One of the most beloved Japanese pocket rockets is saying goodbye and it’s enough to bring a grown woman to tears. Mitsubishi is ending production of its somewhat legendary Lancer Evolution with a “Final Edition” of only 1600 U.S.-spec and U.S. bound four-door sedans. These sports sedans bear resemblance to the Lancer from which they derive their frames, but beyond that the Evo is a stand-alone model with performance that is head-and-shoulders above its donor.
But make no mistake, once the Lancer Evo FE (Final Edition) sells out here there will be no more insane, rally bred, all-wheel drive, turbocharged monsters with huge spoilers forthcoming in our future. Not even Mitsubishi’s arch nemesis the Subaru WRX bothers to be as all out bonkers anymore when it comes to power, handling and laser precise steering control. Nothing on sale in this day and age is as visceral as an EVO. This is a car that we won’t see the likes of again, we suspect sadly.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo originally went only to Japanese markets, but demand – loud and clear – from enthusiasts in the United States finally brought this fire-breathing monster to these shores in 2003, fully 10 years after the model’s initial introduction. The USA’s first Evo was the Evolution VIII – only two more iterations followed that one, including the Final Edition driven here.
Importation of the Evo was in direct competition with Subaru, whose Impreza WRX STi was a marketplace rival. Over the years, I’ve found the Mitsubishi to be stronger mechanically and physically than the WRX, but that’s a subjective opinion.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Evolution Final Edition driven here is No. 298; it has a turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder 2-liter engine that has 303 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 305 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm; redline is 7,000. Had Mitsubishi decided to bring in this sedan as a 2016 model, power would have dropped appreciably. Let’s all cheer!
The Final Edition Evo comes with a five-speed manual transmission standard; its shift points are perfect and the clutch is nicely weighted for competitive shifts. McPherson-type front struts combine with multi-links at the rear to produce a taut suspension, featuring Eibach springs and Bilstein shock absorbers with large stabilizer bars at both ends of the car. That suspension is firm but not jarring. Rack-and-pinion hydraulic power assist is direct as they come without any slop like most electric systems; I’d prefer it a bit heavier.
Mitsubishi’s excellent Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) gives great traction, together with the Active Yaw Control (AYC), directing engine torque to the needed inside or outside rear wheels to gain added traction. There is a suspension adjustment for either tarmac, gravel or snow; obviously in Southern California we keep it on the tarmac, thank you very much.
Weight is quite important on a performance car like the 2015 Mitsubishi Evolution Final Edition. This sedan weighs in at 3527 pounds, no lightweight, but the amount of available power firmly contravenes that avoirdupois. With amazing Brembo 4-piston calipers at the front, Brembo 2-piston calipers at the rear, mounted on ventilated discs, braking is absolutely immediate – but again, not jarring.
If you’ve ever seen a Mitsubishi Lancer sedan, you know this car’s looks, but with the Evolution Final Edition model, it gets several upgrades. Our diamond white Evo has black cloth interior with red accents that reappear throughout the cabin. On the exterior there are aluminum front fender extensions and air intakes in appropriate places and a rear wing that neatly bisects vision out the rear. Thankfully there’s little 3/4-blind spot issues so rearward vision isn’t as bad as it might appear.
Yokohama 245/45R rubber is mounted on 12-spoke polished/flat black 18-inch alloy wheels that really show off the red of the Brembo calipers. Signals are in the mirrors. After unlocking the car using the door-mounted buttons, one turns a knob to ignite or silence the mechanical symphony.
Mitsubishi fits adjustable Bi-xenon headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights as standard equipment. A black-painted aluminum roof panel keeps the interior cooler (and the weight down), as does the aluminum hood with its heat extractor vents. Every one of these adds is performance weighted and essentially useful. The yawing front grille has black mesh together with dark chrome trim; at the rear one can find dual exhaust finishers that accent the melody from the lovely and powerful engine.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition is rated 17/23/19 mpg from its 14.5-gallon tank; premium fuel is essential for this vehicle in order to attain the advertised power and keep it all friendly throughout the lifetime. I averaged about 22mpg, but then I also wasn’t arrested for driving this car like I stole it. Apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do?
This vehicle had just over 8700 miles at pickup, yet was as tight and ready to run as it could possibly be. The cabin is essentially business-like and has standard Lancer gauges – less boost gauge, which might have been helpful. There is a trip information center with adjustments made to the left of the gauge pod. The center of the Evo’s dash features a 6.1-inch touch panel display for the 140-watt audio system with six speakers. SiriusXM satellite radio is standard with three months of service pre-paid. Satellite reception on this, and other Mitsubishi vehicles I’ve driven has a tendency to fade in and out.
Digital HD radio is standard as is Mitsubishi’s FUSE hands-free system with a single USB port (in the glove box) and steering wheel controls for the multi-information display. The steering wheel features cruise control and audio/phone controls. In order to sync the phone I used the disembodied voice as recommended; sync was performed within 30 seconds.
There is no backup camera and navigation is not offered on the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition. As the Lancer itself is a somewhat elderly chassis, originally brought to the USA in 2008, there’s not much in the way of infotainment, making the ability to sync phones and the single USB for use with phone apps the only “modern” touches. This car is meant to be driven; nothing more is needed.
Seats, as you might expect are all manual; there is a seat height adjustment but no lumbar choices, not that they were needed for me. I find the seats exceptionally comfortable as did my neighbor, who elected to accompany me on a fun day trip. There are dual closed storage areas in the center tunnel, one that’s quite small at the top and the lower level containing a 12-volt plug.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition has seating for five, but the rear passengers have few amenities other than pull-down cup holders in the central armrest. The carpeted trunk is quite tiny at 6.9 cubic feet but since this wasn’t a travel vehicle, it didn’t matter. There are Final Edition floor mats to accompany the red stitching throughout the cabin.
While the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition is filled with old-school technology and might seem a bit backward to some, its purity can’t be denied. After all, there are only 1,600 of these monsters available to challenge one’s driving skills. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Count me among those that will be crying at the close of the Evo Era.
By Editor in Chief Anne Proffit