Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Final Evolution?

OK, so the title of this article may be a little confusing.  After all, the very nature of evolution is that it's never final.  However, what I'm referring to here is an evolution of a much more finite nature...a car.

First introduced by Mitsubishi in Japan in 1992, the Lancer Evolution (known as the Evo) has gone through ten iterations since then, labeled by Roman numerals I through X.  Only versions V through X were imported into the US, with the Evo X being the most popular.  How this affects me is that I just picked up my third (and likely final) Evo X, because I've been told they are either discontinuing it or making it completely differently.

The beauty of the car has always been that it uses a small (2 liter), light aluminum engine, tweaked in a way to get maximum performance.  The Evo X features twin turbochargers, an aluminum body, and racing components including Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs, Brenbo brakes, Yokohama Advan 13 tires, and Recaro front seats.  Add to that all-wheel drive with advanced yaw control and a computerized engine that produces 320 HP and 300 foot-pounds of torque and you have a car capable of handling nearly any challenge, on or off the race track.

The quirkiness of driving a rally racecar extends to the trunk, where they put the battery and windshield washer reservoir (it helps balance the car's weight distribution, but it limits trunk space).  All of my Evos were either the SE or the MR versions, which use a very specialized transmission referred to as a "standard transmission with a dual, automatic clutch."  In other words, you don't have to shift it (although you can if you want), but you still feel the gears as you would with a standard.  Gears 1, 3, and 5 use one clutch while gears 2, 4, and 6 use the other.  What results is one of the few cars on the market where the automatic is faster than the standard in most road tests.

Prior to leasing a Lancer Ralliart and three Evos, I have had cars made by Nissan (then called Datsun), BMW (3 cars), Honda, Saab, Mazda, Acura, and Toyota.  I even owned (leased) the predecessor to the Lancer, known as the Mitsubishi Tredia Turbo.  Below is a picture of the 2014 Lancer Evoution X, which I just picked up on Friday.

Through it all, I have never had a car I enjoyed driving as much as I do the Evo, which makes its potential demise so much more distressing.  According to sources I've read, the Evo replacement will have an entirely new platform and architecture.  Supposedly, the car will use a hybrid of diesel and electric power (I applaud the effort to go green), will produce upwards of 500 HP, and will cost about $20K more than the current version, moving it squarely out of my price range and the range of most Evo enthusiasts.

And so I lament that this will likely be my final Evolution (at least from the perspective of a car name).  My lease is for three years, which will give me time to consider other options for 2017.  Until then, if you see me zipping by, be sure to wave.