You say you want an Evolution, you know…

2004, Mitsubishi, Lancer

For a couple of years I've been wondering why one of the other Japanese companies didn't take the Subaru WRX STi head-on. It's been the benchmark for all other sports cars to meet in the United States for two years and in Japan for nine before that. Finally, Mitsubishi, the fastest growing Japanese company, is giving Subaru a run for it's horsepower.

If copying is the greatest form of flattery, then Subaru should be ecstatic. Subaru took a gamble bringing the WRX STi to America. On the whole, Americans don't have the same interest in cars that Europeans and Japanese do. These type cars are hard-core, balls to the wall "I only care about performance" cars. People who know cars like the WRX and the Evo. Mitsubishi has watched the market grow and smartly made the move.

Both sedans are four-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled, low curb weights,four-wheel drive, F1 type spoilers and priced within $1,000 of each other. Subaru has owned the heart of rally groupies for years. The WRX acts more like a video game car than a real one, slaying dragons with it's turbo charged engine.

Mitsubishi uses an iron block and aluminum head while Subaru uses all aluminum yet Mitsubishi is twenty pounds lighter. How could that be, you say? Mitsubishi uses more aluminum throughout the car than Subaru, a trend taking place in the European sector as well.

The Evo is definitely and defiantly marketed straight to the sports car sedan sector. It lacks any frivolous luxury interior jewelry found even in the WRX. The steering is sharp, the ride enhanced by a box that delivers torque to all four wheels, flowing to the rear-differential a two-piece plate-type slip-differential. Whether you're steering with all four wheels or trying to see how close to death you can come around a corner at your local racetrack, the Evo has the right horsepower to torque ratio for you.

The new, larger displacement motor benefits from induction and mechanical enhancements that include the use of Mitsubishi's MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) variable valve timing system that helps optimize engine performance at both high and lower speeds with alternate camshaft profiles.

On the exterior, the Evolution looks like a Lancer that has been tuned by one of the speedsters in Hollywood. Big bulging wheel arches, a bull-like fascia, seventeen-inch Enkei wheels, and that F1-like spoiler. Lurking in the background are the red stop-on-a-dime Brembo brake calipers, a four-inch exhaust tip, and rather stylish projector headlamps.

The type of person that buys the Lancer Evo versus the Lancer is the person looking for performance. Most of that money is under the hood and under the paint. There are 200 additional body-shell welds that double the torsional rigidity of the standard Lancer. Reinforcement is added in key areas such as the front-strut tower mount, rear trailing arm, and upper control arm mounts. Safety regulations are met by adding side-impact beams and reinforced front and rear bumpers.

Mitsubishi's advertising continues the race track legend by using waiver forms to advertise the attributes of their car. Instead of saying the car goes 0-60 in 5.1 seconds you have to initial your understanding that "objects being discarded out the window of the Lancer could impale innocent bystanders or damage private property, or possibly pose threats to orbiting satellites." My personal favorite is the waiver of anyone "who suffers from weak bladders, heart conditions and/or soiled trousers".

If you have seen 2Fast and 2Furious you saw an earlier version of the Evolution. You would have seen the real thing but Mitsubishi wanted the official unveiling at the Los Angeles Auto show in January. Sticking to it's fast pace, Mitsubishi is expecting to sell 6,500 units this year. A four-speed automatic transmission also will be available for the new Lancer model.

Subaru WRX STi

By Lou Ann Hammond
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Images of the 2004, Mitsubishi Lancer

2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer