When the Lancer Evolution debuted in North America in 2003, it did something extraordinary: it lived up to the hype. "The Evolution proved that Mitsubishi not only could compete with the best performance cars in the world, but that we could offer something most performance cars could not," said Rich Gilligan, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA). "Thrilling performance and outstanding value, combined."
Not content to rest on past achievements or awards, Mitsubishi continues to refine one of Japan's most revered - and one of the world's best-handling - competition-derived production cars. Finding room for improvement was no small task, so Mitsubishi turned to one of the world's most powerful automotive microscopes: Nurburgring.
The Nurburgring Nordschleife is notorious for its bumpy and undulating surfaces, twisting corners and changes in surface friction. It was there that engineers discovered one potential area of improvement for the Lancer Evolution. "Better driving quality" became an engineering mantra. The Nurburgring test results brought home the need to deliver every bit of power to the road surface through all four tires; it also showed the need for accurate feedback that gives the driver the highest level of control over where those tires are placed. As result of such testing, in 2005, Mitsubishi introduced the next level in handling performance: the Lancer Evolution MR. The development lessons from the MR program and the knowledge gained on the WRC circuit have now trickled down to help usher in the 2006 Lancer Evolution: the best performing member of the species yet.
The tradition of the high-performance Mitsubishi Racing moniker dates back to 1970, with the Mitsubishi Galant GTO MR, Mitsubishi's first production car powered by a DOHC engine that boasted 125 horsepower. So while times - and specific engine output - may have changed, Mitsubishi's commitment to performance has not.
The Lancer Evolution MR strikes the delicate balance between grace and power. Building on the Lancer Evolution's rally-proven reputation, the MR pushes the performance envelope even further with improvements to the crucial elements that make driving a true pleasure. For 2006, engine output was increased, but more power was not the top priority. Although the recent meteoric rise of horsepower figures seems to be the top selling point for many new vehicles, Mitsubishi focused its development efforts on the intricate coordination between engine output and handling performance.
Purists' Performance- Lancer Evolution
The Evolution MR features several handling- and ride-enhancing features: a lightweight aluminum roof panel (a first for a Japanese production model), designed to lower the center of gravity and reduce the roll moment; jointly developed Bilstein(R) monotube shock absorbers to improve road holding; and lightweight BBS(R) forged alloy wheels.
New for all Lancer Evolution models, the 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder DOHC intercooled-turbocharged engine with Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and Electronic Control (MIVEC) is tuned to deliver maximum power across lower, middle- and higher parts of the rev band, generating 289 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm to offer a level of flexibility never before seen from the 4G63 engine. While peak horsepower has also increased to 286 at 6500 rpm, there is now more power and response on tap on the left side of the tachometer, thanks to the combination of MIVEC, a revision in the turbocharger's compressor housing, and an improved muffler that also offers a throatier exhaust note.
While a six-speed transmission is exclusive to the MR to make the power more accessible, the other models also receive a revised closer ratio 5-speed gearbox that helps keep the engine in the "sweet spot" of the power band. The All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system in the Lancer Evolution relies on an Active Center Differential (ACD) and front limited-slip differential (LSD), which - combined with Sports antilock brakes (Sports ABS) - creates a more natural, better-mannered driving feel. A rugged, plate-style 1.5-way mechanical LSD resides in the rear.
The Lancer Evolution receives a fresh exterior redesign, with a new front fascia, darker front and rear lamp lenses, and intake ducts that enhance cooling efficiency. The inner portion of the vertical struts for the carbon fiber rear wing are now color keyed to match the body. At the trailing edge of the MR's roof, a color-keyed vortex generator creates small vortices that reduce drag and increase the down force generated by the rear-deck spoiler.
For 2006, the Lancer Evolution is equipped with restyled lightweight, high-strength alloy Enkei(R) wheels. Computer aided design helps reduce mass without sacrificing wheel strength or durability. The MR features strong fin-design BBS(R) forged aluminum alloy wheels that still weigh even less than the standard wheels. Less unsprung wheel mass means that the Lancer Evolution sedan's four-wheel independent suspension is able to react more quickly to bumps and other road irregularities, resulting in a more comfortable ride.
The Lancer Evolution's interior presents a clean environment that complements the purposeful, performance-honed exterior design. To further refine that design, all 2006 models receive new Alcantara-covered Recaro seats with leather side-bolsters. This helps keep the driver from sliding around during aggressive cornering, but also gives the interior a sporty tactile feel. All Lancer Evolution models receive a new dark titanium steering wheel and coordinate the center panel and shift panel to match the steering wheel's darker hue. The MR adds an aluminum shift knob and an aluminum and carbon fiber brake lever handle. For 2006, the Lancer Evolution and MR models are equipped with grippier aluminum pedals that add to the purposeful, sports car feel of the interior.
The MR's sport meter gauge kit is made up of a three-ring gauge cluster located in the center stack. The gauges display boost, voltage and oil pressure. Another unique feature for the MR: a stainless steel plate embossed with the "Lancer Evolution MR" name badge. As with the trunk lid emblem, the "MR" designation is finished in red to stamp its presence vividly on the interior.
On all Lancer Evolutions, an Active Center Differential indicator is located on the combination meter, inside the tachometer display. The switch itself (Tarmac/Gravel/Snow) is located on the dash just to the left of the steering column. An optional 315-watt Infinity audio system includes a trunk-mounted subwoofer. (This option is not available on the MR or the RS.) Larger cup holders have been added to the console.
2006 Lancer Evolution Lineup
For the 2006 model year, the Lancer Evolution combines many of the MR's virtues with new-to-Evolution technology to produce a car that is so capable, few can hope to match it.
The MIVEC engine modifications, which help the engine produce optimal power and torque with variable camshaft phasing, appear throughout the Lancer Evolution lineup. This additional power and response combined with the proven Active Center Differential and front helical Limited Slip Differential help give the vehicle its world class, track-bred pedigree.
The track-ready Evolution RS also receives one body panel from the MR: its roof, which is made of lightweight aluminum for lower weight and a lower center of gravity. The RS also benefits from thin trunk-lid sheet metal to decrease weight.
For five-speed equipped Lancer Evolutions, a closer ratio selection of gears helps maximize the engines power and improve acceleration. A Teflon liner on the shift selector cable improves the precision of the shift knob positioning and actuation.
315-Watt Infinity(R) Sound System
The Lancer Evolution stands for more than pure driving performance. Audio performance can be supplied by an optional high-powered Infinity(R) amplifier that delivers 45 watts through each of seven channels, for a total of 315 watts. Two 19-millimeter tweeters are mounted on the A-pillar, four 16-centimeter full range speakers are mounted on the front doors and rear shelf, and a 20-centimeter subwoofer is integrated in a 20-liter enclosure located on the right side of the trunk. The Infinity(R) audio system is available only on the Lancer Evolution.