The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, or “Evo“, was a turbocharged sport-compact produced from 1992 to 2016. This model was hailed as a success in Mitsubishi’s sports lineup for as long as they had been producing sports cars. The popularity of the sport compact has been rivalled and expanded in other automakers’ lineups, such as rival Subaru’s Impreza WRX/STi models.
The first generation Lancer Evolution, which sat on the CD9A/CE9A platform, debuted Japan-only in September of 1992. Production of the Evo took place at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya Plant in Okazaki, Japan. This generation (Evos 1 through 3) was relatively subcompact in stature: the car had a wheelbase of 2500 – 2510 mm (98.5 – 98.8 in) and an exterior length of 4310 mm (170 inches). The “gentlemen’s agreement” limited the number and extent of the Lancer Evo’s features. Thus, Mitsubishi stuck to installing a turbocharged 2.0L 4G63 inline-4 from the “turbo-era” Galant VR-4. This engine turned out 244 horsepower and 228 ft/lbs, and was paired up to a 5-speed manual that translated that power output into four-wheel-drive. The Lancer Evolution came in two trims: RS and GSR. The GSR was available with climate control, but the RS was stripped further of interior comforts. With considerably fewer options, the RS was 70 kg lighter than the GSR. Mitsubishi produced 5000 Evos through 1993.
January 1994 saw the release of the Evolution II. It was relatively unchanged from the first Evo, save for handling improvements from refined swaybars, struts, rear spoiler, and tires. The Evo II gained more power (256 hp), and both the RS and GSR models got the same rear mechanical plate limited-slip differential. A much improved model, the third-generation “Evolution III” debuted in February of 1995. Although structurally and mechanically, it remained the same, this model gained an aggressive body kit with larger intakes. This assisted in directing air more efficiently to the radiator, intercooler, and brakes. The 4G63 engine was updated again to provide 270 horsepower. The increase in power meant a higher compression ratio. Another issue Mitsubishi tackled was turbo lag. To counter this, a secondary air supply was installed. This type of secondary air supply system is common on rally cars participating in the WRC. The Evo 3 proved popular, with this generation selling in higher numbers than the two prior Evos. The GSR outsold the RS nearly 9000 to 1100 units, respectively.
August 1996 saw the debut of the CN9A generation, or “Evo 4“. Enhancements included an engine mounting position turned 180 degrees to counter torque steer and a moderately aggressive exterior redesign to complete the performance package. Like the previous generation, the Lancer Evo was available in two trims: RS and GSR. The GSR gained Mitsubishi’s Active Yaw Control (AYC) system, which electronically directed the necessary amounts of torque to all four wheels based on various acceleration, steering, and g-force conditions. This torque vectoring system has been installed in many later Mitsubishi models. Thanks to a new twin-scroll turbocharger setup, power output was raised to 280 horsepower @ 6500 rpm, and 243 ft/lbs @ 4000 rpm. All these options made this generation GSR heavier than previous models, weighing in at 1350 kg. The considerably stripped-down RS model weighed 1260 kg.
January 1998 saw the release of the facelifted Evo 5. Although the 5 shared many aspects with the 4, such as similar wheelbase, exterior length and large rally fog-lights, it was 80 mm wider. This made the car 1770 mm (69.7 in) wide, exceeding Japan’s dimension regulations for compact vehicles’ maximum acceptable width of 1700 mm (67 in). As a result, the Evo 5 was slapped with a larger annual tax. Official power ratings for the Evo 5 remained the same at the maximum acceptable 280 horsepower, but the torque was raised to 275 ft/lbs. Both the RS and GSR were similarly optioned as before, with the GSR available with Active Yaw Control, Recaro seats, Brembo brakes, and air conditioning.
January 1999 saw the release of the Evo 6. Mitsubishi didn’t have any intention of bringing the vehicle down to “compact” scale, as this was the final generation of Lancer/Evolution to be based on the Mirage. Thus, dimensionally, it remained the same. Besides being just a slight cosmetic redesign, the Evo 6 gained improvements in engine durability, performance, and cooling. The offset license plate mounting location allowed for a larger air intake in front, improving the performance of mechanical bits inside the car. In 2000, Mitsubishi built the Tommi Makinen Edition, or “Evo 6.5”. The Tommi Makinen Edition (TME), named after Finnish rally driver Tommi Makinen, featured a different front-end design, unique red/black Recaro seats, 17-inch Enkei wheels, and leather Momo steering wheel. Other enhancements included a quicker titanium turbine, lower ride height, and quicker steering ratio. Although some limited-edition UK-market RS models built by Ralliart got 330 horsepower, the JDM models were stuck at the legal maximum of 280 horsepower.
February 2001 brought about the debut of the larger CT9A generation, or “Evo 7“, which was subject to FIA-mandated World Rally (WRC) regulations. With the significant increase of exterior dimensions came increased weight: an active center differential was installed in addition to the improved limited-slip differential. At the time of the Evo 7’s debut, the lineup had two trims as before: the RS and GSR. In 2002, Mitsubishi debuted a third model called the GT-A. The GT-A was different from the other two Evos in that it featured a slightly different cosmetic design (for example, a smaller rear spoiler), and a 5-speed automatic transmission. This electronically controlled automatic transmission, INVECS, utilized “fuzzy logic” to adjust gear-shift timing according to the driver’s input. Although the GT-A got power from the same turbocharged 4G63, horsepower was slightly lower than for the RS and GSR models: it got 272 horsepower at 6500 rpm.
January 2003 saw the release of the Evo 8 not only in Japan, but first-time premieres in export markets, especially North America. The Evo 8 sat on the same platform as the prior Evo 7, but featured a more flared-out exterior body kit. Power for the JDM model was at 280 horsepower and handling was provided by Brembo brakes and Bilstein shocks. 2004 saw the debut of the MR, or “Evo 8.5”. The MR, much like the Evo 6 Tommi Makinen Edition, was a more track-oriented model and recalled its “Mitsubishi Racing” heritage of the 1970’s Galant GTO. Besides Bilstein shocks for handling capability, Mitsubishi built the roof from aluminum, reducing weight and lowering the center of gravity. Both the standard and MR lineups each got two RS models, 5-speed and 6-speed, and one GSR model. Not featured in US-market Evos, Mitsubishi integrated Super Active Yaw Control (SAYC) in it Japanese-market variants.
The last generation based on the CT9A/CT9W platform, the Evo 9, made its debut in March 2005. Although for the most part it maintained a similar appearance to the Evo 8, it gained slight differences on its grille, front bumper intake, and more notable rear diffuser. Also new for this generation was Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control System, or MIVEC for short. This was a variable valve timing technology designed to increase engine performance, and in Mitsubishi’s other economy vehicles, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Other performance enhancements included a redesign of the turbocharger, which amped power up to 287 horsepower and 289 ft/lbs of torque. The different trim levels sold worldwide were RS (Rally Sport), GT, GT-A, GSR (Japan), MR (North America), MR GSR, MR RS, and MR Tuned by Ralliart. The GT, slotted between the RS and GSR, featured a 5-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential (LSD), and Recaro seats. The GT-A had the 6-speed automatic transmission. Similar to the Evo 7 GT-A, power was reduced to 272 horsepower. The North American MR model gained Bilstein shocks, forged BBS wheels, aluminum roof, HID headlights and fog lights, and front brake cooling ducts.
The tenth and final generation, the Evo X, released in October 2007. This version differed from all past Evos in its design, build style, and ride characteristics. This CZ4A generation was based on Mitsubishi’s global “GS” platform shared with Chrysler, Fiat, Citroen, and Peugeot. Also “global” was its engine: Mitsubishi’s 4B11T (based on the 4B1) was a project under the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA), also initiated by Chrysler. Upon the Evo X’s release in Japan, this engine threw 276 horsepower and 311 ft/lbs of torque. North American Evos got 287 horsepower and 300 ft/lbs. In Japan, the Evo X was available in two trims: RS and GSR. The RS was the base model with the 5-speed manual transmission, and the GSR came standard with the aluminum-intensive rear spoiler, a new 6-speed twin-clutch SST transmission, alloy wheels from Enkei and BBS, ventilated disc brakes, Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC), and Mitsubishi Motors Communication System (MMCS). The GSR could also be heavily optioned in other options packages with other features such as Bilstein shocks, stiffer tires with better grip, chrome mouldings, fog lights, carbon fiber, and improved air intakes.
North American Evo Xs got these trim levels: GSR, MR, MR Premium, MR Touring, and SE. The GSR was more or less identical to its Japanese GSR counterpart; the MR had the 6-speed SST, suspension setup by Eibach and Bilstein, xenon HID headlights, suede interior, and keyless entry. The MR Premium got the Rockford Fosgate infotainment system. October 2008 saw the release of the GSR Premium, also with MMCS and Rockford Fosgate audio. Power was raised from 280 to 300 horsepower.
As a bid to farewell, Mitsubishi released the Final Edition for North America in 2015 and Japan in 2016. Based on the GSR, this final model featured a black aluminum roof, red interior stitching, 18-inch wheels (Enkeis for North America and BBS wheels for Japan), and “Final Edition” commemorative badging. North America got a power boost to 303 horsepower and 305 ft/lbs. 1600 examples were produced for its final year in the US, 350 for Canada, and in 2016, only 1000 Final Editions for Japan. In its final year, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution made quite an eloquent performance impression.