As a race official with the 24 Hours of LeMons series, I roam the country in carny fashion and spend many hours hauling weird equipment and fellow LeMons staffers from airport to hotel to track and back again. It's important to make a good impression on the racers, so, instead of taking the usual rental Captiva or Sonic to the Chubba Cheddar Enduro at Road America,
I went with a Cosmic Blue 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR. Last month, I took a 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer GT to the Gator-O-Rama LeMons at MSR Houston, and it proved a very practical -- but invisible -- Race Organizer Ride. The Evo, on the other hand … well, let's just say that any quotidian compact could benefit from a near-doubling of horsepower and the addition of a rally-grade all-wheel-drive system.
I'd brought a 2013 Lancer Evolution MSR to the 2013 American Irony 24 Hours of LeMons and enjoyed it, but that car had the six-speed TC-SST automatic transmission. For Road America, my Evo GSR boasted a genuine old-school 5-speed. This had the effect of making the car about five times more fun to drive, with the downside of screaming along at 3,500 rpm while cruising on the highway in fifth gear. As you will remind yourself every time the Evo does something annoying -- which is often -- who cares?
Really, then, this is a ridiculous, unnecessary car, designed to turn normally mature drivers into giggling idiots. The Lancer is an inexpensive little compact commuter; it feels cheap and tinny like just about everything in its class, and the Evo version is that happy little car stuffed with 291 berserk hp plus an all-wheel-drive system so amazingly competent that it appears to come from a superior civilization from the future. The very nervous 2.0-liter MIVEC engine in the Evo gets force-fed the kind of boost you normally see in soon-to-be-rod-throwing EG Civics with kanjigraphics at the drag strip, and 10 minutes behind the wheel of this car makes it clear why it's so hard to find a used Evo that hasn't been thrashed into oblivion by age 3.
On the practical side, you get a trunk that can hold, well, some stuff. I had to keep my big suitcase in the back seat during my few days in Wisconsin, but the trunk had room for my camera gear and the beer-and-sausage-and-cheese gifts from generous racers.
The only option in my Evo was the $2,000 Sight and Sound package, which included an excellent Rockford Fosgate audio system and this thumping subwoofer in the trunk (this brought the MSRP on this car to a total of $36,995, prior to destination and handling charges). The sub takes up a bunch of trunk space in a most inefficient manner, but (once again) who cares? Turn up theControl Machete and drive to the track with utter confidence in an apocalyptic rainstorm! Speaking of which, this is the car to have when dealing with terrible weather conditions, and you'll want to remind yourself of the resulting enhanced safety when your fillings are being vibrated out of your teeth by the concrete-hard suspension.
The reaction to the Evo from the LeMons racers at Road America was, as you might expect, 100 percent positive. Because the Evo is so uncompromisingly absurd, purchased almost entirely by professional racers (who strip them down and race them to death) and high-risk hoons (who add a bunch of silly aftermarket parts and slide backwards into concrete abutments), it is much loved by the kind of person who wants to drive, say, a Volkswagen Quantum Syncro in an endurance race. We'll give this one a nine out of a possible 10 on the Racer Approval-O-Meter, with only something like a Matra Bagheera U8 achieving a 10 rating.
Of course, these racers preferred the 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V6 in their 1987 Plymouth Reliant-K wagon to the MIVEC in the Evo, but you can't please everybody.
When you have a car with lots of forced-induction power, crazy final-drive gear ratio (4.687:1!), and minimal overdrive in top gear, fuel economy will suffer (but, yet again, who cares?). Mitsubishi claims 17 city, 23 highway, and that's optimistic; with a 14.5-gallon tank, you'll want to plan your fuel stops on long trips.
I don't care about the drawbacks -- I want this car! Race organizer verdict: Compromises all over the place; still worth it.
2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR
Base Price: $34,995
As-tested Price: $36,995
On Sale: Now
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, AWD, 5-speed manual transmission
Output: 291 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 300 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,527 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Hwy/Combined): 17/23/19 mpg
Options: Sight and Sound package, including HID headlights and Rockford Fosgate sound system.
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