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On steroids

india Updated: Jul 09, 2010 23:42 IST
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A big duct for a nostril, maw hung low and turbo whistling softly — the Evo X drips menace. This car looks ready for battle and is an eyeball magnet.

The car we’re driving isn’t a random import. This is India’s first officially imported Evo, soon available at a Mitsubishi showroom near you. http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTEditImages/Images/evo.jpg

But is this new Evo X (or 10) as much fun as the ones that came before it? We’ll find out.

Getting used to

The driving position in this car is fantastic if you are seated at the right height. Very tall or short drivers may have a different opinion, as the seat does not adjust for height. Nor is the steering adjustable for reach, shocking for a driver-focused car like this.

This version comes equipped with a six-speed, DSG-type, double-clutch gearbox, and a pair of nice magnesium paddles attached to the steering column.

For all its visual drama, the initial take-off is not very strong. But given that Mitsubishi is wringing 291bhp out from a mere 1.9-litre motor, with a turbo, a lag is understandable.

The technicalities

Nevertheless, the ‘auto’ ‘box takes care of this lag and downshifts when you put your foot down. But this car isn’t about low-end pulling power, it’s all about the performance delivered with the turbo on song. Drive it hard, in the manic part of the powerband, and the Evo immediately lives up to all the hype. Above 3000 rpm the lag evaporates, and power delivery is linear and strong.

There’s no let-up in power either at the top of the powerband, as the twin-clutch gearbox has already pre-selected the next gear for you, the tachometer flicking back momentarily, before you are slammed in the thick of it again.

The best part of the powerband is 4000 to 6500 rpm. Sixty to 120 kph, for instance, takes only 5.4 seconds flat out and the X accelerates just as hard up to 180kph and beyond.

What this new motor lacks is the crazy spike in turbo boost present on the earlier car, and some of the earlier Evo’s tuned feel as well.

What this car also doesn’t like doing is standing starts. The SST ‘box seems reluctant to allow the motor to spin hard before you dump the ‘clutch’ and that means you don’t take off like cat on a hot tin roof. Even with all systems switched off, we couldn’t better a zero to 100kph time of 6.6sec.

Part of the problem: the car couldn’t be tested on the specified 97 octane and were forced to run on regular 91 octane fuel. This would account for a half-second loss in the acceleration time.

Now it purrs

A large part of our day with the Evo is spent at the track in Chennai — a great place to squeeze out its tarmac skills and put all that hardware through its paces. First impressions: effortless pace and grip.

The Evo X just sticks to the track. There is very little body roll and it feels incredibly composed and relaxed. This, despite the serious cornering speeds and occasional howl from the tyres. It’s all very enjoyable, but the message from the very accurate and well-weighted steering is clear — the Evo X thinks it’s on a Sunday cruise. Once you push harder, brake later, carry more speed into corners and get on the gas earlier that’s when the Evo shines.

Then you get access to the best this car has to offer. The strong brakes, fantastic turn-in, incredible poise and great feedback make going harder a real treat. Through corners, turn-in, apex and exit flow with amazing fluidity.

What’s more, the Evo feels even more capable on everyday streets. Performance is devastating even at 80 percent, the chassis is confidence-inspiring and you just seem to want to extract more performance from this car.

With just a little extra care, we managed to take it over bad bits of road. And while the ride over broken bits of tarmac is quite revealing and stiff-kneed, you aren’t tossed around either. There’s plenty of space on the rear seats and there’s even some amount of boot space.

That said, the full-sized spare and battery take up a lot of space, while plastic quality is only good enough for a car half the price of the Evo X. Which, of course, gets us to the spicy part — the Rs 50-lakh price-tag. This is a lot of money for what is basically the latest Lancer on steroids.

For this sort of money, you could get yourself a car with higher levels of quality and much more refinement and practicality on offer. But, the question is, would they be as much fun? Could you take them upto 450bhp as easily? Would they attract as many open-mouthed stares? And yes, “I drive an Evo” does have a nice ring to it.