2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution SE

We haven’t heard very much from the enthusiast side of Mitsubishi over the past year, and that’s no surprise given that the company is barely hanging on during the economic downturn. Just watching the traffic on the lot of our local dealer gives us an idea of the pain they are facing. How many Evo Xs have you seen on the road? And more importantly, how many Outlanders and how many Galants? And do you expect the most creative piece of work that is coming to North America, the i-MiEV, to actually save the company? We had all better hope so, because that’s where the engineering focus and the hopes of the company are riding. On an electric micro-car, in a country where regular gas is $2.50 at the peak of the summer.

But back to the Evo. Mitsubishi now offers an SE version of the Evo, which is nothing more than jiggling around the options – all that Mitsubishi can afford. Sad.

The additional functional options that were promised in the early concept and press previews of the Evo, such as an active suspension, were lost in the downturn. The evolutionary (excuse the pun) next step for this engine, a desperately needed direct injection system and a larger fuel tank, apparently have also been lost. Ditto for any kind of evolution of the SST transmission, which is brilliantly tuned but flawed in execution. A 7-speed version of it from supplier Borg-Warner sits on the shelf… and we may never see it.

Worse, the environmentalists have apparently taken over Mitsubishi back in Japan, and have gotten on the same bandwagon as the rest of the country where everything, absolutely everything, has to be a hybrid or beyond. There’s talk in the hallways already of a hybrid Evo XI. Imagine a 4200 pound Evo because of the battery pack in the trunk. OMG.

So enjoy the current Evo while you can… because unless Mitsubishi creates more appealing mainstream products to carry the brand, we won’t see the Evo evolve.

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