Mitsubishi Lancer EVO is a legend for many of us. They are cars from one, and I would not hesitate to say, the golden era of rallying. I started going to “er-zety” Czech rallies with my dad when I was still a four or five-year-old boy. I only have fragments of experiences from that time, you don’t remember much from such a tender childhood after all. That was the time of the second half of the eighties, when Škoda 130 LR dominated our competitions, and here and there a Lancia Delta Integrale or a Sierra Cosworth flashed by. If I wanted my downright nostalgic dream car, I would choose between them. Homologated versions of competitors from the late 1980s and early 1990s are extremely expensive and rare today.

The second half of the nineties was characterized by the Lancer Evolution, which fought with the Subaru Impreza WRX STi. It would be fair to add Toyota, which especially achieved great success with the Corolla WRC. European brands did not recover until just after the turn of the millennium, when the era of dominance of the Peugeot 206 WRC, Citroën Xsara WRC and Ford Focus WRC began. The homologation rules have changed. Production cars no longer had to be so close to competition specials. It’s a shame. Although the Peugeot 206 only had its sharp version in the form of a sharp hatchback, and the Focus RS MK1, which was great to drive, was also “only” front-wheel drive. But I’m getting too off topic…

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

Both cars are characterized by large wings, which are not just for show, but really create the appropriate downforce, in the case of the EVO VI, its inclination is even adjustable.

The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI from that era was closest to my heart, and when the chance arose to buy a very well-preserved example, I jumped at the chance. A friend did something similar, but in the end he chose the newer EVO VIII, which here in Europe was sold quite commonly even in left-hand drive at that time. My car comes from the Japanese market, it was imported to Great Britain and from there it was already imported to the Czech Republic with EU documents at the time (even before Brexit). There is usually no need to solve such problems with the Lancers EVO VII-IX, those cars were normally imported here through the Mitsubishi importer, and most of the ones offered will be original left-hand EU versions. However, they are completely different cars compared to the sixth (and older) generation.

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

I remember the Lancer EVO most in this body, which started with the IV model (without the flared fenders), then for the 1998 season the winning EVO V model, and finally the VI, which even got a limited series named after Tommi Mäkinen.

The EVO VI is a raw tool, while the VIII was already built by Mitsubishi as a civilian car

It took me a few tens of kilometers spent in the snow-white Lancer EVO VIII of my friend Aleš to understand where the differences are hidden. We both have practically the same engines, even the final fine-tuning of the engine brake was provided by the same company 4turbo, which specializes in Lancery EVO, but the overall impression is different. The body of the newer car is far better soundproofed, the interior looks more valuable, and somehow I can’t lean on the chassis as straightly as I do in my car when cornering.

In the newer Lancer EVO, I might even be able to play music from the radio and hear something. I can almost forget about it in my car. In addition to the active rear differential controlled by electrohydraulics (AYC system), the Lancers EVO from the seventh generation onwards have an active central differential with presets for asphalt, gravel and snow. The car should be able to transfer even more power to the rear axle than the EVO VI model. It’s a fantastic car that you can take by the neck and it comes alive and wants more from you as the speed increases. It has very responsive, fairly light steering and I could definitely drive it every day without a problem. It’s amazing, only the older generation will offer quite a different ride.

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

We mounted the same RalliArt fenders on both cars, which should not be missing on any proper sports four-wheeler.

The Lancer EVO VI is essentially a competition car. It took me almost a thousand kilometers to get used to him and learn to understand what he really likes, what driving style is closest to him and what I should not do to him at all costs. The engine is tuned for a fantastic pull at higher revs, and every forgotten higher quality, every laziness, if I don’t downshift exactly, leave a three or four here and there, will be immediately punished by a sound that clearly says “don’t bother me, submit”.

The engine ideally requires four thousand and more to be in its element, its sound is crisp and the response to the gas is lightning fast. It is far from an engine without a turbo hole, not even by mistake. But the pressure of the turbo can be beautifully modulated with the gas, and the driver eventually learns to shift correctly so that the car does not roar unnecessarily and everything is smooth. When you get to that stage, it’s a fantasy. You need to learn to blend in with the car in a certain harmony. This will not happen on the first test drive, it will come with time. To find out, you can’t just try it, you have to buy it and live with it.

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII has a more civil, far better soundproofed interior, the Recaro seats are comfortable, but surprisingly narrow in the thigh area.

When going through a corner, you must always have a little bit of gas under your right foot, the car bites into the asphalt beautifully neutrally and turns with all four wheels. It’s a rather untransferable experience, because you won’t experience this in another car. Even rival Subaru has to drive a little differently. Although it has a beautifully symmetrical drive system and a low center of gravity of the boxer engine, for some reason it is necessary to prepare the car a little before a turn, to actively prevent initial understeer.

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI has such an overall more spartan interior, it lacks the insulating materials that make later evolutions feel more comfortable cars.

And it simply does not exist in the Lancer EVO VI. I don’t see how this is technically possible, but it is. The car always turns and it is important to take it through the entire turn with gradual throttle. You don’t even need to work too much on the steering wheel, which is a shame, its gear ratio is quite steep. In short, you go through the corner with the gas. You’re not exactly skidding, but you know very well that it’s not the steering wheel that controls the car, it’s the gas pedal. Of course, you always need to use common sense and not get too carried away, because this car can be incredibly fast, and in the hands of an overmotivated, inexperienced driver, it can be downright dangerous if he is frightened by the increasing speed in the curve and suddenly cuts off the gas at the least opportune moment.

Photo: Petr Jeřábek

The Mitsubishi 4G63t engines are both identical, but each car has a slightly different set of steering management. It’s amazing how different tuning can make a difference in the character of a virtually identical engine.

Maintenance like a racer

Now you’ve read some superlatives and I’ll admit without torture, I’m probably not completely objective – I really adore my blue Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI from a driver’s point of view. And I wasn’t a die-hard fan of four-wheelers until recently. I also drive other sports cars that have rear-wheel drive, and I enjoy them as well. However, the Lancer EVO is a great specialty and I am very glad that I finally went to buy it. And I will also continue to learn to drive it, that process will have a long continuity, it is not a beginner’s car at all.

Of course, maintenance and service is a bit of a dark side. But everything good in this world of ours costs some money. If I take the fate of my blue EVO VI, from the moment it started to be properly driven, it read the following.

All oil fillings were changed, including the differentials and hydraulics of the AYC system. The car received new spark plugs and also a fuel pump. Then it was necessary to replace the clutch lining immediately, it ended up with the replacement of the entire set including the flywheel, which is otherwise intended for the EVO IX, but fits here as well and is a more durable solution.

Tuning of the car on the engine brake also took place. Today, the control unit is set to use Natural 98 fuel. Repeated measurements show that the engine’s output at the crank is actually higher than the manufacturer’s stated, namely 354 hp (258 kW) and a torque of 471 Nm. Given that the car weighs (I measured on a truck scale) with a full tank 1,390 kg, that portion of power is truly impressive. Especially when we consider that the five-speed gearbox is folded very short and the highest gear is folded in such a way that the car will travel at maximum speed of 236 km/h. That’s more than enough, the lower gears are short and thanks to this, the EVO VI has an amazingly flexible acceleration. My friend’s EVO VIII already has a six-speed gearbox, and its top speed will probably be slightly higher.

After the car was detuned, only a few thousand kilometers were driven and it was necessary to change the coolant as a precaution, to treat the chassis and cavities with wax, and the brakes were also needed. The discs, pads, brake hoses and brake fluid were completely changed. Then the car deserved to replace the rear transverse arms on the chassis, to replace the silentblocks of the differential mounting, and the front stabilizer mounting. The protective Kevlar skid under the engine, the necessary RalliArt aprons also went forward, and the oils in the engine, differentials and gearbox were changed again.

All in all, revival after a long layoff and a year of operation with some eight thousand kilometers on such a car costs more than two hundred thousand crowns! And a friend with a white EVO VIII MR FQ320 is not doing better either. He even drove far fewer kilometers that year, but still did not avoid a complete renovation of the entire chassis, including new Bilstein B6 shock absorbers. Chassis parts are quite expensive for the Lancer EVO.

There are almost no good pieces for sale

Perhaps some would argue that we could have chosen our cars better on the market, ones that do not need so much investment in maintenance, but when you start actively looking for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, searching, asking through various acquaintances and contacts, you will find that really there are practically no perfect cars on the market. The basis is to choose an unbroken piece without corrosion or signs of past boiling, where you do not know for sure whether the car will start to rust again in a while.

The older Evolution you choose, the greater the chance (as in the case of my car) that even if you come across a beautiful untouched piece in terms of bodywork, it will not be properly worn, in short, its previous owners already had such a car more for collection than for driving. And then there are many cars on the market that have been modified in various ways, and the modifications are not always successful and desirable.

In short, it’s hard with Lancery Evolution. A really good car is really expensive these days, with the real costs of acquisition and necessary maintenance, you usually won’t get below a million crowns, the regular service plan is also at very short intervals and it is necessary to follow them.

The reward is an absolutely fantastic ride, which every big fan of car culture and rally sports in particular will appreciate and will quickly forget about all the money spent. The car offers driving experiences that you cannot get anywhere else.