I stole Autocar’s current Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X last night, keen to see how a performance icon has managed the transfer to a completely new model after, well, increasingly frayed incarnations from VII to IX.
Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. Many of the traditional Evo strengths are still present: incredible turn-in, great balance and traction, the constant belief that the transmission is one step (slip?) ahead of you. Oh yes, and the fact that there’s no torque whatsoever beneath 2000rpm (well, I still find it charming, anyway). And it’s quick, of course; once the whoosh sets in you get a terrific prod in your kidneys.
But (didn’t you know there was a ‘but’ coming?) at the heart of the latest Evo is the Twin Clutch SST gearbox, yet another take on the ‘semi-auto’ theme with steering wheel-mounted paddles and a press release boasting of previously unimaginable shift times. The irony of this is not lost on me, because a few years ago, Mitsubishi released an automatic version of the Evo VII. And we laughed.
Now, though, it seems that a more sophisticated slusher is the centrepiece of the model. So can I make a plea? Manufacturers (yes, that means you, Mitsubishi, Audi and Ford), can we establish once and for all that DSG/Speedshift/SST gearboxes – twin-clutchers – are not as rewarding to use as a stick? I drove the Evo for a good couple of hours and only once, once, did I really feel involved in what was going on.
There is hope, of course; Mitsubishi has said that in preparation for the car’s use in rallying (the sport that spawned it in the first place, after all) a five-speed manual Evo X will be made available. In the meantime, I’d like a VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition, please, with Ralliart sidestripes, white wheels and a proper stick between the front two seats. In my view it’s never been bettered.