I knew that the Mitsubishi Evo X FQ330 SST GSR I was testing for the week was going to be delivered at around 10:30, but as per usual, I got engrossed in replying to hordes of emails. So when I heard an ever-louder rumble and felt the ground begin to throb, I glanced at the clock and it was 10:24. ‘Ah, that must be the Evo!’, I thought to myself! And indeed it was, pulling up in all its throaty, growling glory. Blimey, not only did its sound draw attention to it – so did the huge rear spoiler, copious air intakes, shiny red Brembo callipers and gaping twin exhausts. I quickly put aside any concerns over being as conspicuous as a fire engine and set myself up for a week of fun in what is heralded as one amazing machine!
Looks to die for?
Many of the cars in Mitsubishi’s range now feature the family ‘jet fighter’ nose, which is incorporated the most aggressively here on what was a few years ago the all-new Evo X. It’s not the sportiest of front ends, but I personally really do like the Evo X’s sleek, ready-for-action face. It’s just a shame it’s a legal requirement to display a number plate on the front, as the registration being located on the nearside corner spoils the symmetry in the name of air flow through ‘that’ gaping grille. Everything about the Evo X is designed down to a tee and for a purpose, so the vents and imposing snout aren’t just there for show – they are there to provide the stonking engine with all the air cooling it requires. The extra front air ducts deliver a cooling airflow for the front brake discs. And the front lip spoiler made out of carbon fibre is there foraerodynamic reasons, to keep the Evo glued to the road, enabling it to be cornered safely at high speeds.
The Orient Red paint job works really well, finding that fine balance between discretion and sportiness. But one design element which certainly couldn’t even remotely be described as discrete is the towering great spoiler at the rear! Were it not for its presence, the Evo X would blend in a bit more and almost look fairly pedestrian and ordinary, but the rear spoiler gives the game away. And yup, it impairs visibility out of the rear view mirror too.
In the footwear department, the Evo X range comes as standard with forged 18” Enkei alloys, which are lightweight for improved grip and ride quality. The alloys are shod with 245/40 R18 tyres for sporty grip in all weathers. I can’t say I was smitten with the design of the alloys, but that’s only a small quibble and I loved glancing at the red Brembo callipers each time I approached or walked away from the car.
Everywhere I went, the Evo X FQ330 attracted bucket-loads of attention, both positive and not so endearing. Countless younger and older pedestrians and motorists gave me double-takes, most of them seeming impressed by the Evo’s looks and sound. Some small kids who spotted the car approaching were delighted when I safely gave it some welly on the way past. All kinds of cars appeared alongside me in all kinds of places, the driver staring over at me, wanting a race. And die hard Mitsubishi Evo fans who own older models also seem proud to see an Evo X coming their way, like this silver Evo IV driver who gave me a friendly flash (see below). But the Evo did draw some unsavoury reactions too, mainly involving hand gestures and vocabulary which I probably shouldn’t share in this review. If you don’t like drawing attention to yourself, you’re better off avoiding the Evo X. But even I couldn’t help grinning each and every time I slumped myself into the Recaro driver’s seat.
A quality, practical proposition, albeit it one that goes like a rocket?
The Evo X sits low down, as you would expect for such a tarmac-sniffing, sporty car. So I did find myself falling into the Recaro bucket seats most of the time. But boy oh boy, they are supremely comfortable! I didn’t actually expect that they would be, thinking they would only be suitable for short journeys. But I was proved wrong. In fact, everyone I took for a spin in the Evo, no matter whether they were 5-feet tall of 6-feet, skinny or less so, young or old, absolutely raved about the Recaro chairs up front. Front occupants could certainly live with the Evo X as a daily driver for commuting or trundling around town. The only thing that may perturb some when it comes to the seats is that they are not height adjustable, so if you can’t see out of the windscreen, tough. The rear will technically seat three and the seats are generally quite good, but the middle passenger may be a little cramped and uncomfortable over longer journeys.
The same as the other models in Mitsubishi’s lineup, you’re given a rather old-fashioned key to open the thing up with and start its volcanic engine, although judging by the press bumph I received, keyless entry does seem to be an optional extra. Something to note is that to open the boot, you need to take the key out of the ignition, which was a bit annoying. I found that I needed to prize the boot lid up with my fingers, after which it rather ‘flopped’ open with no real grace.
Undeniably, the interior quality of the Evo X is behind many other similarly-intentioned cars. Many of the plastic surfaces and controls are quite hard and cheap-feeling, such as metal-look trim on the steering wheel, and the entire (conventional) handbrake. The LCD screen for controlling the audio, sat nav, phone and air con is lifted straight from the Outlander and Shogun and is adequate but looks and feels a bit dated. Bluetooth incidentally didn’t work since day one, so I’m not even sure if this car had it enabled. Like the Outlander, the Evo X uses plasticy dials for controlling the temperature and heated windscreens. On the plus side, the dark coloured dash works well, the glovebox is quite decent in size and the cowelled, sporty instruments look great.
If you’re contemplating buying an Evo X, it’s worth me mentioning that the petrol cap release is located by the driver’s seat and there’s no rear wiper, so it’s certainly somewhat on the Spartan side without all the home comforts. The boot was big enough for our 8-bag weekly supermarket shop, but the trim quality and fit left a bit to be desired and because the amazing engine takes up more or less all the space at the front, Mitsubishi had to position the battery and the screenwash at the back, accessed via the boot, which is also home to the Rockford Fosgate subwoofer. And there’s no spare wheel, not even a space-saver – just a jack and the usual wheel tools, under the thin boot lining. To be fair, though, despite the slightly cheap interior, your attention moves immediately to the engine once you’ve nestled yourself into the brilliant seats and started the engine up.
Dimensions-wise, it was fairly easy to judge the Evo X’s size when piloting it through narrow streets and the like, but some may find it hard to gauge where the front corners are. And reversing is done the old fashioned way. No posh cameras this time. Not even parking sensors. Just a loud, repeated beep like the warning sound made by refuse collection wagons. I was half expecting a synthesised voice to bleat “Attention, this vehicle is reversing!”
Does it live up to the ‘FQ’ in its name?
The child in me was delighted to discover that yes, indeed it does. I can categorically state that the Mitsubishi Evo X FQ330 GSR SST is indeed F Q. Go work it out! As soon as you stick the key into the ignition and turn it, the Evo X roars into life with a delicious, throaty gurgle, easily enough to arouse the neighbours and get them curtain-twitching. Just by driving the Evo X a short distance down a bog standard residential road, you can sense that it’s got a mountain of pent-up power reserved for you to unleash when the opportunity allows.
I was refreshingly surprised to learn that the Evo is quite good at low speeds as well as full-pelt. Its chassis is obviously on the stiff side to contribute to its immensely good handling, but it tackles potholes and poor surfaces quite well.
But okay, I admit, the exhilarating speed delivered by this twin-turbo beast really does give you an obsessive appetite to hunt out empty straights or roundabouts. Even pulling out of roundabouts in a relatively restrained fashion is enough to bring a smile to one’s face in the Evo. I know it’s been said before, but having the Evo X in your possession gives you the urge to drive it at each and every opportunity, even as far as conjuring up excuses to fire it into life!
I wouldn’t say the Evo X is a scary car, as it gives you so much confidence. As long as the car’s abilities are respected, even a relatively timid driver will soon find themselves loving exploring the Evo’s potential.
The blistering acceleration cooked up by this thing is nothing short of phenomenal. With a jab of the pedal, you’re thrust back into your Recaro and hitting high speeds in the blink of an eye. The sound produced is also pretty addictive. So for all those wondering – yes, the claimed 0-60mph figures are very believable indeed. Even I came close to achieving them! The thing is, being able to reach the speed limit so fast is largely pointless in the UK, unless you have the time and resources to take your Evo X for a track day every so often. But even if you do, bear in mind it gulps petrol down like nobody’s business if you drive it hard and fast. Giving the Evo the beans results in fuel consumption of about 8mpg most of the time. To its credit, it’s surprisingly economical in a relative sense if driven sensibly, achieving 22-24mpg quite regularly. That said, the fuel tank ain’t massive at 55 litres and the instruction manual spells it out in no uncertain terms that the only beverage the Evo X can drink is high Octane (98+) fuel such as Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate, which come at a cost.
Performance & Technical
So what provides the power for all this thunder and fizz? Most people I mentioned or showed the Evo X to assumed it would have something like a 3 litre engine. They were wrong. Astonishingly, the Japanese-built Evo uses a strong, lightweight, all-aluminium 2 litre 16-valve DOHC turbocharged and intercooled MIVEC (which stands for ‘(Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-timing Electronic Control’ if you’re interested) engine to produce its 324 horses. The ‘ten’ is the fastest Evo ever made, which is partly contributed to by its use of a Titanium turbine wheel in the turbocharger, optimally-shaped and working in conjunction with a straight intake system and large diameter exhaust system – all resulting in sharpened response times.
The DOHC MIVEC turbocharged engine develops more power than its predecessor and is lighter thanks to its die-cast aluminium design. The Evo X’s engine also utilises a forward-facing intake and rear-facing exhaust ports, which remove the need for the exhaust pipe to run under the engine. This means that Mitsubishi have been able to sit the engine 10mm lower to the ground, hence lowering the centre of gravity and improving handling and performance even further.
This version sits in the middle of the Evo X range and propels you from nought to sixty in near-enough 4 seconds, but amazingly, it feels even quicker in real life! The limited edition FQ400 does it even faster. The superbly engineered turbocharged and intercooled 2 litre engine pumps out 324 brake horse power (hence the rounded-up 330 in the car’s official name) at 6,500rpm and produces 322 lb.ft of torque at 3,500rpm. CO2 emissions? You guessed it – not exactly the greenest car we’ve reviewed, at 256g/km.
The components list incorporated into the Evo X is very impressive indeed. Brembo brake callipers, Eisbach springs, Bilstein shock absorbers… Mitsubishi obviously haven’t scrimped at all in mechanical terms and have picked the very best in order to eek every last drop of performance out of the overall car.
Grip proved absolutely brilliant, largely contributed to by Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) system, controlling each wheel independently for supreme performance. The acronyms don’t stop there, the Evo X boasting an Active Centre Differential (ACD), Active Yaw Control (AYC), Active Stability Control (ASC), Sport ABS and HID Bi-Xenon headlamps with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), which really did light up the monster’s path impressively, bending the beam into corners.
Those of you with children will be interested in knowing that for daily driver practicality, the Evo X has ISOFIX rear seats. Tech-heads out there will prick their ears up when they hear that the Mitsubishi Multi-Communication System (MMCS)’s LCD display is connected to a 30GB HDD (hard drive) for music and the like, along with iPod and USB sockets and a huge Rockford Fosgate subwoofer in the boot. And the security conscious will be reassured by the inclusion of the CAT1 alarm and CAT5 tracker acronyms.
But the primary acronym of note is the ‘SST’ – Mitsubishi’s revered six-speed Twin-Clutch Sport Shift Transmission (TC-SST). This fantastically clever gearbox uses two clutches, one which engages the gear being used and the other to pre-select the next gear. Okay, other manufacturers have done similar, like the gearboxes in the latest Audi TT models, but the Mitsubishi’s just seems so immediately effective and does, as it aims to, result in lightning-quick gear changes. Located extremely ergonomically behind the steering wheel are the flappy paddle gear shifters, which I found to be nothing short of totally comfortable and effective.
The twin-clutch SST gearbox doesn’t have a torque converter so it’s much more efficient than a conventional automatic transmission. This twin clutch technology results in quick, smooth and fuel-efficient gear shifts. Three modes are available in terms of traction control – Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. And the gearbox also has 3 selectable modes – Normal, Sport and S-Sport (SuperSport). Normal is the mode of choice for, err, ‘normal’ driving and I must say the ‘box performs very well in traffic queues and other everyday situations. Sport mode suddenly livens the engine up, increasing the ‘growl, pop and bang’ soundtrack and speeds the gear shifts at higher speeds/rpm for keen, sporty driving. And, well, SuperSport mode is just insane. Engine speed is maintained at over 4,500rpm (!) and is so savage that it’s not that easy to really test it out on even half-decent country roads. Fuel economy in S-Sport mode was so low it made me cringe, so I ‘just’ set the car in Sport or Normal modes for the majority of the time. Despite not being able to fully unleash the Evo X, it’s clear that it’s a massively capable car with a lot – a lot – to give. So you better start planning some track days if you’re seriously considering buying one.
The Mitsubishi Evolution is a very special, highly accomplished car which has undeniably guaranteed its place in the list of motoring greats, especially in this its 10th and most advanced incarnation. It’s uncertain whether an Evo XI is on the cards per se, or whether Mitsubishi will be forced to tone down or cease the Evo line completely in order to avert pressure from environmentalists. But whatever the future holds, the Evo X FQ330 SST made a big impression on me and it’s clear to see why it has been so hyped. What a machine. And such bewildering speed and precise handling from such a talented chassis doesn’t even come at a high price, relatively speaking. At £33,699, the FQ330 even feels like good value for the thrills and grins it can give you and the attention it attracts (if you like that kind of thing). Its nearest like-for-like rival is the Subaru Impreza WRX STi Type UK 330S which costs about £32,995. Just bear in mind that the Evo X will be very expensive to run on a regular basis, with road tax costing a whopping £1,000 (yes, really!) for the first year, group 20 insurance, fuel economy of 20mpg for most of the time and service intervals every 10,000 miles or 12 months (although the Evo X I drove had about 3,600 miles on the clock and said it was due a service quite soon).
But would I buy a new Evo X if I had the brass (I can use this colloquialism as I’m a Yorkshireman despite my southern accent!)? Hmm, probably not. Although it’s an amazing car, the interior did feel a bit cheap, it was lacking certain expected cons like a rear wiper and although it does put up with being stuck in traffic and doesn’t make a bad daily driver all things considered, I’d prefer to put my money on a second hand Audi RS4, for example, which provides that bit more refinement, discretion and kudos. Used Evo Xs with low mileages on them seem sensibly priced at the moment, so if you’ve got about £22,000 burning a hole in your pocket and are tempted after reading my writeup, go test drive one. Or equally, if you want a very accomplished new car combining rally and sports performance with decent daily driver manners and you’re not bothered about the interior quality, try one and you’ll be blown away.
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution FQ330 SST GSR Reviewed
Engine: 2.0 litre (1,998cc) In-line 4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC MIVEC variable valve timing with Turbocharger and Intercooler
Fuel System: Electronically controlled multi-point injection (ECI-MULTI)
Max Speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph 4.4 seconds
Max. output kW (bhp)/rpm: 242 (329)/6500
Max. torque Nm (lb.ft)/rpm: 437 (322)/3500
Quoted MPG: 18 Urban, 31.5 extra urban, 25.4 combined
Fuel Type: Premium Unleaded/RON98 Octane
Emissions: 257g/KM CO2
VED Band: M
Insurance Group: 20A
Dimensions: 4505 x 1810 x 1480 (L x W x H)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Super All Wheel Control
6-speed Twin Clutch Sport Shift Transmission (TC-SST)
SST steering wheel paddle shift
SST mode selector switch
Brembo braking system with Sports ABS + EBD
18″ Enkei alloy wheels
HID (Xenon) headlamps with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)
Air conditioning, climate control
Electric windows and door mirrors
Auto lights-on and wiper rain sensor
Recaro full bucket front seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls
Dual front/side/curtain and driver’s knee SRS airbags
Keyless entry, alarm and Tracker security systems
Fabric seat trim, dark grey
GSR: HDD navigation with radio and music server (MMCS)
Rockford Fosgate premium audio
Bluetooth telephone connection