no doubting the new Mitsubishi Evo X is a fabulous machine. I’m no track-meister, but the speed with which it could be conjured around Prodrive’s track near Kenilworth on a recent launch was truly impressive.
After just a few confidence-building laps I felt ready to drive it harder than any other road car I’ve tried on a track thanks to an idiot-proof chassis with an abundance of grip, stability, turn-in and traction and, it must be said, an alphabet soup of acronyms and technology that allowed me to drive the Evo reliably on the limit at high speed. Incredible.
The contrast with the cooking Lancer that I later tried on the public road was never more marked. I expected the everyday Lancer to deliver such a tarmac-ripping performance, just drive and steer fluidly and with enough verve and feedback to make a back-road drive at normal speed enjoyable.
Japan’s other great exponent of the rallying homologation special Subaru has fallen into a similar trap with the new Impreza. By all accounts the WRX and STi version are fine drives (although no match for the Evo, I’m told). Yet the basic Impreza disappoints.
When it comes to making motorsport and road cars overlap, it seems the best Europeans have got this licked. The Ford Focus, for example, excites even in it's lowest power incarnations, while the ST version adds extra performance and looks on top of an already best-in-class chassis. The same goes for BMW. An entry-level 318d is an excellent drive and a great starting point for the M3.
Mazda’s excellent new 6 proves the point, really. Here’s a fine looking family car with a great chassis, yet no performance MPS to distract Mazda’s best engineers. In fact a super-sensible, high output diesel might take that model’s spot in the line-up.
Seems to me that some Japanese car-makers need to learn a lesson or two from their competitors at home and the best of Europe’s car-makers about how to make exciting cooking cars before throwing all their engineering resources into brilliant, but largely irrelevant image models.