The Good: The turbocharger and the MIVEC system on the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX's engine deliver a jaw-dropping performance, while a smart differential system gives the car amazing grip even when pushed to extremes. The Bad: The lack of a trip computer and a GPS system in the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX is noticeable even while you're having fun out in the countryside, while an acceleration dead zone before 3,500rpm can lead to unpleasant surprises in traffic. The Bottom Line: The 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX is a fantastically fun car to drive spiritedly and show off to friends, but the lack of in-cabin technology and sudden engine power can make it a bit tiresome in everyday driving. 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IXThe 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX was conceived as a WRC (World Rally Championship) car, so the list of in-cabin technology is about as short as it gets. The lack of a trip computer or a navigation-system option is particularly noticeable. The performance driver will find the cockpit to his or her liking with Recaro seats and an excellent driving position. Under the hood, the 2-liter four-cylinder engine is fitted with an intercooled turbocharger and tuned by the Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and Electronic Control (MIVEC) system, a new feature on the 2006. Power output is a whopping 286 horsepower with 289 pound-feet of torque, distributed to all four wheels with Mitsubishi's active center differential. These systems all contribute to impressive performance. We managed 0 to 60mph in 4.45 seconds. The Brembro brakes, modulated by Mitsubishi's Sports ABS, can haul the car down from 60mph in a scant 115 feet. For the price, the only other car that is remotely close is fellow WRC contender and chief rival, the Subaru WRX STi. The option-free 2006 Evolution IX we tested came in at $31,399.Our first look at the very aggressive nose of the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX told us this car is all about performance--just standing still, the thing practically screams for a speeding ticket. The most noticeable external change from the Evo VIII is the front fascia, which has been resculpted with larger air intakes below the front bumper and a single opening on the upper grille. Darker front and tail lamps add to the sinister appearance. The back end is far more sedate, if not bland, but the functional carbon-fiber wing and the large exhaust pipe are both big indications that this car isn't bluffing about its capabilities. Inside, there's no MP3-capable CD player, cruise control, or even a trip computer. On a 3-hour tour of the local back roads, we didn't mind too much--mainly because we had so much fun driving and listening to the engine wail. When we dropped to more sedate speeds, we noticed the six-speaker single-disc Mitsubishi stereo wasn't too bad, but the bass seemed a bit buzzy and muddled. Mitsubishi does offer a 315-watt Infinity seven-speaker system as part of the sunroof\/leather option package ($3,120); however, the stereo is a standard DIN unit that isn't integrated with anything, so installing an aftermarket, satellite-ready MP3\/CD player wouldn't be too difficult--it's what we'd do.Recaro seats in the Evolution offer a good driving position, comfort, and lateral support for keeping occupants planted during hard cornering.The 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX wears its WRC heritage proudly with the nearly race-ready interior. The driver and front passenger both get manually reclining Alcantera\/leather Recaro seats equipped with shoulder-height slots for a racing harness and substantial bolstering for both the seat back and cushion. When seated, we felt as if we were nestled in a comfortable cocoon (it's nice even for people with large frames) that also provided an amazing amount of lateral support, which we were most thankful for. When braking hard into a corner, we found the pedal positions ideal for heel-and-toe driving, an advanced technique by which we simultaneously brake, downshift, and match engine revs for the next gear.The simple tilt-only, leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel was a delight to hold, but the short-throw five-speed gearbox, while above average, wasn't ideal. The driver also gets a large central tachometer, while the small speedometer sits off to the side almost as an afterthought. With the speedometer marked up to 170mph and only the even multiples of 10 labeled, it was quite easy to accidentally go over the limit, but we're not sure the CHP would take that as an excuse; fortunately, we didn't have to ask. A radar detector would be a sensible accessory.The simple, black center stack makes replacing the mediocre factory stereo a relatively simple task.Although the headroom for the back passengers is adequate, we found the legroom to be tight, a problem that is exacerbated by the hard plastic-back shell of the front seats. And while the trunk is relatively spacious, the rear seats don't fold down, making a ski rack a necessity for trips to the mountains. Additionally, we would have found a GPS system to be useful for taking the car out into the back roads without worrying about getting lost. But more important, we would have liked a trip computer to gauge average miles per hour and fuel consumption, a feature that should be standard on a $30,000-plus car. Don't forget: This car also requires premium fuel and synthetic oil, and it will likely go through the $1,000-per-set 235\/45 R17 Yokohama Advan tires quickly, so be sure to budget accordingly.The 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX puts out some impressive numbers: 286 horsepower at 6,500rpm and 289 pound-feet of torque at 3,500rpm. All of this comes from a 16-valve DOHC 2.0-liter engine, thanks to an intercooled turbocharger that puts out a maximum 20psi of boost at 3,500rpm, falling off slightly to 16psi at 6,500rpm. New on the Evolution IX is the Mitsubishi MIVEC system, which adjusts the intake valve timing for optimal combustion, resulting in more horsepower and torque, as well as better fuel economy (EPA rated at 19mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway) and emissions (federal Tier 1 and LEV). This technology translates to some impressive acceleration stats that are in the realm of Porsches, M-type BMWs, and AMG Mercedes-Benzes. Most reports have the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX arriving at 60mph in about 4.5 seconds, 100 in 12.5, and completing a quarter mile in 13.5. The best run from our own unscientific tests, achieved after a bit of practice and on low tanks, got us to 60mph in 4.45 seconds, 100mph in 12.55 seconds, and a quarter mile in 13.25 seconds. The Evo's only real competitor in its price range, the Subaru WRX STi, is generally regarded as being about equal or a fraction slower in these performance benchmarks.An indicator on the tachometer shows what mode has been selected for the active center differential.Down low, the engine doesn't pull particularly well, but at 3,500rpm, the boost kicks in, and it feels like there's a JATO rocket pack strapped to the car. This kind of acceleration can be a lot of fun, but in everyday driving, we occasionally got going quite a bit faster than we wanted when the engine revs hit that magical 3,500rpm mark. When we did want to move off the line quickly, holding the revs high and slipping the clutch was a must to avoid the dead zone, but this will take its toll on the clutch after a while. For standing starts, the engine is initially limited to 5,000rpm in order to protect the front differential pinion from excessive torque. If you still want more out of your Evo, performance parts are now available from Mitsubishi's North America Ralliart program, which was rolled out at this year's SEMA show.The 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX addresses the other half of the performance equation--grip and traction--with a MacPherson strut-front and multilink rear suspension, as well as a hydraulically controlled active center differential (ACD). Unlike electronic stability control, which uses engine-power reduction and selective braking to manage traction, the ACD distributes power to where it can best be used. The ACD offers three modes--Tarmac, Gravel, and Snow--that the driver can select with a button on the dash. The ACD computer looks at the steering wheel angle, the throttle opening, wheel speeds, longitudinal and lateral movements, and information from the ABS computer to decide how it will distribute power between the front and rear wheels. The front differential is a helical limited-slip unit that sends the power to the wheel with more traction, while the rear differential is a tried-and-true mechanical limited-slip system.This hotted-up 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX behaves differently from the Subaru WRX STi, which we could rotate around corners using throttle oversteer. Instead, the Evo IX claws its way around corners much like a cat on carpet, with each corner putting down as much power as possible. The more power we put down, the more grip each wheel seemed to find. On a broken tarmac surface with some gravel, we were able to generate a lot of power without losing grip, holding 0.85g in a tight circle. On normal tarmac, we sustained 0.85g easily and clocked a peak of 0.92g on our performance analyzer without breaking traction. With so much power and performance, the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX is definitely a car for experienced drivers. Things happen quickly in this car, and it is easy to get into trouble in a corner. To safely explore the limits, we'd suggest trying it in Solo II rallying or joining a club that has an occasional track day at a nearby racetrack. In either case, a performance analyzer would be a lot of fun to see just how much you can get out of the car in the proper environment.The list of safety features on the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX starts with the Brembo brakes' 12.6-inch ventilated discs with four-piston calipers up front, as well as 12-inch-disc, two-piston calipers in the rear. The brakes are managed by the Sports ABS system, refined by Mitsubishi for the specifications of the World Rally Championship. The system takes into account steering input, lateral g-forces, and the vehicle's speed. The electronic brake-force distribution allocates the braking force to each wheel, resulting in optimizing braking performance while also compensating for changes in the road surface and the vehicle load. Published figures have the Evo stopping from 60mph in just 115 feet. Our single try was just 7 feet longer at 122 feet. Additional safety features include driver- and front-passenger SRS air bags, pre-tensioners and force limiters on the front seat belts, and lower anchors and tethers for child-seat installation. The warranty is also quite impressive, featuring a 10-year\/100,000-mile power train limited warranty, a 5-year\/60,000-mile fully transferable bumper-to-bumper new-vehicle limited warranty, a 7-year\/100,000-mile anticorrosion\/perforation limited warranty, and a 5-year\/unlimited-miles roadside-assistance service.