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.
The rest of the journey was spent either in the wrong ‘gear’ or waiting while the SST gearbox appeared to ride notone clutch, but two.
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.