No doubt we had our share of fun as we out-ran them. There were also moments that we wished we were left alone for some leisurely driving.
With the latest generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in our hands, we realised how things have changed since it was launched two months ago.
Passive aggressive: The Lancer Evolution shows maturity while packing huge reserves of power in its belly.
The Lancer Evolution does not look radically different from the standard Lancer 2.0 GT.
Save for the Evolution’s chromed grille which extends to the lower bumper, bonnet air vents, extra huge tail spoiler and two large tail pipes beneath the black diffuser, picking out the real McCoy requires fairly sharper eyes €” especially from the rearview mirror.
This was borne out during our three days with the 10th generation of a car with a rally-inspired bloodline.
We never received a dare from any Mat Keretas this time, making our drive experience rather pest-free.
On the whole, the Lancer Evolution comes across like an Olympic athlete who has traded his running clothes for a suit and tie. Definitely more polished now but still packing rock-hard muscles underneath.
We’re happy that the pronounced turbo lag of the past model is history and in its place is a smoother and more linear power flow, thanks to a twin scroll turbocharger.
The acceleration surge is breathtakingly fast enough to appeal to any enthusiast.
The ride, though still stiff, is more comfortable this time around and good enough for commuting even when going over rough stretches.
The transmission is a six-speed automatic that uses dual clutch technology (Twin Clutch SST) €” similar to the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s DSG transmission €” for fast and smooth changes.
Three drive modes are available. In normal drive mode, the gear shifts upward at lower revs while upshift comes in at 4,000rpm under Sports mode.
In the Super Sports, the upward shift is held back until the engine reaches red line at 7,000rpm.
Completing the all-wheel drive vehicle’s dynamics system is the new Super All-Wheel Control that co-ordinates the centre differential, yaw, stability and anti-lock braking features to prevent spinouts and understeer.
In a nutshell, this system can allocate the right amount of power to individual wheels with traction so every ounce of energy is used in propelling the Evolution forward.
The 2.0-litre all-aluminium MIVEC engine, more powerful at 291 horses, emits a low exhaust rumble at idle.
Floor the throttle and it gets loud immediately with a satisfyingly throaty roar.
Large Brembo callipers work well for fade-free and linear braking to wipe out excess speed in a hurry.
Slam the brakes hard and they will bite savagely.
Taking the Evolution for a quick run up to Genting Highlands, we found body roll kept to a minimum, thanks to a wider track, longer wheelbase and stiffer body shell.
Charging up the hill resort and overtaking just any vehicles along the way at lightning speed was child’s play.
The 245/40/R18 tyres allow huge amount of grip in corners, while the nicely weighted steering provides good feedback and was very precise.
The front Recaro racing seats might be thinner than those in the stock Lancer but they afford good support and comfort besides keeping you glued during hard manoeuvres.
For a car that cost some RM320,000, you also get seven airbags, a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 650W amplifier with nine speakers, a keyless entry and go system, bi-xenon headlights, a sunroof, rain-activated wipers and 18-inch alloys.
On the downside, the Evolution’s dashboard is almost identical to the Lancer GT’s with their all-familiar dark plastics, buttons, dials and layout.
Except for a sportier looking multi-function steering wheel and speedometer that’s calibrated to 300kph (Lancer GT’s speedo stops at 240kph), there isn’t much to tell them apart. And the magnesium paddle shifters don’t rotate with the steering wheel.
Being a much improved package this time around, the Evolution still could not shake off the fact that it’s a thirsty car.
With hard driving from a full tank of 55 litres, we managed to clock some 300km before the low fuel level warning lit up.
The Evolution is twice the power and price of the standard Lancer GT. But when it comes to fun on the road, it’s miles ahead.