For two decades, Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution was the last word in mean, street-fighting machines. With other-worldly grip, absurd levels of boost, and a pedigree that included four World Rally Championships and two Bathurst 12 hour wins, the Evo was a stealthy supercar killer. Four versions have made their way into Project CARS 2—three factory-spec’, and one—a 1,150hp monster—tuned to exhilarating levels of performance by SVA Imports and plucked from the wild-world of the UK’s Time Attack series 

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Mitsubishi Motors with its three-diamond branding has a long, storied, and complicated history dating back to the Mitsubishi zaibatsu in the 1870s. Mitsubishi Motors created Japan’s first series-produced car back in 1917, Japan’s first four-wheel drive in 1937 (the PX33), and has sold its Galant disguised as a Dodge Colt, a Dodge Charger, and a Chrysler Sigma. A tiny part of a vast multi-national concern, Mitsubishi Motors is a mystery in an enigma that can only be revealed by going back to 1870s Japan.

Or we can just skip all of that and move right on to the 10 iterations of the nastiest street-dueling cars ever built—the diamond in the crest of Mitsubishi Motors, the midnight racer’s weapon of choice, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the chosen four in Project CARS 2…

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Group B, Baby! … Well, almost …

Mitsubishi’s racing pedigree is built on off-road proficiency. Sure, the company’s first venture into motorsport, back in ’62, may have been at Macau when its 500 Super Deluxe (with a 500cc, 2-cylinder engine capable of a whopping 25hp) swept the podium in the under-750cc class, but it was in the ’70s when the brand started gaining worldwide attention, first with the Lancer 1600GSR that won the East African Safari Rally, and then the Pajero that triumphed at the Paris-Dakar. Mitsubishi pegged its brand on technological know-how and rugged adaptability, and entering the World Rally Championship was an obvious next step.

Group B—the fastest, craziest, deadliest era of rallying—lasted four short but glorious years between ’82 and ’86 when fatalities, to both drivers and fans, gave the sanctioning body little option but to end the madness right at the time when Mitsubishi were on the verge of entering with their Starion prototype.

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With a racing budget already secured, Mitsubishi turned their attention to the Galant VR-4 sedan that they felt could easily be modified to fit WRC’s new Group A rules while the Group B cars migrated over to Rallycross. In ’88, Mitsubishi entered the WRC with the Galant and managed three wins in three seasons.

In ’90, with rally events moving to snugger, more demanding (and safer) courses, the big Group A cars themselves became obsolete overnight. Ford responded by swapping the mighty Sierra Cosworth (also in Project CARS 2) with the Escort, Subaru went from the Legacy to the Impreza, and Mitsubishi from the Galant to their purpose-built new challenger—the Lancer Evolution. No-one knew it at the time, but a legend had just been born.

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When an evolution became a revolution

For homologation into Group A, Mitsubishi built 5,000 street-legal Lancer Evolutions. In essence, they were pretty-much the Galant VR-4 in new clothes: lighter and smaller, but still with the same integral pieces beneath the snazzy new coat. It debuted in ’92, and featured the 2-litre iron-block turbocharged DOHC engine (4G63) which would power all Lancer Evos (rally and production) from series I through IX, and the four-wheel drive system which would power the Evo into the history books. It was a solid debut, though hardly earth-shattering, and the Evo II that arrived a year later brought a few refinements that did nothing to suggest Mitsubishi were about to set the world on fire.

Then the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III happened. It came with a new body-style, new aero’, new turbo and, over in the WRC in the lightning-quick hands of Tommi Mäkinen’s, a new cycle of rally dominance that would thrust man and machine into an exclusive band of motorsport deities.

 

Starting in ’96 and ending in ’99, Mäkinen would storm to the WRC crown using the Evo III, IV, V, and VI—four evolutions of the Evo, four world crowns including, with Richard Burns as team-mate, the coveted Constructor’s in ’98. The street-version meanwhile, on the back of Mäkinen’s rally dominance, was also making some serious strides, not only in performance, but in global notoriety.

Rally success fueled the myth of the Evo. Available only in Japan, it nevertheless became a coveted machine around the world, a whispered secret amongst the cognoscenti, the unattainable street-fighting machine. In Europe, Mitsubishi dealers kept sending their sales teams over to Japan begging for a European version of the Evo. Mitsubishi finally acceded to the demands in ’99 with the Evo VI—the first to be available in Europe, and the last word, for many, in the evolution of the Evo.

The Evo VI was that rare thing, a legend from the very instant of its birth. In factory spec’, the car was unassailable. But factory spec’ was not the point—the point was tuning the Evo into individualized beasts vanishing into the night and leaving behind nothing but blushing German bluster and vanquished American muscle. The Evo was born to live somewhere near the 7,000RPM limit where it just exploded into life, while some form of ancient Japanese wizardry glued the thing to the road.

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In Project CARS 2 you will come to know not one, but two of these Evo VIs. The first is the SVA Imports version that runs in the UK Time Attack series. It may well be the fastest Lancer VI ever built. The second is the greatest factory Evo ever made, bar none, by the passionate all-stars at Ralliart (Mitsubishi’s go-faster department).

Lancer Evo VI SVA —1,150hp waiting to destroy your ego …

The SVA-spec’ Evo VI holds the lap record for UK Time Attack at Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Croft, Oulton Park, and Snetterton. The reason is pretty obvious even if you happen to ignore the carbon composite flat floor, rear diffuser, splitter, and enormous rear wing.

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Under the composite body, there’s not much left of the original Evo apart from the bulk head and floor plan to comply with WTAC regulations. The track is much wider, and centre of gravity far lower than the stock Evo. The 4G63 engine has been upped to 2.4-litres running race grade e98 ethanol. That’s enough for just over 1,000hp when combined with a custom Garrett GTx42 turbo and dynamic fuel injectors. But why stop at 1,000hp when you can add a Dry 4 Nitrous Direct Port system good for another 150hp? SVA have never actually managed a power-run with full NOS, as the car just squirms about, though you will have a Drenth sequential gearbox with paddle flat-shift and auto upshift controlled by Syvecs, and an Audi r8 drive-by-wire throttle to make things a little less insane.

The ride height, meanwhile, is critical when setting the car up. The idea is to gain the most aero’ ground effect, which means the splitter needs to be 20mm from the ground under load. This is measured by potentiometers on the suspension that feed back to data logger. The diff’ set-up also plays a big part—the slower and tighter the circuit, the more open they run the electronic diff’ controlled by MoTeC MDC.

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Driving this thing, according to SVA, is for heroes only. “Unless you brake really late and carry so much speed into the corner that you think you’re going to crash, you’re not going fast enough, and you’re leaving time on the track.”

Given you’ll be burning over 1,000hp, that speed you’ll be carrying into the turns is going to hurt if you get it wrong. Heroes-only need apply.

The Tommi Mäkinen Edition—the ghost is in the machine

It came at the beginning of the century and it heralded the future like no other. The only superlative that makes sense is supernatural. The Mäkinen Edition was officially built as an Evo VI, but ten minutes in the cockpit will be enough to make you believe Mäkinen’s ghost has somehow been fused with the machine. It came with Mäkinen’s logo embossed Recaro seats, a quicker lock-to-lock Momo wheel, a titanium turbo, and reputedly 276hp. Out of the box, it got to 100kmh in 4.5 seconds. But numbers are irrelevant.

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The Mäkinen Edition’s Active Yaw Control was never bettered by any Evo before or after. Given the turbo lag, the car had a supernatural ability to just remain planted no matter what sorts of crazy began happening when the turbo spooled-up and banshee-wailed mid-way through a turn. Oh, and then there was that mysterious hole up front. This is the Evo lover’s Evo, and remains, for many, the greatest car that Mitsubishi ever built. Almost twenty years since its release, you’ll struggle to find any production car that comes close to the sheer grip and performance of the Mäkinen Edition. If you need a street-fighting machine for a wet day at the ’Ring in Project CARS 2, you may just have found it.

Lancer Evolution IX FQ-360—a stumbling giant regains its balance

The Evo brand, by the mid-2000s, could do no wrong. And yet, looking back, the Evo VI may have been the high-water mark. The Evo VII took the guts from the Mäkinen Edition and shoved it into the bigger Lancer Cedia when the FIA mandated Mitsubishi follow WRC instead of Group A rules, which meant homologation became largely redundant. The Evo VII came with giant Brembo brakes, ABS, and an electronic brake-force distribution system, but power, for the first time in the Evo’s evolution, remained static.

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It also gained over 100kgs, and came with a semi-automatic option. The purists whispered that the beloved Evo had gone mainstream. For many, that was confirmed when it landed a plum role in Hollywood, in the second iteration of the ‘Fast and the Furious’. On the back of that, Mitsubishi Japan began seeing a steady stream of US-based Mitsubishi dealers clamoring, as the Europeans had some time earlier, for some Evos in their showrooms.

Mitsubishi were reluctant at first to create an Evo for the US market, but seeing Subaru’s success with its WRX, they finally bowed to the inevitable and sent the Evo VIII to the LA Auto Show in 2003. It came with an enormous configurable wing and over 19 pounds of boost. On low power, rumor was it could take up to two very long seconds to spool before it shrugged and snapped the driver’s neck. The car was an immediate success, and in 2005 came the Evo IX that debuted at the New York Auto Show. Nothing much had changed body-shape wise, through there was something cool added to the enormous rear-wing—an actual Gurney flap—and the 2-litre now featured MIVEC tech’ with variable valve timing.

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The FQ-360 GSR, when it was released in 2006, was the top of the line Evo IX and available only in the UK. This is the third Evo in Project CARS 2. Why this one? How about, as the name suggests, 360hp? It debuted into a market that had become jaded by rally-themed supercar-beaters, and perhaps sensing the slump, Mitsubishi tried to make this a friendlier beast, taming the madcap redline insanity with a more curved torque throughout the rev range, and zeroing-in on its suburban capabilities. Still, 0-100 came in sub-4 seconds, and bang-for-buck, there was no car in the UK that could come close. On a wet or snowy day in Project CARS 2, there’s not a lot of production cars that will come close to this Evo.

The brand, though, was aging, no longer the midnight beast of street-racing lore. Out of the WRC and into the mainstream. Tamed and bloated. Middle-age spread saw sales flatten with the IX, and when the X came along in 2008, things didn’t improve. With 300kgs of fat added since the Evo I, and the 4G63 swapped out for an all-new 4B11T turbocharged 2-litre all-aluminium GEMA engine, the Evo of lore was no more. Sales flatlined. The magic, they said, was gone. Rumors began to intensify that Mitsubishi was finished with the Evo. The X, they said, was it.

Mitsubishi, though, were not quite done yet.

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Lancer Evo X FQ400 and the end of the road

In 2009 came the most powerful Evo in history—the 400hp FQ400. Style-wise, Mitsubishi went back to the Evo VI with the FQ400’s bodymods, while Eibach springs and Bilsten shocks meant the ride was lowered by over 30mm. The bodymods weren’t the only tip-of-the-hat to the old VI, either—gone were the paddle-shifters, and in came a short-shift 6-speed manual. Top speed was an electronically limited 155mph, and you can select three rides for the four-wheel drive system—tarmac, gravel, and snow. Zero to 100 came in 3.8 seconds.

And that, the last Evo in Project CARS 2, was also the last hurrah for the Evo. It notched up a couple of wins at the Bathurst 12 Hour on the way out, and there were some late stuttering additions such as the Evolution X Concept Final in 2014 (with 473hp), and then the final Evo, in the guise of a limited 1,600 US ‘Final Edition’. But as good as they were, the spirit of the Evo had long since been lost—a spirit that you will find living in the four Evos in Project CARS 2—the ultimate street fighting machines.

 

The Lancer Evo VI SVA, Lancer Evo X FQ400, the Tommi Mäkinen Edition Evo, and the FQ-360 GSR will come with Project CARS 2 in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC

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