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Old 11-13-2006, 10:23 AM   #1
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Default European First Drive: 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX FQ-360 (edmunds.com)

European First Drive: 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX FQ-360 (edmunds.com)


Driving the fastest Evo in the real world

The trouble with extreme cars is that they can never be extreme enough. Just as Mercedes has seen fit to increase the power of the SLR from 626 horsepower to 722 hp, so Mitsubishi UK has produced an evolution of the Evolution, the 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX FQ-360. British customers not content with the standard car's already-generous 305 hp can now indulge themselves with a 366-hp special, engineered by the importer's tuning division, Ralliart, and sold with a proper warranty.

The FQ-360 yes, "FQ" really does stand for "f*cking quick" is not the most powerful "Evo" that Ralliart has produced. In 2004 it indulged us with a 400-hp version of the Evolution VIII but that car was too focused for its own good. While it was fantastic fun on the right road, the PR-friendly power output compromised its drivability and undermined the Evo's "everyday supercar" aspirations. The FQ-360 is an attempt to right that wrong.

"We've worked hard to optimize the FQ-360's drivability," says Paul Brigden, Ralliart's general manager. "We wanted to deliver the best possible driving experience, rather than concentrating on a headline-grabbing power output."

The engine
The uprated engine mixes components from the FQ-400 and the Evo IX. The 1,997cc four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo engine used in Evos since the dawn of time has been overhauled with the introduction of a high-pressure fuel pump and a high-flow catalytic converter, both of which were pinched from the FQ-400. The ECU is new and bespoke.

Brigden and his team have tuned the car for torque. The peak output of 363 pound-feet is 8 lb-ft more than the FQ-400 produced, and it delivers 2,200 rpm lower down the rev range at 3,200 rpm. That's also 74 lb-ft more than a U.S.-spec Evo IX musters. The peak power output is 366 hp at 6,887 rpm, 80 hp more than the U.S. car.

The performance
Mitsubishi UK reckons the Evo IX will pummel its way from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and top 160 mph, compared with a claimed 3.5 seconds and 175-plus mph for the FQ-400. In the real world, the difference between the two is marginal, but there can be no denying that the 360 feels massively quicker than the stock car.

There is something otherworldly about the way the FQ-360 gathers pace. Above 3,000 rpm, it doesn't so much accelerate as throw itself at the horizon. Anyone with a weak constitution should call a cab this car has the ability to rearrange your intestines.

The control
The Evo's chassis is unchanged for the FQ-360, but that's no bad thing. The MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension, developed by Bilstein, is joined by a full complement of electronic toys. The four-wheel-drive system incorporates Super ABS, Super Active Yaw Control (AYC) and an Active Centre Differential (ACD).

Put simply, a bunch of sophisticated electronics combine to distribute the engine's torque in a bid to optimize the handling. While the ACD distributes the torque from front to rear, the AYC orchestrates the rear wheels to quell the onset of understeer. These systems were no doubt designed by engineers with brains the size of Jupiter and instead of spoiling the fun, they complement the skills of the enthusiastic driver. The Super ABS system has even been optimized for those who like to use the brakes as a means of balancing the car, not just as a way of reducing its velocity.

In the FQ-360, the benefits of these systems are thrown into sharper focus by the increased performance. It is more adjustable than ever before, but the exquisite steering feel and positive gearchange remain present and correct. The ride is firm, of course, but it's not so firm that the car hops and skips on less-than-perfect blacktop. The damping has a subtlety that complements the sledgehammer performance.

The Brembo brakes with monster ventilated discs grabbed by four-piston calipers at the front and two-piston calipers at the rear also feel more than capable of coping with the extra thrust.

The aesthetics
Mitsubishi's mouthpieces will tell you that the new carbon-fiber front lip spoiler and rear vortex generator provide additional downforce and that this makes a significant contribution to the car's handling. But in a quiet moment, they'll also concede that the changes were necessary to differentiate the FQ-360 from its lesser brethren.

The same philosophy also applies to the Speedline alloys, which mimic Mitsubishi's tarmac-spec rally car and are unique to the 360. In common with the rest of the Evo range, they're shod with Yokohama ADVAN AO46 235/45ZR17 tires.

And for those who simply have to shout, "Mine's bigger than yours," Mitsubishi is also offering a free-of-charge decal kit. Fitted by the dealer, it's attached to the C-pillar and lists some of the key component suppliers. Don't do it.

Inside, Evo spotters will have to content themselves with a single revision: Occupying the oddments storage box beneath the stereo is a Ralliart Sports Meter Kit. Three dials display battery voltage, turbo boost pressure and, most usefully, the oil temperature.

The rest of the cabin is as simple and functional as ever. The tiny Momo steering wheel remains a delight to hold and the leather/Alcantara chairs grip like Crazy Glue. There's also the usual complement of electric windows/mirrors, air-conditioning and five-seater practicality. The Evo isn't the last word in refinement engine boom is tiresome on the highway but it can justify its claim to be an everyday proposition.

Final thoughts
In the U.K., the FQ-360 costs 35,539 ($66,700), which is 7,500 ($14,076) more than the entry-level 305-hp FQ-300. The FQ is therefore something of a performance bargain in a land where an entry-level Porsche 911 costs 59,318 ($111,328).

The FQ-360 is the last of a special breed. Next year, the familiar Lancer Evolution shape will be replaced by the new and radically different Evo X.

There have been endless versions of the Evo over the years we've driven a VII with 715 hp, for example but few, if any, have delivered the breadth of qualities of the FQ-360. The Evolution's final hour is also its finest.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Old 11-13-2006, 10:24 AM   #2
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Old 11-13-2006, 10:29 AM   #3
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Yes plz... Ill trade now
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Old 11-13-2006, 12:14 PM   #4
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Wow, cool and tacky all at the same time.
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Old 11-13-2006, 12:21 PM   #5
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Hate the wheels though, but overall a decent package. What's especially nice is that you don't jeopardize you're warranty (although the value of it is questionable, at least with the American division).

Still though, I don't know that I'd trade my IX MR for it. I guess it would all come down to money; since it's not that costly to get the U.S. spec Evos up to that performance level, it would have to be pretty competitively priced for me to jump on this.
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Old 11-13-2006, 12:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Geese1 View Post

Hate the wheels though, but overall a decent package.
My sentiments as well. Nice package overall but the wheel designer should be fired!
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Old 11-13-2006, 10:29 PM   #7
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I love it. It makes me want an evo.
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