2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR Review
By Kevin Miller
My first driving experience with the Evolution GSR was not a great one. I climbed in to its very deep Recaro bucket seat, adjusted my mirrors, and lurched away as I tried to smoothly engage the clutch for a quick trip to the grocery store. On my short trip over poorly-maintained suburban roads, I found the suspension to be unforgiving, though the steering was go-kart direct. I was not impressed.
My next trip wasn’t much better. I took my 4-months-pregnant wife and our 3 year old daughter in the Evo to a friend’s house. My wife though the car rode poorly, the interior was too somber, and the seat was too confining. A bonus complaint came when she had to clamber out of the low Recaro. After the ride home, she didn’t ride in the Evo again for the remainder of my week with the car.
Based on these 2 drives, I was a bit apprehensive to take the powerful Lancer on a 3-hour road trip from Seattle to Portland. But I am so glad that I did. Driving the Lancer on that trip highlighted its strengths… one of which was that Recaro I first disliked.
On a long drive to Portland, a longer return via the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. St. Helens, and a subsequent round-trip to Washington’s San Juan Islands, I found the Recaro bucket seat to be supportive and very comfortable. Neither my long legs nor my backside ever fell asleep. The very deep side and bottom bolsters made it feel as though the seat was giving me a big hug every time I sat in the car. And I really liked that. The bolsters did a good job holding me in place in the twisties, too.
I found that the Lancer Evolution GSR gets better the faster it is driven and steered. When running errands in the suburbs, it’s for crap. But out on the open road, where 60 MPH is approximately 3000 RPM in 5th gear, and 80 MPH is almost 4000 RPM, throttle response is strong and nearly instantaneous. At those speeds, the steering wheel feels connected to your mind, tracking straight down the road until you think about changing lanes or rounding a sweeping bend, which the car does with amazing accuracy.
While the Evo’s firm, communicative suspension makes for a rough ride around town, it is the driver’s best friend out of town. When driving up Columbia River Gorge and around Washington State’s Mt. St. Helens, the Mitsubishi conquered some absolutely deserted, very twisty roads without even emitting faint tire squeal. The huge amount of grip and the feedback through the steering gave me all the confidence I needed to pilot the car through the unfamiliar and challenging terrain like a much better driver than I truly am.
The Evo’s high fun factor on road trips made me want to never stop driving. I filled the car up twice in the same day, burning through 12 gallons of premium unleaded in about 5 hours. I ended up driving over 700 miles in my week with the car, and I enjoyed all of the miles except for the ones I drove in the ‘burbs.
One thing to know about driving the Evo is that it is loud. You hear the motor, the drivetrain, and the road. Fortunately, the optional 650 W Rockford Fosgate stereo with Sirius satellite radio and 6-disc in-dash changer is even louder. It’s better than the premium sound systems in either of the “nice” cars my wife and I own, it has GREAT sound quality/clarity, and tons of volume to drown out the healthy amounts of road and powertrain noise served up by the car. Unfortunately the satellite radio doesn’t work very well; when driving on the freeway at 60-80 MPH, the sound cuts out momentarily about 2 seconds after passing under overpasses. Somehow Mitsubishi didn’t include enough of a buffer to account for that problem. The stereo’s red LED pixel radio display reminds me of the one found in a Mazda3, though it is configured such that many different angles of sunlight entering the car can totally wash out the display. The other electronic info display, the one between the gages is always clear though a bit counter-intuitive to use; I accidentally reset the service reminder on the test car as a result.
The Evo is rated 16/22 MPG. I saw about 23 MPG on each of my fill-ups after long freeway drives. Each fill-up required around 12 gallons of premium unleaded gasoline.
The Lancer Evolution had adequate room in the back seat for a forward-facing child seat, though it was easy for my three-year-old to kick the front passenger seatback. I don’t think a rear-facing child seat would fit very well. The trunk is pretty small and doesn’t include a pass-through to the back seat, because the area between the trunk and the back seat houses the battery and the washer fluid reservoir. My Evo with the upgraded sound system also had a huge sub woofer taking up trunk space. The small trunk that remains is has a felt-like bottom mat which slides around on the trunk’s wooden sub-floor during spirited driving; after my Mt. St. Helens drive the trunk mat and my cargo was all bunched up together in one corner of the trunk.
My Wicked White test car with its black (faux-alcantara) fabric interior, 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, Brembo brakes, automatic climate control, aluminum roof, hood, and front fenders, and standard 18″ alloy wheels has a base MSRP of $32,990. The $2000 “Sight Sound and Spoiler” Package added HID headlamps, the aforementioned 6-disc, 650 W stereo with Sirius, large rear spoiler, and Fast Key keyless entry/start system, making the total price of my tester (including $625 destination) a fairly serious $35,615.Which is probably just fine, because the Lancer Evolution GSR is seriously fun to drive.
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