2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR review:

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR

The navigation unit is the same as you can get in the Mitsubishi Lancer GTS, storing its data on a 30 gigabyte hard drive. As a hard-drive-based system, its map refresh and route calculations are very quick. Having tested a number of cars with different system interfaces recently, such as the BMW 128i's iDrive, we found the Evo's touch screen refreshing. There's nothing like direct input, especially when the alternative is trying to wrap your head around which motion of a knob will have what effect on the screen.

That said, the Evo's navigation menus could be designed better, as the points of interest (POI) off the main destination screen requires you to input the city for locations you want to find. You have to go into the Advanced Search menu to get a list of POI near your current destination. The Advanced Search menu also has options for entering destinations by coordinates, map input, and plotting a return trip. This navigation system's route guidance works well, offering good graphics to indicate turns. But the system lacks advanced features, such as text-to-speech and traffic reporting, although it does let you input multiple waypoints.

The fact that this navigation system is hard-drive-based means there is space left over for music storage. You can set the system to automatically rip any CDs put into the single CD slot, and it will tag them from its internal Gracenote database. We were also impressed to see a set of three RCA jacks for auxiliary input, which includes video, letting you hook up a game console to the car, for example. Sirius satellite radio is also available as a music source.

A 10-inch sub in the trunk combines with a 650-watt amp to make sure you, and everyone else, will hear your music.

To amplify your music, the Evo gets a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, with six speakers in the cabin and a 10-inch sub in the trunk. The audio it produces is loud and bass-heavy, lacking detail at the high end. There are a number of presets for equalization, such as Rock, Hip-Hop, and Pop. On the Rock setting we found that treble is minimized while the mid-range dominates-- a balance we didn't really care for. We tweaked the bass, mid, and treble to our own preference. The sound system also lets you choose different audio fields, with Stage, Live, and Hall being options, the latter producing a heavily echoed sound.

The Evo completes its trifecta of cabin tech with a Bluetooth phone system. Operated with voice and through the touch screen, this system has its own internal phonebook, but you have to enter each phone number manually. We did find that, if you dial a number on a paired phone, the audio will play through the car's speakers.

Under the hood
The performance tech in the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR is mostly what this car is all about. We discussed how the engine works with the SST transmission in detail above, but that's not the whole story. As a rally contender, the Evo's all-wheel-drive system uses three differentials: front, center, and rear. And you can get a visualization of the torque distribution with a display in the instrument cluster, although the irony of these types of screens is that if they are showing anything interesting you'll be too busy driving the car to notice it.

This screen would be really interesting to watch if you didn't have to concentrate on the road.

As in past Evos, the all-wheel-drive system can be adjusted depending on what type of terrain you are on. Pushing the AWD button on the console cycles through the three possible settings of Tarmac, Gravel, and Snow. For Tarmac, the differential allows more torque transfer between the wheels. When you choose settings for more slippery surfaces, the differential locks down, making sure each wheel is getting some power. These three settings are limited compared to the multiple levels of control you get with the Subaru STI.

When we had the Evo MR on the track, we found it handled the corners extremely well, generating lots of grip. It really excelled on the sharper turns, where its all-wheel-drive kept power distributed to the right wheels to get the care through the corner. On the straightaways we got a sense of the limits of the Evo's power. Mitsubishi says it will get to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, a number we can believe, but reaching towards 100 mph requires an upshift to fourth gear, not something you would have to do in a BMW 135i, for example.

The Evo handled the corners at Laguna Seca excellently, but proved a little short of guts on the straight-aways.

The trip computer in the Evo polls in fairly short increments, showing changes in average mpg with more frequency than most. Monitoring it, we saw our fuel economy move between 14 and 16 mpg during our time with the car, and we computed a final average over a tank of gas of 15.6 mpg. Our numbers were far under the EPA's 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The reason for this discrepancy seems to be that you will only get those EPA numbers if you leave the SST in Normal mode, where it gets minimal use of the turbo. Put it in Sport, as we did for much of our driving, and the engine speed stays higher, sucking down the gas more quickly. Unfortunately, the car is really only worth it with the turbo wound up. For emissions, the Evo merely achieves California's minimal LEV II rating.

In sum
Our 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR had a base price of $38,965, a hefty price for what was once a great performance bargain. Options on our car included premium paint for $250 and the Technology package, which brings in the navigation system and Rockford Fosgate audio system, for $2,550. Along with a $675 destination charge, the total comes out to $41,765. That's not much more than a fully loaded Subaru WRX STI, and you get what we think is a better gearbox in the Evo and a better cabin-tech package.

We've noted a few criticisms through this review, but we can't deny that the Evo is fun to drive. It's a car you can drive to work every day, but will want to thrash it around the track or any good, winding roads on the weekends. We give it a high rating for performance tech, only dinging it for turbo lag and poor fuel economy. Cabin tech is surprisingly good for a model that didn't have much to show in previous generations, and we give it extra credit for the in-dash jukebox and hard-drive-based navigation. It's a good-looking car, too, earning it points for design.

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