Friday, June 5, 2020
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This 2007 Mitsubishi Evo IX MR is like the ultimate PlayStation2, the final tune-up of a now familiar gaming platform. Even as the line already begins to form for the Evo X as if it were PlayStation3 (though we don’t expect Mitsubishi to even show us this all-new car until the Tokyo Motor Show next fall), the 2007 Mitsubishi Evo IX MR has been given a few last tweaks from the hands of the Zen masters at Mitsubishi’s Okazaki proving grounds near Nagoya, Japan.

Same turbo power, better throttle control
There have been 14 different Evo models over the course of the last 14 years, and the car has slowly evolved from a gravel-friendly clone of Mitsubishi’s entry in the World Rally Championship into a high-speed pavement racer tuned at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany. Now this final calibration of the competition-ready Evo IX MR strikes us as a dedicated street racer, a more maneuverable car destined for track day events instead of hair-raising laps of the Nordschleife.

When variable valve timing was adapted to Mitsubishi’s intercooled, turbocharged, DOHC 2.0-liter inline-4 for the 2006 Mitsubishi Evo IX, it became a lot easier to put the power of the famous 4G63 engine to good use in everyday driving. For the 2007 Mitsubishi Evo IX, the peak output of this latest engine calibration remains the same as before at 286 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and the torque rating is also unchanged at 289 pound-feet at 3,500 rpm, but a number of tiny tweaks have delivered the kind of throttle control that pavement racers want.

To begin with, slightly revised turbine and compressor wheels help the turbocharger spool up quicker, building boost lower in the engine’s rpm range than before. With a slightly different spark curve and a new fuel delivery profile burned into the engine’s electrical control unit, the result is quicker, cleaner throttle response at low rpm plus improved fuel-efficiency.

More magic in the corners
Every time we’ve driven a new Evo generation over the past few years, the Mitsubishi engineers claim that they’ve reached the limit with their tuning of the car’s Active Yaw Control (AYC), which determines the calibration of the Evo’s center differential. But just like race mechanics in the World Rally Championship, they’ve altered the Evo IX’s setup yet again in order to deliver 10-percent more power to the outside rear wheel during cornering.

To match the AYC change, the suspension setup also has been changed. As before, the MR is the only model of the Evo IX to carry Bilstein dampers, and this high-pressure gas-charged design affords precise control even for small suspension movement. New Eibach springs are now 25-percent stiffer than before and also reduce the ride height by 10mm. And, finally, an even stickier version of the 235/45WR-17 Yokohama ADVAN tires are fitted to the MR’s lightweight, forged-aluminum BBS wheels.

Sit down and hold tight
When we let loose this newest Evo IX on the track, its performance was jaw-dropping. Hit the brakes hard and feel the front four-piston Brembo calipers do their work, match the engine revs to bring this clean-shifting six-speed transmission down into 2nd gear, cut the steering wheel toward the corner, and whoa the Evo IX pivots sharply toward the apex. All that engine torque directed to the outside rear wheel makes the front end of the MR tuck right into corners far quicker than before.

Even if you go into a corner too hot, taking the MR beyond the limits of adhesion and making its tires scramble for grip, just lay your foot into the gas and let the all-wheel-drive chassis do its work. The mechanical limited-slip differential between the rear wheels and the helical limited-slip between the front wheels work together to help the tires hook up, stabilizing the car’s cornering attitude, and then the MR tracks straight to the exit without a wobble. A new, more effective front airdam also adds a little front downforce to further help the car track straight and true.

A taxicab we can live with
Aside from the front airdam, there are no appearance differences between this evolutionary Evo IX and the previous model, and it still looks like a cross between a taxicab, a Nike running shoe and a Gundam robot.

The Evo’s interior also remains largely the same, basic and bland. No plush leather, soft-touch switches or ergonomic niceties. Well, there are now black instrument faces for the speedometer and tachometer. And the Recaro seats are new, although you’ll probably not even notice.

For all this, the revised Evo seems to drive very well on the street. Despite the stiffer springs, the ride quality actually feels better than before, in Japan at least.

The Mitsubishi Evo has come a long way in 14 years and this revised Evo IX is the best yet. One Mitsubishi engineer told me that he and his colleagues wanted this car to finish its life on a high note, and they worked hard to extract every last bit of engine response and cornering traction from the package.

It makes you wonder just how much better the Mitsubishi Evo X will be. Maybe I’ll get in line for one right now, just in case.