Review and road test of the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (2005 - 2008)
ONE OVER THE EIGHT
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX marked the gradual winding down of the Evo cult in the UK. Faster and more capable than any Lancer Evo model to date, it was a car whose time had come and gone, the big Evo sales having come with the VIII. By 2005, many punters recognised that the Evo was now an old car and were increasingly moving onto new things. That and the rise of so-called 'chav culture' banged nails into the Evo's coffin from which it could only recover with the radically different Evo X. As a used car, the Evo IX therefore represents decent value for money as long as you can live with the rather loutish image.
(4 dr saloon 2.0 petrol [MR, FQ-300, FQ-320, FQ-340, FQ-360])
The Evo story is long and convoluted so I'll try to keep things simple. Most of the British public didn't really catch on to what Mitsubishi was offering until the sixth generation Evo, as none had been imported to the UK. The aggressive Evo VI gained huge cult appeal but was killed off and replaced by the more urbane and relatively unloved Evo VII. This morphed into the EVo VIII, a car that was officially imported for the first time and which sold in massive numbers. Its replacement, the Evo IX wasn't massively different, the front end reverting to the smoother, less beaky look of the Evo VII. The most fundamental change was the engine, now incorporating MIVEC variable valve timing.
The Evo IX was dogged by leaked pictures of its replacement arriving at regular intervals throughout its life, showing it up as the old stager it was. While Subaru managed to shoot itself squarely in the foot with the styling of its replacement Impreza, the Evo X design studies garnered almost universal approval. The X finally arrived early in 2008.
What You Get
Although the IX looks superficially similar to the VIII, there is a huge array of changes. The key is the engine with that MIVEC variable valve timing system. Although the old Evo powerplant was massively superior to its key rival, the Subaru Impreza STi, in the way it deployed its torque low down, the MIVEC engine further widens that gulf, improving throttle response low down and disguising the minimal lag of the turbocharger. A lengthened turbo diffuser also helps low end tractability. A three per cent improvement in fuel consumption and emissions are also offered.
The styling has evolved too. The front end 'beak' of the Evo VIII has been ditched, the latest car returning to the WRC-lookalike grille of the old Evo VII, albeit with a redesigned front bumper assembly with additional cooling ducts. A rear diffuser also features, as do lightweight five-spoke Enkei alloy wheels. In the interests of saving weight, even the rear wing is hollow.
There was never too much to provoke complaint about the Evo VIII interior, being functional if not overly stimulating. The IX continues this theme, offering a roster of standard equipment that could shame many sports cars costing twice the price. If you're a little broad in the beam, the figure hugging leather and alcantara Recaro sports seats may feel a little constricting, but its impossible to take a dislike to the leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel, the standard fit air conditioning and electric windows and mirrors, plus the Thatcham Category One alarm and remote central locking.
What to Look For
The Evo IX's rally roots ensure that this is as tough as a bit of old boot leather as long as it's kept in fettle. Service intervals are extremely short and the MIVEC engine is intolerant of poor quality lubricants. Tyre bills can be massive, as the Evo rewards an unsophisticated 'chuck and drift' style of cornering. Likewise, it would be prudent to check the suspension and also to have a good look for any signs of crash repair.
The key thing to look out for is that the car is what it purports to be. Mitsubishi concedes that some Evo variants can easily morph into others with a bit of judicious chipping and a few cosmetic changes if the owner knows what he or she is doing. There are Evo FQ-300s that have been tuned, and are being passed off as FQ-360s. Stay on your guard and inspect the registration document carefully.
Look for aftermarket fuel cuts or cable ties around the turbo hoses to stop them expanding. These are signs that the owner is looking to 'overclock' the turbo boost. Look for accident damage such as misaligned panels and paint overspray and ask whether the owner has fitted the aftermarket fix to the Recaro seats that stops them slowly reclining over time. Also make sure that the car has been serviced at an authorised dealer as the Super AYC system requires an expensive proprietary diagnostic tool known as a MUT-II. Your local spanner monkey will not have one.
(approx based on a 2006 Evo IX FQ-300) There's no getting away from the fact that the Lancer Evo IX is a very expensive car to run. It requires frequent servicing (every 4,500 miles) which many higher mileage users will be racking up every three or four months. You will be on first name terms with the technicians at your local Mitsubishi garage in other words. The plus side of this is that they will know your car very well and be able to spot any incipient problems. Routine servicing costs around £350 per pop and this excludes the cost of consumables such as tyres, brake discs, clutch kits and brake pads. Factor this in on top of a hefty insurance premium and a stiff thirst and you'll appreciate that despite being an otherwise unassuming four-door two-litre Japanese saloon, the Lancer Evo IX will probably cost more to keep on the road than a Porsche 911. Although it deceives with its four-door practicality, buying this level of performance doesn't come cheaply.
On the Road
The range opens with the FQ-300, a 305bhp model that will accelerate to 60mph in 4.5 seconds and top out at a claimed 155mph. The FQ-320 is up next. This model yields another 21bhp and 0.2 seconds shaved off that sprint to sixty. That variant sits below the FQ-340, a car that will hit sixty in a smidgeon over 4 seconds from rest. At the top of the range is the 366bhp FQ-360.
The basic Evo driving characteristic hasn't changed a whole lot since the VII. Nudge the gear stick into first, dial around 4,000 revs onto the clock and sidestep the clutch and you'll appreciate what the Lancer Evo can do in pretty short order. Now you'll know what it feels like to be a ball sitting on a tee as Tiger Woods begins his backswing. There is a slight hiatus as the turbocharger spools up, but keep the engine on song and it's almost as if somebody has switched the scenery to fast forward. So incongruous is the rate at which this souped-up saloon gathers speed that you'll find yourself laughing in disbelief as the speedometer piles on ever bigger numbers. On a typical British B-road, it would take a very brave or foolhardy supercar driver to try to hang onto the tail of a Lancer Evo IX.
The Evo formula may have been stretched to breaking point with the IX, but it's still a magnificently capable car. It's just a car that is 'of an age' and many potential buyers feel that its time has passed. The good thing about the Evo IX is that it's still sufficiently expensive not to have fallen into the hands of buyers who can scrape together the asking price but then can't afford the upkeep. Good owners tend to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their cars and it's relatively easy to spot a car that's been cherished. If all-out pace is more important than elegance, the Evo IX has few peers. Best buy is probably an early FQ-300. With the revolutionary Evo X around, it's not worth paying big money for a car with serious depreciation potential.
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX (2005 - 2008) review by ANDY ENRIGHT