by Scott Corlett
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR is a primal beast. Unlike most of its Mitsu siblings, the EVO has the right genes to survive in the cutthroat automotive jungle. Long prized by the Fast-and-Furious set, the EVO is ultra-nimble, bluntly responsive, and swift as spit. But you don’t have to hang around empty parking lots waiting for an impromptu throw down to love this sports sedan; if you crave hard Gs on a freeway onramp or a stomach-levitating sprint on a stretch of open road, the $36k EVO MR delivers all the thrills of higher priced, German road eaters.
Just in time for spring cleaning, the 2006 Lance Evolution MR arrived in our San Francisco driveway. For some people, this vernal ritual entails hoeing out the closets, wiping a year’s worth of dust from the top the refrigerator, and spelunking amongst the under-bed detritus (hmmm … now where did this leopard-skin-print thong come from?). For us, spring cleaning means one thing only—a pulse-quickening shine up of our driving skills, which inevitably dull over the course of wet Northern California winters. The EVO comes in three trims: the lightweight RS, the IX, and the MR. With an extra gear in the box and key component upgrades, the MR (despite its $6000 markup over the RS) is the only way to go. In fact, we can think of few vehicles better than the EVO MR in which to perform our annual rite of reflex sharpening and response time testing..
To drive fast and hard, we always head for one road: the Oakville Grade, which cuts over the Mayacamas Mountains between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. An hour’s drive north of San Francisco, this tangle of blacktop is the perfect challenge for the EVO’s turbocharged, 286-hp, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine. We turned onto the Grade and pushed the EVO’s aluminum gas pedal to the floor for a brief moment of pure joy before we ticked the six-speed manual transmission into second, pressed the metal down again, and let her rip. The turbo kicked in and we grinned like the Cheshire cat as we were shoved back into the curvaceous, well-bolstered Recaro seat.
We left the valley floor behind and started up the steep, tortuous climb. The EVO’s quick-ratio steering is more communicative than that of any other car save for a few exotics and it certainly served us well as we tore into switchback after switchback. Over pavement potholed by winter’s rains, the Bilstein shock absorbers smoothed the ride. When the laws of physics dictated their use, the Brembos grabbed faster and tighter than our hands on cashmere that we’ve found on the sales rack at Saks.
We crested the run and the Sonoma Valley, which was dotted by patches of carefully tended vineyards, stretched out before us. With DNA selected over nine generations, the 2006 EVO MR could have beat any of the Asian performance sedans and most of the European four-door runners on the sprint down that mountain. Back on flat land, we pulled off the road to catch our breath. With our spring cleaning complete and the raw gurgle of the EVO’s idling engine in the background, we just hoped that the dust bunnies were able to find their own way out from under our bed.
Mitsubishi is a gay-friendly company.