Though officially it was hailed as just another of Detroit's conceptual offerings, after the covers came off Mitsubishi's Prototype-X yesterday (8 January 2007), there were few from the company who bothered to deny how close it was in appearance to the highly-anticipated tenth Lancer Evo.
Appearing through the smoke at the Cobo Centre, the Prototype X struck a purposeful, menacing first impression. The Concept X, which was Mitsubishi's first hint at the shape of the Evo X 18 months ago, has been toned down only marginally in the transition into this car; its gaping trapezoid grille, and its bulging bonnet and wheelarches were evident, but in slightly more modest form.
However, as Mitsubishi's North American chief designer David O'Connell told Autocar, there'll be almost no more changes made to the car between now and the Evo X's production debut in Tokyo this year. 'This car is sheet metal,' he pointed out, 'pressed from the moulds of the road car, and inside there's almost no difference between it and the finished car.
'Our official estimate is that it's 95 per cent Evo X,' he went on 'but actually, barring a few details like headlights and door mirrors, if you can look back and distinguish it from the finished car, I'll be very surprised.'
Mitsubishi even released a bit of technical info on the new Evo. It will use a turbocharged version of the new Lancer's all-aluminium 2.0-litre four-pot, which is 20kg lighter than the outgoing engine, and has been engineered to run even higher levels of boost.
The engine will be coupled to a clutchless, paddle-operated six-speed robotised manual gearbox as an option to the normal five-speed stick shift, and power will find its way to the road via Mitsubishi's new Super All Wheel Control system, which will be combined an active centre differential with active yaw control and, for the first time on an Evo, active skid control.