2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Sedan - FROM $34,495
Possessing aggressive styling and track-tuned performance, the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a keen choice for driving enthusiasts on a budget.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution receives only minor changes, including soft-touch door panels and an optional auto-dimming rearview mirror.
There are a handful of new cars today that can deliver driving excitement without breaking the bank. The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution can certainly be counted among the cheap thrills group, and it also manages to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.
Though based on the regular Mitsubishi Lancer sedan, the Evolution is a performance car, thanks to its turbocharged engine, all-wheel-drive system, stiffer chassis, bigger brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and sporty body cladding. After all is said and done, the Evo sprints to 60 mph in about 5 seconds and weaves through the slalom at speeds approaching 70 mph, numbers that are about as good as you'll find for something costing $35,000.
One of the Evolution's best attributes is its available dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, which allows the control of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic. Using the steering-column-mounted paddles, you can rip off super-quick shifts for maximum performance or you can simply keep it in automatic mode when battling traffic. In either case, this transmission is simply one of the best on the market. The same goes for the all-wheel-drive system that channels power to individual wheels as needed, and it all happens with little or no sign of intervention.
This excellence is tempered by a few drawbacks. For one, the Evo's interior doesn't stray far from the economical regular Lancer, which actually has one of the more downmarket cabins in its class. Newly padded door panels for this year certainly help in this matter, but the cabin is still a disappointment for the price. Also, the steering column does not telescope, which could pose comfort issues for taller drivers. Finally, the suspension tuning is pretty stiff, even for this class of car.
Among the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's competition, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI will always be the Evo's archrival for all-wheel-drive supremacy, but it now falls far short of the Evo in most areas. Therefore, we think a stronger contender is the Ford Mustang GT and its burly V8 engine, though its handling certainly isn't as sharp as the Mitsubishi's. Other choices could include the BMW 135i and even the Nissan 370Z with its two-seat layout. Overall, though, the Lancer Evo continues to provide excellent bang for the buck for driving enthusiasts.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a high-performance compact sedan available in GSR and MR trim levels that correspond to the transmission choices. The GSR receives the five-speed manual, while the MR gets the automated manual "Sportronic" transmission with paddle shifters.
Standard equipment on the GSR includes 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a large rear spoiler, full power accessories, automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, Recaro sport bucket seats, Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activated electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The MR is similar but has BBS alloy wheels, a smaller rear lip spoiler, xenon headlamps and softer suspension calibrations.
Optional on the GSR is the Sight and Sound package, which adds xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry and a Rockford Fosgate sound system with 10-inch subwoofer, satellite radio and an in-dash six-CD changer. Also available is the Sun and Leather package that adds a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, added sound insulation and an upgraded center console with covered bins.
Available on the MR trim is the Premium package, which includes the Rockford Fosgate audio system, chrome exterior trim, leather and faux-suede upholstery, keyless ignition/entry and the upgraded center console. A Touring package is also available that adds the sunroof, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, full leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and added sound insulation.
Either trim level can also be had with a hard-drive-based navigation system that boasts real-time traffic and digital music storage.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Lancer Evolution is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The GSR comes only with a five-speed manual transmission, while the MR is equipped with Mitsubishi's excellent six-speed automated manual transmission with column-mounted paddle shifters. Power is sent to all four wheels through an advanced all-wheel-drive system.
Acceleration for either Evo is impressive. In Edmunds performance testing, a GSR required only 4.9 seconds to sprint from zero to 60 mph, while the MR did it in 5 flat. Fuel economy, as a result, is much less impressive, at an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for the GSR and 17/22/19 for the MR versions.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution include antilock brakes, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, stability control and a variety of advanced handling technologies.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Lancer Evolution came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 113 feet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the regular Lancer a top score of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Evo's interior is tame compared to its aggressive exterior styling. Recaro sport bucket seats, alloy foot pedals, fancier gauges and a different steering wheel are the only things that differentiate the spicy Evo from the commonplace Lancer GT. Those Recaros are highly supportive and comfortable, but the driver seat's lack of a height adjustment and the steering wheel's tilt-only column make finding an ideal driving position difficult for many drivers, not just tall ones.
Most of the interior materials are the same as those on the regular Lancer, which is to say that they're below average for an economy car and downright disappointing for a vehicle costing about $35,000. This year's new soft-touch door panels are at least standard on the Evo, whereas they're optional on the higher-trimmed Lancer.
The Evo's utility is actually less than the regular Lancer's, as the rear seats don't fold down and the battery and washer fluid reservoir have been relocated to the trunk for better weight distribution. Total trunk space is just 7 cubic feet, which is on par with tiny roadsters. Adding the optional stereo upgrade with the massive trunk-mounted subwoofer reduces that capacity even further.
On the plus side, most controls are within easy reach and simple in operation, and the standard Fuse voice activation system makes some audio and navigation functions a hands-free affair.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a sports car in compact sedan clothing. The advanced all-wheel-drive system works behind the scenes to give the car very impressive handling and traction abilities. Spirited drivers will also appreciate the Evo's ultra-responsive steering and ample amount of road feedback.
For daily commutes, the Evo is less inspiring, mostly because the ride quality is rather stiff. That goes for the MR models as well, though their Bilstein dampers give them a touch more ride compliance. The excellent automated dual-clutch manual transmission makes the MR trims the clear choice for those who plan to commute in their Evos. Regardless of which model you choose, you'll have an immensely fun car with performance that's nearly impossible to beat for the price.