2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by James Bergeron

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2008 Lancer Evo X MR

Mont-Tremblant, Quebec – Sixteen years: that is how long Canadians have been waiting to drive and own the car affectionately known as “the EVO.” The wait is finally over. Currently available at dealerships all around the country is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR ($41,498), and soon the Lancer Evolution MR ($47,498) and MR Premium ($51,498) – arguably the holy grail of EVOs – will be available.

Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant: I can’t think of a much better place for journalists to congregate to evaluate and experience Canada’s newest performance machine – a machine that was quick to impress even some of the most critical and experienced of the bunch.

The Lancer Evolution is the new halo car for Mitsubishi Canada; previously Mitsubishi’s halo car was the Eclipse sports coupe. The Evolution is faster, more performance-oriented; an all-wheel drive powerhouse that should bring many new customers through Mitsubishi’s showrooms countrywide.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR. Click image to enlarge

The Evolution GSR has been available for a few months now; this event focused mainly on the MR and MR Premium versions of the Evolution. Exclusive to the MR for 2008 is a six-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST). This is an automated manual transmission, similar to Volkswagen’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), that you may be familiar with.

The TC-SST features both a console-mounted shifter and magnesium steering wheel paddle shifters and offers a manual mode and three fully automatic modes: normal, sport and S-sport.

Although the TC-SST transmission is the focus of the MR and MR Premium, the EVO would not be the EVO if it wasn’t for its powerhouse of an engine, a 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine that produces 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the EVO is about much more than all-out power; it is also about sharp handling and unparalleled controllability.

In my opinion, the Evolution is one of the most sophisticated cars on the road with sensors monitoring nearly every aspect of the car’s movement and providing feedback to the computers to ensure the vehicle not only stays on the intended path but does so without affecting overall performance.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR. Click image to enlarge

For example, the ABS braking system on the EVO (called Sport ABS by Mitsubishi) not only detects wheel lock-up, but also uses information from steering angle sensors, lateral g-forces and vehicle speed sensors to apportion pressure to each of the four wheels independently.

I had the opportunity to take the Lancer Evolution onto a skid-pad where I took my turn, like Kasparov did against Deep Blue, in the epic battle of man versus machine to attempt to confuse and defeat the evil computer and spin out the vehicle. Just like Kasparov, I failed – I attempted sudden acceleration, braking, the “flick” and other methods – the computers are just too darned sophisticated. Normally this is a bad thing, but on the Evolution they are superior in every sense. With the traction control system completely disengaged the vehicle understeered noticeably more and was less responsive – the computers in the EVO really do benefit the vehicle overall as they control more than just the braking system but also power delivery.

On the road, the computers were a God-send: as my co-driver crested a hill at a high rate of a speed we hit some sand and voila: the hand of Mitsubishi’s computers reached out, grabbed the car, and saved it from the ditch. No matter how good of a driver you may think you are, in situations like that, the computer is capable of reacting faster and in ways you cannot as a driver, such as braking individual wheels to eliminate vehicle rotation.

Where the Lancer Evolution MR really comes alive is on the track – the six-speed TC-SST transmission is just plain awesome. If you want to drive to the track in comfort with an automatic transmission and then pull out fast, consistent lap times over and over at the race track – this is THE transmission for you.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR. Click image to enlarge

In S-Sport mode the TC-SST transmission pulls off perfect upshifts at maximum power and seamless rev-matched downshifts at the perfect point every time. The Lancer Evolution MR was easier to drive than a video game – it is that good.

Driving the GSR with the five-speed manual on the track for comparison I immediately noticed how I would miss turn in and braking points resulting in slower lap times. Of course, it was more of a challenge rowing your own gears and only you can decide where your priorities lie in this regard.

On the inside, the EVO differs from a standard Lancer by providing hip-hugging Recaro seats, available with leather edges in the MR Premium. The MR Premium also includes a sunroof and hard-drive-based 30-gig navigation system and Rockford Fosgate stereo system that is quite capable of shaking your fillings loose.

Personally, I feel the interior of the Lancer competes well in this category. Some automotive writers seem more critical and are not fans of the plastics, but I found the overall interior works well and the layout is pleasing.

For me the only question would be: “Is it the GSR or the MR I want in my driveway?” For everyday driving engagement and enjoyment the experience of rowing your own gears is where the fun lies, but the twin clutch design of the SST transmission in the Evolution MR is so extremely capable with the ability to let you rest that left leg in traffic jams, that it makes for a tough decision.

Automotive enthusiasts have been dreaming about having the Lancer Evolution in Canada for years and it is finally here – the question now is if they will be willing to shell out the money for it.

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
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