The Evolution of the Evo

Currently in its tenth generation, the Mitsubishi Evolution (aka Evo) family tree started in 1992. Initially a Japanese-only release, the car proved very popular and it quickly spread throughout the UK and Europe through private import channels. By its sixth generation Mitsubishi was selling the Evo in a number of European countries and entered the North American market in 2003 with the Evo VIII.

The early Evos were homologated Group A cars – the WRC rules required 2500 production models to be made, which could then be modified to compete in the WRC. Based around a proven VR-4 drivetrain, the first Evo set the blueprint for a car that would end being not only a rally legend but a cult car amongst performance enthusiasts worldwide. The combination of a 2.0L turbocharched DOHC four cyclinder engine, matched to an AWD drivetrain became the Evo’s trademark and is still used in its latest incarnation.

The Tomi Makinen Edition Evo 6. In its rally-spec version Makinen would go on to win four driver’s championships.

While Mitsubishi had no problems selling the homologation numbers of the early Evos, the car became a real sales success after a string of WRC championships in the hands of Tommi Makinen. Makinen won the driver’s titles in 1997, 97, 98 and 99, and a manufacturer’s title (with Richard Burns) in 1998.

By the time Mitsubishi pulled out of the WRC competition in 2005, the Evo brand was synonymous with high performance, tuning and circuit and rally racing and, in the hands of privateers, Evos continued to race and win in various forms of motorsport.

Mitsubishi’s last factory rally car – the Lancer WRC05.

With their proven formula of light-weight, great handling, AWD and a very potent engine, many late model Evos continue to dominate at race tracks all around the world. The three-Evo, Pro-Duct Racing Team has won three back-to-back Australian Manufacturer’s Championships, in the Time Attack Racing, Sierra Sierra Enterprises Evo from USA and Cyber-Evo from Japan have dominated the sport, with the current world champion’s Nemo Racing Evo proving the Mitsubishi Evo is still the car to beat on the time attack scene.

Pro-Duct’s Evo X at Mt Panorama during the 2010 Bathurst 12-Hour Production Race.

The Mitsubishi Evolution also enjoys a strong following amongst tuning enthusiasts with many early models still being restored, modified, driven and raced. As the early models become rarer, the demand for them seems to be growing. If you’re an Evo novice, we’ve compiled a quick guide to the car’s lineage:

Evolution I – III. 1992 – 1995
The first Evos were bases around the proved VR-4 engine and drivetrain. Suspension upgrades and wheelbase adjustments were made for Evo II and III with the latter also featuring a revised turbocharger.

Evolution IV. 1996 – 1997
Introduction of a new Lancer platform along with a twin-scroll turbo, limited-slip front diff, active yaw control, more power but also more weight.

Evolution V-VI. 1998- 2000
With a new “World Rally Car” class in the WRC, Evo did not need to follow the homologation rules. Mitsubishi redesigned the Evo with a new turbocharger, brakes and more aggressive bodywork. Power stayed at the Japanese self-restricted 276hp.

Evolution VII. 2001-2002
A new, larger platform means Evo VII gains weight but chassis modifications make it a better handling vehicle. Active centre diff and an improved limited slip diff were also added.

Evolution VIII. 2003-2005
With a new 6-speed gearbox and improved aerodynamics, the Evo VIII was the first Evo to be sold in the USA.

Evolution IX. 2006-2008
Evo gets the MIVEC technology, boost, power and torque are all up making the car very popular with tarmac rally and time attack competitors.

Evolution X. 2008 – current.
The latest and arguably the best version of the Evolution. Based on the “Prototype X” concept car, the Evo X features a brand new, all aluminium GEMA engine. The MR version scores a 6-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmisssion (TC-SST).

Coming next – Mitsubishi Evo Modifying Guide.