After countless different models of ever-more ferocious versions over the years, it’s fairly obvious by now what not to expect from a car like the Evo FQ-400.
You’d be missing the point, for example, if you were to expect much in the way of ride comfort from your FQ-400 over a badly surfaced British town road. Nor could you bargain on much sympathy if you were pulled over for doing 87mph in it on the M1. Drive an Evo and you’re either in the club or out of it, which means most normal folks think you’re a complete lunatic behind the wheel.
Nor, however, do you expect to pay 47 grand for a car like this. One of the core appeals of Evos past has been their ability to offer twice the real-world performance for half the price of most so-called more exotic rivals – and that’s fine when the starting price is £30,000 or less. At nearly 50 grand, however, the Evo’s giant-killer status moves into an entirely different arena. And unless it can deliver, well, let’s just say it’ll be walking on extremely thin ice.
On the other hand, although we’ve been programmed to expect Daley Thompson-style heights of all-round dynamic prowess from our Evos, performance of the kind offered by the FQ-400 has not so far been part of its repertoire. And in the end that’s what the 400 is all about: an ability to go and stop more dramatically (much more dramatically) than any other Evo in history.
How does the FQ-400 achieve such instant iconic status among an already iconic brand? In short by dishing out 405bhp at 6400rpm and 355lb ft at 5500rpm, sufficient to send it to 60mph in 3.5sec and eventually to over 175mph. To attain the required power and torque most of the engine’s key components have been replaced, except, interestingly, the crank.
There’s a much bigger Garrett turbo, stronger forged pistons, forged conrods, a beefier cylinder head, an entirely new exhaust system, a bigger Motec ECU and a far more efficient fuel pump. Unsurprisingly, the clutch has also been heavily uprated and is effectively now a competition unit, although the gearbox and basic suspension set-up are unchanged from those of lesser models.
Despite the fact that there’s an acknowledged school of thought that says it’s impossible to reliably get such a huge amount of power from the Evo’s standard 4G63 2.0-litre block, engine tuners, Flow Race have squeezed an extraordinary 202.5bhp per litre from the motor. Incredibly, Mitsubishi says it’s sturdy enough to come with a full three-year factory warranty.
Just 100 FQ-400s will be built and all will be offered with free driver tuition (which is a wise move, assuming Mitsubishi can find 100 punters bold enough over the next two years). Mind you, the engine spec alone will be enough to sell this car to some customers.
Visually, you can pick the 400 from its weedier brethren in several key areas. The roof sports a row of carbonfibre fins, which bear more than a passing resemblance to a punk hairdo. There are also black Team dynamics alloys, funkier door mirrors, a much deeper carbonfibre chin spoiler and even different wiper covers. These are also fashioned from carbonfibre and have the word Ralliart stamped into them. Some folks will no doubt find this an irresistible feature; others will consider them pretty naff.
I admit I was suspicious about the Mother-FQ before I drove it. I thought it may even be one of the more misguided attempts to get from over here to over there as quickly as possible, and I feared a lack of flexibility to the power delivery would be its biggest crime. Wrong.
No, the 400 does not pick up anywhere near as low down the rev range as a standard Evo, but it still has an operating range of at least 3500rpm. And when it does eventually start to operate…even a big-engined Caterham would struggle to leave it in most give-and-take situations, and certainly you’d have no problem whatsoever staying with either of the latest two Lamborghinis in a straight line until well into three figures.
And the very best thing about the 400’s power delivery is that because it’s turbocharged (heavily turbocharged, let’s face it) it actually feels faster than it really is. The way this car can squeeze your kidneys as the turbo comes on-boost remains one of the most thrilling experiences you are ever likely to have on four wheels.
Listen to any ’80s F1 driver talk about ‘the turbo era’ and they all go glassy-eyed, some of them a little spooked by the memory, most of them merely thrilled to have been part of it. Why? Because you simply don’t get the same rush of torque from a big normally-aspirated engine as you do from a turbocharged lump running high boost.
Up to 3400rpm there is merely waiting, and the suspense can even prove mildly frustrating. Then at 3500rpm the familiar rustlings from beneath the bonnet start to happen, and although there’s no more forward thrust to speak of, you know the haymaker has begun its journey. It’s in the post, as they say, and so long as you keep your size 10 where it is you know the delivery is going to occur any second now.
And then… woaaaaaah! At 3800rpm it happens. And it is absolutely flaming magnificent. And it continues from here right up to the 7400rpm cut-out, tailing off fractionally perhaps over the last 500rpm or so but basically staying constant and powerful and totally unstoppable – right across a range of almost 4000rpm.
As for the rest of the car, it kind of fades into the background compared with the acceleration. Which is saying something considering how well the FQ-400 stops – thanks to its uprated Alcon brakes – and how well it sticks to and goes around corners. And even the ride is no worse than that of the standard car mainly because (wisely) they’ve kept the suspension exactly the same.
Inevitably the big question comes back to that price; for an Evo it’s horrendously, laughably, inappropriately expensive. But then again, no Evo ever went down the road like this. For the committed few the FQ-400 will be the must-have experience of the moment, and it therefore won’t matter how much it costs. For most other folks it will be an offensive and irrelevant nuisance. Same as it ever was in Evo-world, I guess.