When Mitsubishi launched the Evo X, it said it was going after a new type of customer, one a little more mature than the traditional Evo buyer.
Specifically, it mentioned stealing sales from the M3. Personally I think that’s a touch ambitious given the differential between the £30k Evo and the £50k M3. But how about Audi’s new S4, which with 328bhp, 324lbft and costing £34k is pretty evenly matched with my long-term FQ-360? Intrigued, I swiped the keys for the weekend.
The S4 is evidence of the downsizing trend. Gone is the previous gen’s naturally aspirated 4.2 V8 (which was a belter), replaced by a supercharged 3.0 V6. While it misses out on some of the V8’s character, especially aurally, it is reasonably punchy, with a nice crisp response.
The supercharged S4 motor has no hesitation, unlike the Evo's turbo, but, wound right round to the red line, it doesn’t have the same mental enthusiasm. The Audi’s V6 will most likely return better economy, is certainly more refined and, in real-world-driving, is nearly as quick, but it seems a bit tame next to the Evo’s whistles and bangs.
Where the S4 comprehensively whips the Evo is with its seven-speed twin-clutch S-Tronic gearbox, which makes Mitsubishi’s SST equivalent look embarrassingly inadequate.
No doubt the S4 is quieter and more cosseting than the Evo, while being practically as rapid, but I struggled to engage with it. Throw it at a corner and it feels secure and predictable but heavy handed, while the Evo is all lightness and agility. Basically it comes down to the fact that while you could pedal the S4 along at quite some pace, I’m not sure you’d particularly want to.
So is it the perfect car for the Evo driver that’s outgrown the Evo image? I don’t think so. Despite the similar on-paper billing, they offer different propositions. Me? I’ll stick to the Evo.