Over 3 years ago the last Lancer Evolution was sold, and with that we saw the end of an era. From it’s inception in 1992 the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was a sports sedan that had one goal; stand out against the pack. And for a long time, that’s exactly what it did.
So how did the Lancer evolve and where did it go?
The first Lancer Evolution used the 2.0 L turbocharged DOHC engine and AWD drivetrain from the original Galant VR-4 in a Lancer chassis, and was sold in GSR and RS models. 5,000 of the first generation Evolutions were sold between 1992 and 1993. The Top speed was 142 mph. The GSR version of the Evolution I was the only Evolution Lancer released with a Viscous Limited Slip Rear Differential. The subsequent Evolution Lancer models all featured rear mechanical plate type LSD's.
The Evolution II was upgraded in December 1993, and was produced until February 1995. It consisted mainly of handling improvements, including minor wheelbase adjustments, lighter front swaybar that connected via swaybar links to the front struts, bodywork tweaks including a larger spoiler, and tires that were 0.4 in wider.
February 1995 saw the arrival of the Evolution 3, following a pre-release in 1993 which had several improvements over the previous models. New, more aggressive styling and a new nose moulding improved the air supply to the radiator, intercooler and brakes. New side skirts and rear bumper moldings and a larger rear spoiler were added to reduce lift.
The Lancer platform was completely changed in 1996, and along with it, the Evolution, which had become extremely popular throughout the world. The engine and transaxle were rotated 180° to better balance the weight and eliminate torque steer. There were two versions available, The RS and GSR. The RS version was produced as a competition car with a limited-slip front differential and a friction type LSD at the rear. The RS also had wind up windows, optional air conditioning in some models, and a few extra brace bars to strengthen the chassis, one behind the front grill and the other across the boot floor. The GSR and the RS shared a new twin scroll turbocharger which helped to improve response and increase power to 276 hp at 6,500 rpm and 330 N⋅m torque at 4,000 rpm.
Between the IV and V there were only minor changes. Most changes were to the body kit for the Lancer.
The Evolution VI's changes mainly focused on cooling and engine durability. It received a larger intercooler, larger oil cooler, and new pistons, along with a titanium-aluminide turbine wheel for the RS model, which was a first in a production car. The Evolution VI received new bodywork yet again, with the most easily noticeable change being within the front bumper where the huge fog lights were reduced in size and moved to the corners for better airflow.
The Evolution VII was based on the larger Lancer Cedia platform and as a result gained more weight over the Evolution VI, but Mitsubishi made up for this with multiple important chassis tweaks. The biggest change was the addition of an active center differential and a more effective limited-slip differential, while a front helical limited-slip differential was added. Torque was increased again to 385 N⋅m (284 lb⋅ft) with engine tweaks that allowed greater airflow, and horsepower officially remained at 276 hp.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII was modified again in 2003 this time sporting 17" grey Enkei wheels, Brembo brakes and Bilstein shocks to handle traction and a 5-speed manual gearbox. Originally a one off model, sales were so successful in the U.S. that by 2005 it was available in four trims: the standard GSR model in Japan, the RS, 5-speed gearbox, and standard wheels (lacking excess components, such as interior map lights, power windows/doors, and radio), the SSL (with a sunroof, trunk mounted subwoofer, and leather seats), and the MR, which came with a revised front limited-slip differential, aluminum MR shift knob, handbrake with carbon fibre handle, 17 inch BBS wheels, aluminum roof, and a 6-speed manual gearbox. The new Evolution also sported chrome housing taillights and headlights.
Mitsubishi introduced the Lancer Evolution IX in Japan on March 3, 2005, and exhibited the car at the Geneva Motor Show for the European market the same day. The North American markets saw the model exhibited at the New York International Auto Show the following month.
Once the lancer was introduced to the American audience, everything changed. The two most popular iterations of the lancer were released. But that is a story for another day.
Do you think the lancer lives up to the hype? Is it overhyped? Or do you think it’s not respected enough?
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