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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR FQ-360

Click to view picture galleryMitsubishi say several ‘supercars’
  have been traded in against new
  Lancer Evolution Xs, with one dealer
  handing over an Evolution X FQ-300
  SST and a cheque for 90,000 against
  a Ferrari F430. So, is the iconic Evo X
  really that good?

THERE IS NO QUESTION that, even in today's depressed new car market caused by high fuel prices and financial uncertainty, buyers with the money who want a 'supercar' will still have one — despite pressure from the 'green' lobby or greedy taxes from the government. The 'mine's bigger than yours' brigade is not only alive and financially well-endowed, but appears to be thriving.

One of the cars everyone has been waiting for is the new Lancer Evolution X, now back in the line-up at the head of the tenth generation of the Lancer range. While the Lancer range has prices starting from 12,499 (for the 1.5-litre GSI 5-door Sportback) it is the iconic 'Evo' X (ten) FQ saloon variants with 291, 324 and 354bhp power outputs that are under review here. These are badged, respectively, FQ-300, FQ-330 and FQ-360.

Prices for these 'supercars' range from 27,499 to 37,999 and they are available in three main trim levels: GS, GSR and GSR SST (Sports Shift Transmission). The FQ-300 model is available with all three trim and specification levels; neither the FQ-330 or the FQ-360 are available with the GSR SST because of their higher engine power and torque outputs.

The GS specification includes a 5-speed manual gearbox and Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC). The S-AWC combines a number of 4WD component systems to enable high-precision control of the drive torque and brakeforce at each wheel — designed to enhance cornering and stability while increasing safety. These components include Active Centre Differential (ACD), Active Yaw Control (AYC), Active Stability Control (ASC) and Sport ABS.

Also included are 18-inch Enkei alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, Eibach coil springs, Bilstein shock absorbers and Bi-Xenon headlamps with Mitsubishi's directional Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), climate control air conditioning, front and rear electrically-operated windows, power door mirrors, impressive Recaro front seats, a Bluetooth hands-free system, CD/tuner with six speakers and MP3 compatibility, leather sports steering wheel with audio controls, aluminium bonnet, wings, roof and bumper beam, privacy glass, driver, passenger, side and knee airbags, front fog lamps, automatic headlamp and wiper sensors, remote central locking, a CAT1 approved alarm and immobiliser and a CAT5 approved tracker system with one year's free subscription.

Next up, the GSR trim level adds to that with items such as SatNav, 30GB music server, Rockford Fosgate premium audio (650watt output, 6 premium speakers + subwoofer, iPod/MP3 auxiliary input port) and a comprehensive vehicle data and information system.

The Evo X GSR SST benefits from Mitsubishi's new six-speed Twin Clutch SST (Sports Shift Transmission) gearbox with steering column-mounted magnesium paddle-shifters.

This transmission puts the odd (1st, 3rd, 5th) and even (2nd, 4th and 6th) gears on separate input shafts, each with its own clutch, and switches between these clutches to produce seamless and lightning-fast gear changes in either fully automatic or manual transmission modes.

A switch located at the base of the gear selector allows the driver to choose between Normal, Sport and Super Sport modes for optimum shifts in a wide variety of situations ranging from urban driving to maintaining a tight line on a winding road. And, because the Twin Clutch SST uses clutches rather than a torque converter to transmit power, it benefits from improved efficiency and better fuel economy.

The Evolution X bodyshell boasts a 40 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity over the previous Evo version. Talking of new against old, the Evo X has a totally new, aluminium four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged and intercooled engine which is 12kg lighter than the long-serving but well-liked iron-block 2.0-litre unit. Having now driven both, my view is that the new unit revs much more freely but doesn't feel as 'strong' or as refined as the outgoing iron-block.

Developing 291bhp and 300lb ft of torque in standard FQ-300 form, this new engine utilises continuously-variable valve timing technology (MIVEC) on both the intake and exhaust camshafts to develop more power over the full rev range.

As with the previous Evolution models, the Lancer Evolution X is available in a range of power upgraded variants. The FQ-330 (324bhp) model utilises a breathing kit and ECU re-map to achieve the additional extra performance. The FQ-360 (354bhp) benefits from a further ECU re-map, new fuel pump assembly and additional standard items such as carbon lip front spoiler, rear vortex down-force diffuser and premium leather seats with suede fabric inserts.

Sharp muscular styling, bulging wheelarches, a low front carbon-fibre spoiler, a rear diffuser between the twin tailpipes and airstream fins on the rear edge of the roof — the Evo X FQ-360 looks fantastic and leaves the Subaru WRX STI standing for style, refinement and performance. No wonder Scooby owners are changing camps to the Evo.

More good news for new Evo X customers is that the latest models have the best ever residual values. Industry experts are forecasting a rating of 39 per cent after the usual 3-years/60,000 mile period, which puts the FQ-300 ahead of all the competition including the Civic Type-R, Impreza WRX STI and Ford Focus.

Equally welcome, there's a newly-introduced Service Plan for all Evo models (400) along with Evolution service intervals extended to 10,000 miles from the previous, and irritatingly-low, 4,500.

My test car was the Evo X FQ-360. Not because I wanted the biggest, most powerful engine — it just happened to be the model available. My own personal view after many years of driving Evos on our busy and winding roads is that the power and torque delivered by the standard 291bhp engine is better for everyday use compared to the power-upgraded units.

I say this because the difference in performance is marginal: 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds for the FQ-300 and 4.1 second for the FQ-360. The top speed for all three engines is limited to 155mph. The difference in performance is so little but the difference in purchase price figures is huge and definitely not worth it. An FQ-300 GSR costs 29,999. The FQ-360 GSR costs 37,999 or 8,000 more for an extra 63bhp and six-tenths of a second quicker to 62mph. However, the 'mine's bigger/better than yours' mind-set will guarantee that those with the readies will plump for the fastest of the FQ trio, the FQ-360.

Whichever model is chosen, the Evo X's all-wheel drive with active centre differential, active yaw control, active stability control and traction control ensures a great handling car. The all-wheel drive grip is immense — the term 'cornering on rails' doesn't even come close as a description. All the transmission's electronic wizardry works supremely well and even with the various modes switched off the balance and handling predictability of the Evo is so good.

I do think the new car misses out by not having a close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox: only having five gears means second gear is too high, creating a big power-loss gap between first and second gears. A sixth gear ratio would also be better for motorways and traffic-free A-roads. The gearchange action on my test car was also quite notchy. The suspension is, of course, firm and it will rattle your fillings when travelling on poor road surfaces. In town, you need to steer clear of large potholes and manhole covers.

The steering is very precise but lacks enough feel; the traction is huge and the sports ABS braking is really strong. Not quite so impressive is the poor fuel economy — 18 to 25.7mpg on average during my week-long test drive, and the difference is down to motoring conditions. Hard and fast or stop/start driving gives the lowest figure and 25mpg plus is effortless motorway cruising. Officially, the FQ-360 returns 19.9mpg for the combined cycle but be warned that really hard driving will see this model return less than 10mpg.

The CO2 emissions are 328g/km, so its 400 in road tax this year and 440 in 2009. Unfortunately, for this rate of fuel consumption the fuel tank is much too small with its 55-litre capacity — expect around 220 miles between fill-ups.

Also not so good is the interior — its looks low-rent. For this sort of money I would have expected a higher quality than the standard Lancer's plastic trim — the cheap-feeling rear seats and flimsy sun visors to name but a few items. The steering column is not even reach adjustable. As Mitsubishi say they are getting customers for the Evo X from German brands, I would have expected the top 38,000 FQ-360 model to be more 'polished' quality wise.

Other demerits include the price (the GSR FQ-360 model is too expensive relative to the GSR FQ-300 version), not the best trim, no reach adjustable steering column, very firm ride, potentially very high fuel consumption with a poor mileage range from a tank of fuel, notchy 5-speed gear change and it really would benefit from a 6-speed close ratio gearbox to accommodate the characteristics of the high-revving engine.

In spite of all the foregoing, the Evolution X FQ-360 carries forward the iconic Evo heritage, it's fast and engaging to drive, has awesome grip, handling and control backed-up by brilliantly strong and fade-free brakes. And it most definitely looks the business. — David Miles

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR FQ-360
| 37,999
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 19.9mpg
Power: 354bhp | Torque: 363lb ft | CO2 328g/km