Evolution – a noun in the English language better known to petrolheads as an iconic Japanese four-door saloon. For two and a half decades, the “Evolution” moniker took what was otherwise a regular and mundane Japanese saloon and turned it into a fast and ferocious rally machine that terrorised virtually all surfaces on planet earth. Off dirt, this car in street-cred form is still worshipped by petrolheads all over the world, most of them diehard Evo loyalists.
And as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and so we bid farewell (and a mandatory hat tip) to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
Mitsubishi gave the tenth-generation Lancer Evolution (on sale in Japan since 2007) its swan song by unveiling the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition. This 1,600-unit grand finale will only be bound for the United States, and it’ll sadly be Mitsubishi’s final foray into their turbocharged all-wheel drive saloons. It’s based on the GSR spec but is tuned to make 303 horsepower. The 2.0-litre inline-four engine is mated to a sole five-speed manual transmission.
The ride and handling department is enhanced with a combination of Blisten shocks and Eibach springs, whereas stopping power is courtesy of Brembo. As per other Evos, this car will have Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system, together with Active Yaw Control, Active Centre Differential System and Active Stability Control.
Apart from the gloss-black roof and the Enkei rims, another way of distinguishing the legitimacy of this Final Edition is via the badge slapped onto its tailgate. However, another handy and fool-proof way is to spot the Final Edition lettering that lights up between the meter clusters. Earlier this year, Japan received 1,000 units of such cars for its domestic market.
If this is not depressing enough, then we have more bad news for you. The company chairman and CEO, Osamu Masuko said “there won’t be anymore Evo performance brand to be used on future saloon models.” We wished it was April Fool’s day, but this time they’re serious about throwing in the towel.
Looking back at things, the recent success of hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI/R, Ford Focus ST/RS and Renault Megane RS have hastened super saloons such as the Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX STI into the zone of irrelevance.
Current regulations are favouring small and mainstream B-segment cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Citroen DS3 and Volkswagen Polo as World Rally Cars; all of which outperform the usual Lancer Evolution and WRX STI be it on asphalt, gravel or snow surfaces. To be honest, when both Mitsubishi and Subaru pulled out from world rallying citing the decline of the world economy a decade ago, the fact is both companies had sadly lost its “mojo“.
The struggling Mitsubishi faced problems developing new models and there was no immediate successor planned for the current crop of Lancers up to this point. With the Subaru Impreza WRX STI seen playing second fiddle behind some increasingly popular European hot hatches (add Mitsubishi’s diminishing resources to the equation), it’s probably best for Mitsubishi to pull the Evo plug for good.
The reality is passenger saloons are in a decline as buyers are favouring compact crossovers over small or mid-sized saloons. Case in point – earlier this year, Mitsubishi in the United States were relying on the Outlander crossover and Mirage subcompact car to draw profits while it struggled in Japan and Europe. Traditional rivals Subaru has also joined the crossover foray with the introduction of the XV, which bears fruit to the company’s coffers in the States.
With that, the company is now focusing on developing a new mainstream SUV, using its plug-in hybrid powertrain to counter its rivals. This points to the direction of the XR-PHEV II model (pictured above) that was previewed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year, and it’s set to be the company’s trump card against other compact crossovers in the market.
So this begs the question. Will the Evolution stop evolving? Apparently, not yet. Mitsubishi’s gamble in making a fast compact crossover with an electrically assisted internal combustion engine could be something as evolutionary as pumping 280 bhp into a 2.0-litre engine.
And if they play their cards right, we could be looking at Japan’s first revolutionary performance compact crossover that’s both fast and eco-friendly. That said, the wait won’t be long, for a surprise looms at the end of this month when the 44th Tokyo Motor Shows kicks off. Surely, a certain car clothed in veil bearing the Mitsubishi badge will be something pretty interesting…
News Source: Autocar UK, Car & Driver, Image Source: Mitsubishi