driving conditions, styles and inputs to make the most of the traction on offer – in any weather, World Rally Championship style.

One of the most glaringly obvious cues to its heritage is its massive spoiler, which is one of the reasons the car turns so many heads. Others you might point out are the relatively open grille with the radiator showing behind it, the asymmetrically-mounted number plate and the angry, angry look the car has on its face all the time.

It’s beautifully proportioned, the Evo; one of those cars that you keep stealing extra glances back at as you walk away from it. Its four doors sit perfectly in relation to the wheelbase and overall length.

Sliding in reveals the sports seats, made of grippy cloth rather than leather. Speed is pointless if you’re in danger of falling off your perch around corners, but here your backside stays planted in seats that are both attractive and not too sculpted. There’s a subtlety about them that’s quite grown up.

From there the subtlety factor takes a dive, because firing the engine up awakes a bass rumble that travels through walls, windows and, if you’re standing close enough, vital organs. The in some ways fairly ordinary four-cylinder turbocharged engine pushes its exhaust gases out of two large chromed exhausts that aren’t shy about volume.

Where the engine definitely isn’t ordinary is in how outrageously and aggressively it delivers its power, and in how quickly it gets through a gallon of 98-octane unleaded. From low speed, whether it’s cold and wet or otherwise, you can plant your foot on the throttle and unleash a brutal kick of acceleration, feeling those remarkable electronics shuffle power around to the wheels with the most grip.

It performs the same trick around difficult corners. Even when shocking road surfaces are causing traction at individual wheels to dip for a moment, the systems alternate power and braking forces to where they’re needed, allowing you to carry remarkable speed through even awkward bends. It’s amazing to feel it all at work beneath you.

There’s a limit, obviously, where the tyres simply don’t have enough purchase on the road no matter what, and the Evo X can instil such a sense of confidence as to make this fact very forgettable. But if you’re really pushing you’ve got to be concentrating very hard, and that makes it genuinely rewarding to the driver. The thrill comes from feeling just how astonishingly good it is as what it does.

It’s remarkably light and agile throughout corners; it oozes an overwhelming sense of capability well beyond the norm that reminds you you’re driving a car with truly special DNA.

Three driving modes are available on the FQ-300 and FQ-330, which have the SST twin-clutch gearbox. They’re called Normal, Sport and S-Sport. Normal keeps revs as low as possible, Sport keeps the revs high enough to keep the massive turbocharger spinning and has a faster throttle response, and S-Sport is the most extreme, pretty much refusing to change up before the redline. S-Sport is the mode the Evo belongs in.

That sums the car up beautifully. Like with all gold medal-winning sportspeople, there’s no compromise involved but the results are historic. If you can’t afford the fuel or tax, if you want something for the family or if you like quiet refinement then the Evo X isn’t for you, but if you’re willing to rise to this car, the last we’ll ever see of its kind, the rewards are astonishing.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-330 GSR SST, £33,699 on the road.

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 329bhp and 322lb.ft.

Transmission: 6-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox driving all four wheels.

Performance: Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds.

Fuel economy: 25.4mpg (claimed).

CO2 rating: 256g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy1 (poor fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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