The Lancer Evolution (colloquially known as the "EVO") is Mitsubishi's flagship sports car. Based only on the unibody of the domesticated Lancer sedan, the Evo is a rally inspired, turbocharged, all wheel drive, durable, and finely tuned automobile. The number designation of the model is most commonly a roman numeral. Evolution models prior to version V were the officially approved models for Mitsubishi's efforts in the World Rally Championship's Group A class and SCCA Pro Rally Championship. In order to follow these rules, the Evolution is based on the same platform as the Lancer. However, it is much more powerful than the Lancer, with the unibody being the only major part in common between the two. Nine street versions of the Evolution have been produced from 1993 up to today. Evolution versions VI, VII, VIII and IX did not need to meet WRC homologation requirements.
The Evo was originally intended only for Japanese markets but demand on the 'grey import' market led the Evolution series to be offered through limited type-approval in the United Kingdom and in various European markets from around 1998 (Evo V-VI). Mitsubishi decided to export the eighth generation Evolution to the United States in 2003 after witnessing the success Subaru had in that market with their Impreza WRX, a direct competitor in other global regions. The current 2006 Evolution (US market) includes a turbocharged 286 hp (213 kW) inline four-cylinder engine and a full-time all wheel drive powertrain. Variable valve timing is an Evolution first in 2006, coming in the form of MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-timing-and-lift Electronic Control). Japanese-spec cars were limited by a gentleman's agreement to advertise no more than 280 PS (276 hp), a mark already reached by the time of Evo IV; however, each generation of Evo's power has clandestinely evolved above the advertised number, with the Japan-spec Evo IX having real output of about 320 PS, and various versions available in other markets, particularly the UK, have official power outputs up to 405 bhp (302 kW). Even standard components are considered "tuned" compared to other vehicles. For instance, the flywheel on normal cars weighs about 12-15 kilograms but the Lancer flywheel weighs a mere 6 kilos for very quick engine response. The Evo has, however, been evolving into a heavier and heavier vehicle with each generation in face of tougher worldwide safety and emission regulations.
The Lancer Evolution was unique among its competitors in the World Rally Championship in that it is a homologated Group A car slightly modified to be able to race competitively against WRC class cars. They were successful in the WRC Rallies from 1996-1999, thanks to the Finn Tommi Makinen, for clinching the driver's titles from 1996-1999, and the help of teammate Richard Burns for clinching the manufacturer's championship for the first time in 1998. The Evolution however has now been replaced by the Lancer/Carisma GT and the new Lancer WRC04, but the Evo still competes in the Group A and Group N classes.
The Evolution was changed again in 2003, this time sporting Super Active Yaw Control to handle traction and a 6-speed manual gearbox. It was available with 280 PS (276 hp/206 kW) in three trims: standard (GSR in Japan), RS (devoid of all excess components, such as the rear wing, trunk carpeting, interior map lights, power windows/doors, and radio) and MR, which came with a new vortex generator (a set of ridges above the rear window to improve aerodynamics). Both RS and MR Editions came with a revised limited-slip front differential.
The Lancer Evolution VIII MR uses slick-response Bilstein shocks for improved handling. The aluminium roof panel and other reductions in body weight have lowered the centre of gravity to realize more natural roll characteristics. Detail improvements have also been made to Mitsubishiâ€™s own electronic all-wheel drive, to the ACD 5 + Super AYC 6 traction control and to the Sports ABS systems. The Lancer Evolution VIII displayed at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show took the MR designation traditionally reserved for Mitsubishi Motors high-performance models and used first on the Galant GTO. Other parts on the MR include BBS alloy wheels, Recaro bucket seats, Brembo brakes, and a MOMO steering wheel
In the United Kingdom, many special Evolutions were introduced, which included FQ320, FQ340, and FQ400 variants (FQ said jocularly to stand for 'Fucking Quick'). They each came with 320, 340, and 400 hp (239, 254, and 298 kW), respectively.
The FQ400, sold through Ralliart UK, produces 302.13 kW (405.2 hp), from its 2.0 L 4G63 engine as the result of being specially modified by United Kingdom tuning firms Rampage, Owen Developments and Flow Race Engines. At 202.9 hp (151.3 kW) per litre, it has one of the highest specific output per litre of any roadcar engine. With a curb weight of around 3200 lb, it achieves a 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and a 0-100 in around 9 seconds, while costing about Â£47,000. BBC's television series Top Gear demonstrated that the FQ-400 could easily keep up with a Lamborghini Murcielago around a test track. The Stig recorded a Top Gear Power Lap Times of 1 minute 24.8 seconds.
The Lancer Evolution VIII was also the first Evolution to come to the United States, spurred by the success of the Subaru Impreza WRX which had been released there just three years prior. The Evolution VIII found it's true competition in the Subaru Impreza WRX STi model released a year after the Evolution VIII's US introduction. However, the internal components for the American versions were based largely on a stripped - down version of the specifications for the Japanese Lancer Evolution VIII. No US-spec Evolution has active yaw control, including the 2006 Evolution IX. The American 2003 and 2004 GSRs are without the helical limited-slip front differential and 6-speed manual transmission. The 2004 US spec RS and MR models, however, do have a front helical limited-slip differential. All 2003, 2004 and 2005 RS and GSR models have the Japanese Evolution VII's 5-speed transmission. The MR edition was introduced to the US in 2004, the first model to sport the ACD and still (as of 2006) the only model with a 6-speed transmission. The 2005 US spec RS and GSR have the ACD standard, and the front helical limited-slip differential is now standard on all models. The timing and tuning are also slightly lower than its Japanese counterpart, allowing it to adhere to the strict emissions regulations of the United States.
Most Evolution VIIIs have a carbon fiber rear spoiler with matching body-color endplates, except for the MR Edition, whose endplates are painted black. The basic RS Edition does not come with a rear spoiler.