2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Final Edition review

Farewell to a legend

2015 MItsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition
2015 MItsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition. © Aaron Gold

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolition—Evo to its friends—has long been one of my favorite performance cars. The Evo is no less than a road-going rally car, with a four-cylinder engine turbocharged to hell and back and a wicked-smart all-wheel-drive system. The Evo is a remnant of Mitsubishi's epic battle against Subaru's WRX and STI; today Mitsubishi is struggling, and the Evo is, more than anything else, a frivolity.

For years, Mitsubishi has been saying they plan to discontinue the Lancer Evolution, and that day has finally come. Frankly, I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did.

Pros:

  • Fast and furious—a true road-going rally car

Cons:

  • Noisy, thirsty, and raw—you have to be a masochist to drive one

Larger photos: Frontrearinteriorall photos

A proper send-off for a legendary car

Instead of killing it off quietly, Mitsubishi is giving the Evo a proper send-off with the Finai Edition, a limited run of 1,600 numbered cars. Evo aficionados know that Mitsubishi offers the car in two versions, called GSR and MR. The manual-transmission-equipped GSR is the harsher and more basic variant while the MR is the more livable of the two, with a more compliant ride and a dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Final Edition combines the best of both, offering the MR's Eibach springs, Bilstein shocks, and lightweight brake rotors with the GSR's five-speed manual transmission.

As a bonus, the Final Edition's engine gets a power bump to 303 horsepower, up from 291 in regular Evos. Though branded as a 2015 model, sales of the Evo Final Edition should last well into 2016.

This was my first drive in an Evo in a couple of years, and I was immediately reminded of just how wonderfully terrifying it can be.

The Lancer Evolution has a case of what one might call turbo lag, were it not for the fact that the two-liter engine can get the the 3,500-lb car going just fine without the turbo's help. But once the tach hits 3,000 RPM or so, watch out—the boost comes on like a tidal wave, and backing off the accelerator won't do much to ease the engine's fury. The beast is awake, and it is hungry.

Is it as good as I remember?

I made a bee-line for the About.com Top Secret Curvy Test Road, and all my fond memories came flooding back. I have often said that driving the Lancer Evolution is like getting a day pass from the laws of physics. Times and cars have changed in the last few years, but the Evo hasn't; its handling is no longer so far beyond the competition as to defy belief, but it still amazes me how hard you can charge into the curves and how quickly you can blast out of them. Probing the Evo's limits of handling reminds me just how good Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive system is: You can almost feel the car scrabbling for every last bit of grip, so that when you finally feed in the throttle for your heroic corner exit, the Evo has its claws dug in and is ready for launch. If you've ever seen a cat at full speed on a carpeted floor, you'll understand how the Evo drives.

I remembered the Lancer Evolution's cabin as a fairly miserable place what with its hard, cheap black plastic and seats that absorbed sweat from your back and fed it back to your olfactory senses with impressive gusto. But either my memory has made things worse or Mitsubishi has made improvements over the years (I suspect the truth is a combination of both). The dashboard looked better than I remember, the controls felt pretty good under my fingertips, and the optional navigation system (overpriced at $1,800), though dated, work pretty well. And while the seats are still pet-hair magnets, they no longer provide a constant reminder to your nostrils of your most stressful moments behind the wheel. Red stitching on the seats, steering wheel, handbrake and shifter brighten up the interior quite a bit.

There's also a plaque indicating exactly which of the 1,600 Evo Final Editions you are driving.

Yes… and worse

The MR's suspension softens up the ride to the point that you could almost, by some stretch of the imagination, call it comfortable. But the engine stills screams at ear-splitting levels, and the car does a poor job of masking road and suspension noise from which most cars isolate their owners. The Evo carries its battery in the back, freeing up underhood space and improving weight balance, but this shrinks available trunk space to a Miata-like 6.9 cubic feet. The Yokohama Advan tires that provide the Evo's awesome grip also wear out quickly, and there's a sticker on the driver's door warning you about the Evo's appetite for rubber. Oh, and the fuel economy is ridiculous: The EPA rates the Lancer Evolution at 17 MPG city and 23 MPG highway (and this on expensive premium fuel), but I found that 15 MPG was a more realistic figure in mixed driving. Drive the Evo the way it really wants to be driven—that is to say, as fast and as hard as your nerve permits—and you can expect 8-10 MPG. Oh, and the fuel tank holds just 14.5 gallons, so you’d best fill up before taking a blast through those curvy roads.

I refuse to fault the Evo for any of these things. Remember, this is not a car built for comfort or convenience; the fact that it has four doors and a back seat is merely down to Mitsubishi having no two-door cars in its inventory. This is a machine designed purely for speed at the expense of everything else. It is as close as you will come to driving a rally car legally on US roads.

Mitsu holds the line on pricing

Mitsubishi is pricing the 2015 Lancer Evolution Final Edition at $38,805 (including destination charge), right between the GSR and MR models—a pleasant surprise, since this is a limited-edition model that should prove to have collector value in the future. The Evo's prime competitors are its long-time arch-enemy, the Subaru WRX STI, which starts at $35,490, and the Volkswagen Golf R, priced at $36,470.

Both are excellent; I have a soft spot for the VW, though you'll need to spend another $2,245 to get the best-of-the-best version with adjustable shocks. (This is a disturbing trend at VW, also exhibited on the GTI, is to charge extra on performance cars for equipment that really makes them perform). Ford also has its Focus RS on the way, though I haven't had a chance to drive it yet.

Both the Subaru STI and the Volkswagen Golf R, feel more civilized, to the point that the Evo feels punishing by comparison. Some might see this as an advantage, but I don't—it's that raw feel, that sensation of unbridled power, that makes—sorry, made—the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution so unique. This is not a car for everyone, but then again, some automakers would have said this wasn't a car for anyone. Only Mitsubishi had the guts to produce something like this. I'll miss the Lancer Evolution, and I'm glad we had the time with it that we did. Thanks for the memories, Mitsubishi! – Aaron Gold

Details and Specs:

  • The Final Edition is, as it says, the final edition of Mitsubishi's legendary Lancer Evolution
  • Price range: $38,805 - $43,135
  • Price as tested: $40,605
  • Powertrain: 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cyl/303 hp, 5-speed manual transmission, all-wheel-drive
  • EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 MPG city/23 MPG highway
  • Observed fuel economy: 15 MPG
  • Where built: Japan
  • Best rivals: Subaru WRX STI, Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS

Disclosure: The vehicle for this review was provided by Mitsubishi. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.