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Road Tests

Mitsubishi Evo VIII: The next chapter

By Feann Torr

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
Mitsubishi Evo VIII

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
The potent 2.0-litre engine develops 195kW

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
The tidy rear end gets a new carbon wing

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
Keep the dial above 4300rpm for big fun

After driving Mitsubishi's rally-bred Evo VI, there are few things in life that have since offered a similar rush.

Driving the car was unlike anything else I'd ever done - it responded to my input with lightning quick reflexes, and the AWD Lancer-based hot rod's rear end would easily step out around roundabouts in second gear, such was the power.

The combination of huge power, low weight and effective power delivery to all four wheels makes for an intoxicating experience, so with the arrival of the Evolution VIII, can the next generation create a whole new experience?

We'll know soon enough, but then there are bigger issues for Mitsubishi at the present time, and the Evo VIII is a crucial confidence boost for the company, one which will help generate much-needed interest in the Japanese marque's line-up.

The engine that Australian spec Evo VIII's will be de-tuned slightly and won't be quite as potent as the Tommi Makinen Edition (TME) Evo VI (click here for the road test), but on the other hand it will cost a good $20,000 less.

The Evolution VIII will fetch $61,990 in Australian currency, where the only option is leather interior trim, which will cost $3,000.

Power is provided by an improved version of the 2.0-litre, inline 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC intercooled, turbocharged 4G63 engine.

The powerplant generates 195kW of power @ 6500rpm, and 355Nm of torque @ 3500 rpm.

There is an ultra flat torque band between 3000-5000rpm that has always been the 4G63's trademark and to cope with this torque, cooling performance has been improved by uprating the water pump capacity and by enlarging the water passages in the turbocharger.

Engine durability and reliability have also been improved by uprating the aluminium pistons and forged steel conrods. These detail improvements deliver an engine that combines competition-ready but street-friendly power with better durability.

The valve springs are almost 50% lighter after a change in shape, while the valve spring tensioners are almost 75% lighter after switching to aluminium and shape optimisation.

This weight reduction in the valvetrain has lowered moment of inertia and, with the reduced valve spring load, friction.

The Evo VIII will sprints from 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, and will cover the quarter mile (0-400m) in 14.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 245km/h.

Mitsubishi also states that the new Evo VIII returns respectable fuel economy of 10.9 litres/100 kilometres.

What else will #8 in the Evo family bring to the table? Well, grab a cup of tea and take a seat, because this may take a while - I really love the Evo models.

Apart from the obvious changes, such as the new styling and upgraded interior, there are plenty of chassis tweaks that promise to deliver a more complete drivers package.

Detail optimisation of the Evolution VIII's MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is said to result in better on-the-limit handling stability, and the use of thicker rods in the rear shock absorbers improves damping response and steering linearity.

Damping rates in both front and rear shock absorbers have been altered over previous Evo models in order to improve responsiveness and damping, and increase the footprint slightly.

The rear axle fastening bolts have been redesigned to boost camber stiffness, thus improving responsiveness and making it easier to keep the vehicle on the intended path.

Notable, though, for Evo VIII is the use of aluminium for all the suspension links – front and rear – in order to reduce unsprung weight and improve stability under high-speed cornering.

And talking about reducing weight, the Evo VIII achieves even better weight reduction over its predecessor, particularly in the front end, upper body and the unsprung weight – areas that contribute most to handling stability. For example, the 2.5 kilogram drop in engine weight contributes to better vehicle response by lessening the load at the front of the vehicle, as well as lowering the centre of gravity.

For similar equipment levels and fuel load the Evo VIII is about 7.7 kg lighter than its predecessor. The weight reduction and changes over Evo VII are:

Engine and drivetrain -2.5 kg
Carbon Fibre rear spoiler -2.0 kg
Alloy wheels -3.2 kg

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
New chassis tweaks mean better on-road manners

To improve handling stability and perceived driving quality over its predecessor, the Evolution VIII's body underwent an exhaustive program to increase structural strength and stiffness efficiently and effectively, pinpointing those areas giving the largest gain in strength for the smallest increase in weight.

The upper and lower body join, a major factor in overall stiffness, has been strengthened with the addition of large reinforcements to inner and outer panels at the bottom of the centre pillar.

For the Evo VIII, the front deck crossmember attachment point reinforcement at the foot of the A-pillar on the driver's side is complemented by a similar reinforcement on the passenger's side.

Suspension mounting stiffness has also been uprated by strengthening the middle of the strut tower bar and its point of attachment to the body. The stiffer body and suspension will help to improve handling feel and enhance the integrity of the driver-car relationship, making what was a real giant killer into less intimidating and more mild mannered vehicle.

When the turbocharger is getting forceful and the road is not perfect - which is more often than not in Australia - the Evo VI would sometimes become a handful, and the new Evo promises to be more user friendly.

Mitsubishi has also seen fit to include a number of safety features. They include:

Mitsubishi's RISE body construction (further stiffened and reinforced over Evo VII)
Mitsubishi's acclaimed AWD Control System featuring ACD, Super AYC and Sports ABS (with EBD)
Large Brembo ventilated discs with 4-pot and 2-pot calipers (front and rear respectively)
Driver and passenger airbags
Keyless remote central locking system with engine immobiliser
Side door impact bars
Front 3-point ELR seatbelts with pre-tensioners
Front adjustable seatbelt anchors
Rear 3-point ELR/ALR seatbelts in all three positions
3 Child restraint anchorages and fittings

I'll briefly touch on the AYC, or Active Yaw Control, because after it was introduced on the Evo IV it came under some criticism. The reason for this was that it wouldn't transfer enough torque between rear wheels to match the increased power outputs of the latest Evolution models, particularly when shod with high-grip tyres and driven on a race circuit.

Responding to these criticisms, Mitsubishi has taken AYC to a new level with Super AYC, which will be fitted to most Evo VIIIs. The new Super AYC system works to reduce yaw (or understeer) by making use of a planetary gear differential as opposed to a bevel gear, which in layman's terms simply means the new unit is able to transfer twice the torque of the previous AYC between right and left rear wheels.

To realise its full potential, Super AYC also underwent an extensive proving program on prototype vehicles at Nurburgring in Germany, as well as other testing to simulate competition driving. Furthermore, the AWD control system features automatic switching between three modes – Tarmac, Gravel and Snow – to enable quicker and optimum control response for changes in road surface.

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
New headlight cluster uses halogen and xenon

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
The brake light design is suitably technical

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
The new design is less angular than the Evo VII

As far as the new look goes, the Evo VIII didn't really excite me when images first emerged from the Nihon in 2003, but over the last year the new design has really grown on me, and the six-spoke wheels give a late 90s Impreza WRX look (read: tough).

I like the more progressive styling, and though the Evo VII's more angular appearance is a slightly more aggressive, the the new global Mitsubishi design philosophy works well in this application.

It also features significant advances in aerodynamic and cooling performance that has been gained from extensive testing during development on the Nurburgring in Germany, and in Mitsubishi's own advanced wind tunnel facility.

The company has also gained important feedback obtained from the Evolution's participation in the WRC and other rally events, and intercooler efficiency has been improved as well, which translates directly into engine performance, boosted thanks to a 10% enlargement of the mid-bumper air intake.

Reducing drag and lift, Evolution VIII's exterior lines give it better high speed straight line stability and handling through corners than its predecessor.

The design also achieves the increased cooling performance necessary to extract the full potential of the model's engine and drivetrain.

The radiator cooling air intakes in the front grille have been slightly reduced in size to lower drag. But this won't affect engine performance as the hot air extraction vents in the engine hood are 60% larger than on Evolution VII, and with an improved heat protector design, they effectively double the area.

Extraction efficiency has also been improved by moving the vents 40mm forwards and by adding a kickup to the leading edge to generate more negative pressure (vacuum). As well as reducing drag and front lift, these detail improvements also boost the radiator/intercooler cooling performance.

The side air vents on Evolution VII have been eliminated to reduce drag and weight, and to allow the hood vents to be increased to the maximum size permissible under WRC regulations.

And that was one of the things that I noticed most of the Evo VI - heat build-up.

If not for the bonnet vents, the engine cylinder heads would cook, and after enthusiastic driving, you could even see the exhaust headers glowing orange. The 60% increased vent size, then, will help with endurance, allowing the Evo VIII to go harder for longer.

In addition to the increased downforce and engine cooling, the Evolution VIII also boasts a coefficient of drag that is 0.01 slippier than Evo VII.

The front end is distinguished by its integral grille-front bumper, the centre of which has been extended 35mm forwards. These design elements again help lower drag while retaining Evolution's outstanding manoeuvrability through corners.

The Evolution VIII also features a new diffuser which, fitted downstream of the venturi tunnel, directs cooling air onto the drivetrain. The diffuser reduces air resistance in the components downstream of it by slowing down, without disrupting, the flow of air accelerated by the venturi tunnel, and improves brake cooling at the same time.

To comply with WRC regulations and to reduce weight further, the spoiler uses a fixed-attack angle horizontal wing in place of the adjustable angle wing on its predecessor. This, and the use of CFRP, has reduced the spoiler weight by some 2kg.

These advances in aerodynamics deliver a significant reduction in overall lift and improvement in high speed handling stability, as well as improving the balance between front and rear aero characteristics.

Though the gear change in the Evo VI TME was far from lousy, the Evolution VIII is again fitted with a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission, but this time the transmission assembly durability and stiffness has been upgraded by switching to stronger materials for some of the gears, and by reinforcing the casing.

Improvements to the single dry plate clutch assembly include the use of a wide-angle clutch torsion damper to reduce rattle and noise (NVH), while optimisation of the clutch cover leverage realises better release at high engine speeds.

Mitsubishi Evo VIII
ENKEI 17-inch wheels cover big Brembo calipers

The Brembo brakes from past Evo's have been retained, which is no bad thing. The Evo VI TME would pull up on a dime, time after time with little fade, and the brakes really did inspire confidence to push deeper into corners. Together with the the Evo VIII's lighter weight, it should decelerate even more rapidly.

Mitsubishi's Sports ABS uses a steering wheel angle sensor to detect steering input, which helps to regulate braking force at each wheel independently and improve steering performance under braking.

Riding on 6-spoke ENKEI 17-inch x 8-inch spun-rim alloy wheels, and shod with 235/45 R17 93W Bridgestone RE050 A Potenza performance tyres, the Evo VIII will offer impressive levels of grip.

After they've been cast, the rims are subjected to a heating and spinning process that produces a flowing and fibrous metallic structure similar to that of a forged wheel. This process enables a thinner rim gauge while retaining the necessary strength and rigidity, saving some 3.2kg, and reducing unsprung weight.

So, there you have it - the new Evo VIII in all its glory. It's sleeker, more efficient, lighter and puts its power down more effectively than ever before.

Since it was first launched in the early 1990s as the 187kW Evo I, it has proven itself in the heat of battle in the most tortuous rallies throughout the world.

The Evolution VIII has been improved in almost every respect, and though the torque has dipped somewhat, that can put down partially to Australia's lower grade fuel.

But at a more affordable price, and with all the new innovations, the 100 units that will be coming to Australia will be snapped up fast, so if you're interested, get a hold of your Mitsu dealer quickly.

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