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More than 15 years of Mitsubishi's Evolution

Published January 25, 2008


Like its main rival, Subaru's WRX STi, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's sole reason for being was to win races in the World Rally Championship.

The production cars were almost after thoughts for homologation purposes.

To date, most Canadians' exposure to Mitsubishi's famous series of "rally cars for the street" has been in the virtual world of racing games such as Gran Turismo.

But here's a real world chronological breakdown on how the Lancer Evo became a legend:


October 1992 to January 1994

As Canadians drove middling Mitsubishi Lancer clone Eagle Summit, Dodge Colt and Plymouth Colt penalty boxes, the first Evo debuted in Japan. Basically, Mitsubishi engineers squeezed the existing mid-sized Galant VR-4 rally car's all-wheel-drive drivetrain into the lighter, more compact Lancer – et voila! The first Evo was born.

EVO-TECH: Power came via the VR-4's 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, initially, with 247 hp and 228 lb.-ft. of torque.


January 1994 to August 1995

Same fundamentals, but with a 10 mm increase in wheelbase by moving the front wheels forward. A new front air dam and an additional rear spoiler support improved vehicle stability at higher speeds.

EVO-TECH: Tracks were increased at both ends to fit wider tires; power rose to 256 hp.


August 1995 to August 1996

Reducing lift and improving cooling performance became priorities with increased tarmac speeds in WRC races. Thus, a larger rear wing, a front air dam with brake cooling vents, and rocker panel extensions were added.

EVO-TECH: A bigger turbo compressor wheel, less restrictive exhaust and a bump in engine compression helped add another 10 hp.


August 1996 to January 1999

With an all-new Lancer platform, the second-generation Evo piled on the high-tech and subsequent WRC trophies. Finland's Tommi Makinen won four straight driver's titles, 1996 to 1999 in this Evo. Mitsu won the manufacturers' title in 1998.

EVO-TECH: Active Yaw Control (a production-car first), adjusted the rear torque split to minimize understeer and improve turn-in. On RS models, a torque-sensing helical limited-slip front differential was added. Claimed power increased to 276 hp. But based on the Japanese "gentlemen's agreement" of capping peak power quotes, the engine was making something over 280 hp at this point, while peak torque jumped to 260 lb.-ft.


January 1999 to March 2001

Further improvements to cooling performance and engine durability were the main focus of Evolution VI. This resulted in larger openings in the bumper, and the licence plate was offset to the driver's side to make way for cool air. A special edition Evolution VI was also released in 1999 in honour Makinen. This car is sometimes referred to as an Evolution 61/2 or Evolution 6.5.

EVO-TECH: No increase in power, but power delivery was improved in the RS by using a titanium-aluminide turbine turbo wheel, a world production first.


March 2001 (GSR) to December 2002 (GTA)

The third-generation Evo was based on Mitsu's newer Lancer Cedia platform, one size larger than the previous platform. This was the Lancer that Mitsubishi first sold when it opened for business in Canada in 2002. Unfortunately, due to the costs of making the Evo comply with Canadian bumper laws, the brand's halo car was put on ice until the next generation arrived. The hottest Lancer we get is a front-drive O-Z Rally with a 120 hp four.

EVO-TECH: Gets active centre differential. Peak torque increased to 283 lb.-ft. by way of reworked intake ports, a less-restrictive intake manifold, and a smaller twin-scroll turbine housing.


January 2003 to 2007

Finally! This was the first Evolution to be sold in the U.S. Coincidently (not!) the same year Subaru introduced its Impreza WRX STi, an even hotter version of its WRX.

ECO-TECH: Internal components for the American Evos were largely stripped-down versions of Japanese models. Eventually available in later years, active yaw control and the helical limited-slip front differential were not available. The last IX model topped out at 286 hp and 289 lb.-ft.


October 2007

After a series of concepts starting with the Concept-X from the 2005 Tokyo auto show, the fourth generation and 10th iteration of the production Evo (still based on the Lancer) debuts two years after at the same venue. And the Evo is still a staple on most video racing games.