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Mitsubishi's 248 km/h rocket here!

2005-04-08 12:24

John Oxley

Super car!

No matter how hard you push it, you're going to have to very ham-fisted to unstick the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII - although you can find yourself scrubbing off speed in understeer if you put down too much power, too soon.

That's what happened when we were let loose on a massive concrete airfield apron to play with the 195 kW Japanese thoroughbred, there ostensibly the test the car's handling and performance.

Eventually I got it right by changing the characteristics of the four-wheel-drive system by dialing in "gravel" mode rather than the "tarmac" setting I had been using.

This put more power to the rear wheels, and gave me the necessary tail-out I wanted as I power-slid through a long sweep before flicking the car for yet another tight, tight turn around one of the cones that had been set out by multiple racing and ralkly champion Sarel van der Merwe.

Before that I had tested the car's phenominal acceleration on the open roads near Upington, and tried out its huge grip through a couple of mountain passes in conditions more akin to those owner drivers will encounter.

And the night before Sarel had demonstrated the car's fantastic grip and poise as we slaalomed between cones at high speed on a rarely-used gravel airfield that was as slippery as it gets, the car's electronic differential locks in its Super Active Yaw Control system ensuring that each time the tail started to come out it whipped back into line.

An awesome experience, and one which has to be felt to be fully appreciated.

However, it's one which around five lucky owners a month will be able to enjoy, for that's the number of Evo VIIIs that have been made available for the South African market.

Currently there are waiting lists until June or July this year, but orders can be placed at Mitsubishi dealers.

The Lancer Evo VIII is a production version of the World Rally Championship car that is featuring so strongly in world rallying. Indeed, it came third in the famous Monte Carlo Rally in January 2005 in its first foray into the top echelons of the sport for a number of years.

At R395 000 each it's beyond the means of most South African car buyers, and with 195 kW on tap from its turbo-charged and intercooled 2-litre engine, probably beyond their bravery levels!

"About two years ago, Mitsubishi Motors had essentially only two product lines available in South Africa.

"Today, not only can I show you that the spirited Mitsubishi Motors family has grown to four model ranges, but I am proud to show you that Mitsubishi Motors is in a position to expand its model range to also include this long-awaited, exhilarating performance car," says Sascha Gaede, divisional manager for the Mitsubishi Motors division at DaimlerChrysler South Africa..

"This car represents the ultimate in engineering excellence and driver appeal and you are all aware of this car's successes on the rally fields. It is the result of 30 years of motor sport breeding."

"All manufacturers look for a brand icon, a hero model that would boost its profile and give glamour to its normal line-up. Mitsubishi Motors had such an icon - it's the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution."

In the market, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII will face one direct competitor: the Subaru Impreza WRX STi, another rally homologation car by design and inspiration, but without the Lancer Evo VIII's sophisticated All-Wheel-Control (AWC) systems:

  • Helical Limited Slip Differential (LSD), located and operating between the front wheels.
  • Active Centre Differential (ACD), located behind the engine/gearbox and controlling front and rear wheels.
  • Super Active Yaw Control (Super AYC), located between the rear wheels
  • Sport ABS

    Gaede said, "Beyond that, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII will sit right in the middle of a spectrum that runs from the BMW M3 to the Ford Focus RS and will attract customers through its motorsport credentials."

    The Evo has the same basic design elements as the ordinary family Lancer GLX 1600 model.

    However, a huge air intake and reworked aluminium bonnet that channels air into the massive intercooler on the engine is a dead giveaway that this one is special - that's if you missed the wide stance and the huge wheels and tyres.

    At the back there's a big boot spoiler made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, and a huge exhaust pipe that lets the gases out.


    The engine is a sophisticated four valves per cyclinder DOHC four-cylinder with a twin scroll turbo-charger and water-injected intercooler that produces 195 kW at 6 500 r/min and 355 Nm of torque at 3 000 r/min. Local testing at Gerotek in Pretoria has shown a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.38 seconds and a top speed of 248 km/h.

    Power is delivered through a close-ratio 5-speed gearbox.

    The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII uses Brembo 320 mm ventilated discs with 4-piston aluminium callipers at the front and 300 mm ventilated discs with 2-piston aluminium callipers at the rear (drum-in type).

    To improve handling stability and driving quality, the Lancer Evolution VIII's bodyshell has been made stronger and stiffer in a programme pinpointing areas giving larger gains in strength for the lowest increase in mass.

    Complementing the stiffer body, detail optimisation of the MacPherson struts, front suspension and rear multi-link suspension results in better on the limit handling stability, and driving quality.

    The Lancer Evolution VIII rides on Enkei 6-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels and new Bridgestone 235/45R17 tyres.

    The Evo retains the standard Lancer open design dashboard but with a MOMO steering wheel and leather-covered Recaro front bucket seats.

    Air-conditioning and electric windows and mirrors are standard.

    On the road

    As to be expected the car has a firm suspension, but never felt uncomfortable or harsh. "Totally sporting" would be an apt description.

    The clutch is heavier than you'd expected from a standard road car, but not uncomfortably so, while the gearchange is extremely positive.

    Acceleration is quick, with superb overtaking ability, while the handling is just awesome.

    And those brakes! No matter how hard you hit them, and no matter how many times, they just pulled the car up straight and cleanly.


    The Lancer Evo VIII is what those in the industry call a "halo" car - a flagship model that is based very much on the "cooking" family sedan, but with advanced features to give it enormous "Wow" factor.

    The Evo certainly has lots of that, and we expect the company will easily sell its five cars a month.

    There IS another Evo on the way - it's been launched in Japan, and shown in the US.

    But it won't get here for at least another year to 18 months. Too long a wait for the sort of people who will want a car of this kind, I believe.


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