Published 09/02/2011 | 08:00
Jim McCauley decided it was time to start the new year with a bang with the far from shy Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-330
Performance and practicality represent the blend of perfection in Mitsubishi’s latest sporting saloon range. Progressively developed through nine series, the latest Series X Evolution provides the best yet, with the redesigned, lighter and more powerful 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine taking it to a new level. And along with the 329 PS engine comes the SST badge indicating the new twin-clutch transmission that offers full automatic response, or finger-tip paddle-shift sequential changes.
While the car sits tantalisingly smug, at rest with its retro jet-fighter grille, its balanced lines hide its true size with a cabin that offers much more room than many executive cars in the class above, as well as all the luxury equipment demanded for enjoyable everyday use.
But fire it up and the focus changes to its rumbling exhaust note, indicating that this is not just any saloon car but the 10th generation of a legend with a notable motorsport record and the ability to show most cars on the road a clean pair of exhaust pipes.
But a cautionary start, waiting for the power to dominate, becomes unnecessary as the delivery is gently progressive — civilised but far from shy with a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds and a potential top speed electronically limited to 155mph.
Adding to the joy is the gear-change choice and the forward-thinking ability of the six-speed automatic. Featuring two clutches — one for the odd-numbered gears and one for the even numbers — the unit offers smooth and lag-free gear changing. In any given gear the system computer monitors vehicle speed and throttle opening and pre-selects either a higher or lower gear before the instantaneous change which aids both performance and economy.
In automatic mode, the driver can select between ‘normal’, ‘sport’ and ‘super sport’ responses on the toggle switch alongside the gear-select lever. While ‘normal’ provides maximum smoothness and best fuel economy, ‘sport’ mode uses higher shift points and changes gears more quickly, with sharper downchanges to assist braking. ‘Super sport’ is a track setting, which keeps the engine turning at higher speeds and takes the engine to maximum revs before changing up a gear.
Alternatively the unit offers sequential manual shifts on the gear-select lever or the steering column’s mounted paddles, adequately elongated to access if required in fast bends. And for enthusiastic driving the latest version of the company’s four-wheel drive system provides faster exit from corners, improved all-surface and all-weather grip thanks to the electronic handling support systems and the overall enhanced performance that comes from all-wheel drive.
In addition the system can be fine tuned for various surfaces with the choice of ‘tarmac’, ‘gravel’ or ‘snow settings’. Matching the forward thrust of the car is the stopping ability of the Brembo brakes which bite with authority on the slightest touch of the pedal.
While the car is very much driver focused, offering superb satisfaction from its performance, it unexpectedly provides acceptable passenger comfort with a suspension cleverly balanced to provide the cornering support that a performance car requires but with enough ‘give’to maintain sufficient comfort for the car to be used as daily transport.
Cabin detailing reflects the sporting nature of the car and is totally practical, with hip-pinching Recaro sports seats, dark trim and medal pedals. Rear passenger space is excellent, with room for three adults, while a double bulkhead houses the screenwash tank and battery between the rear seat backrest and boot.
Generous luggage space again reflects the size of the car while the premium sound system in the GSR trim features a massive sub-woofer on the left-hand side of the boot.
In many ways, the Evo X is a contradiction in expectations — it offers the phenomenal performance of a lightweight competition car, yet comprehensive weight-saving measures from engine, transmission, suspension components and bodywork produce a car that is not only stronger than its predecessor but can be fitted with a full complement of electrics, including air conditioning, cruise control, satellite navigation and powered windows.
Available in a choice of five special colours, the car’s on-road presence is stunning, sitting lower and wider than its predecessor, with aerodynamic aids neatly integrated into the bodywork. Fitted with the SST automatic transmission, the option carries just a £1,100 premium over the manual version taking its list price to £29,699.
The model carries Mitsubishi’s full three-year unlimited mileage warranty, 12-year anti-perforation cover and three years free European breakdown assistance. Service intervals have now been extended to 10,000 miles and a reassuring three-year service plan is also available at £530.