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Mitsubishi Lancer Evo: JDM Buyers Guide

Mitsubishi Evo Import

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Lancer Evo is Mitsubishi’s answer to the four-door sports sedan. In fact, it was made to compete with Subaru’s popular Impreza WRX of the time. It was in production from 1992-2016 and remains an icon to this day. In the 90’s and 00’s rally racing was really taking off and fans wanted to have road versions of their favorite cars they saw on TV. After seeing Subaru’s success with the WRX, Mitsubishi introduced their version of an AWD mid-size sedan, and the rivalry was on.

Unfortunately, the US market didn’t get the Evo until 2003, but other nations such as various European countries and Japan got to enjoy it from the very beginning. Even though the car was in production for a total of only 24 years, Mitsubishi had 10 official versions of the Evo. The last generation was in production for nearly 10 years, meaning that a new version was pumped out almost every year.

The famed automaker claims that that several models until 2005 had 276 horsepower because they had a gentleman’s agreement with other automotive manufacturers. We now know that those numbers were downplayed as most cars easily had over 300 horsepower and some models were reported to have as much as 440 horsepower!

This guide will provide you with all the necessary information about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo so that you know what to look for and what its common issues are when it comes time to buy one. Using this information will help you get the best deal and arm you with vital information about this legendary sports sedan.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Not as common as their archenemy, the WRX
  • Reasonably priced
  • Great engine and drivetrain
  • It’s a sedan
  • Unbeatable traction in any weather conditions
  • Handles like its on rails

Cons

  • Up until 2005, most models were RHD
  • Parts are harder to find
  • Less aftermarket support
  • Relatively heavy car for its size
  • It will never reach the same level of fame as the WRX

Common Issues

As we all know by now, no car is or will ever be perfect and issue-free, and the Evo is definitely not immune to that. We could really expand on this list and include all the issues that come with modifying the car which in turn puts stress on various parts, but for the sake of this article we will focus only on common issues found on stock cars.

Suspension knocking noise. This is most commonly heard when taking corners; and believe us when we say that it sounds worse than it actually is. The knocking is the car’s way of telling you that most likely the struts need to be lubricated. Yes, it’s as simple as that.

Whining noise. Some owners have reported that they hear a whining noise coming from their gearbox and it only gets louder once you reach 40 mph. That’s usually a sign of the throw out bearings failing. Replacing the output shaft bearings will solve that problem.

Bad smell coming from the climate control. Unfortunately, the climate control systems in cars usually get overlooked and therefore the drain holes will get blocked. Once this happens, the debris and dirt caught in there has nowhere to go and ends up creating that ungodly smell. Simply unblocking the evaporator drain hole will resolve this issue for you.

Engine idling problems. This issue can be caused by a number of different things, but the most common cause of this is the idle control valve itself. If you notice that the car is idling at more than 1000 rpm, then you should think about cleaning the idle control valve and if that doesn’t help, changing it should.

Sudden jolts. The boost actuator on the Evo is well documented to fail prematurely. Sudden and unexplained jolts or notice boost loss high in the rpm range, then the boost actuator is more than likely your problem. A replacement actuator should bring the car back to normal. 

So, there you have it, the most common issues found on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Compared to some other cars, this list is relatively small. Keep these common issues in mind when it comes time to go buy your very own Evo.

Average Price

Because the Evo is a much rarer car compared to the WRX STI, prices can be all over the places. JDMBuySell.com has list of JDM dealers that have Evo’s priced anywhere from $5,500 and go all the way up to $55,000!

Let’s have a look at both ends of the spectrum and see what kind of cars you can get for 5k and see what 50k will get you.

Most Expensive Examples:

Cheapest Examples:

View all Mitsubishi Lancer Evo vehicles listed for sale.

Comparable Alternatives

In the world of mid-size sport sedans there are plenty of choices from several manufacturers. Not all of them may be turbo or AWD models, but they can be remarkably similar to the Evo in other ways. Here is a list of cars that could compete with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.

There it is. Some of the best competitors to the Evo. There are others that could be added to the list, be we decided to keep it short as to not throw you off track from getting your dream car. 

Models and Specifications

Evo I (1992-1994)

Mitsubishi Evo I (1992-1994)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/42/aa/d2/42aad29766630aa18b2ea690b1181d56.jpg

The original Evo was introduced in October 1992 and used the drivetrain from the Mitsubishi Galant. This included its turbocharged 2.0L engine and AWD system. The only transmission option was a five-speed manual. It used a limited slip differential and produced a total of 244 horsepower and 228 lb. ft. of torque at 6000 rpm.

Evo II (1994-1995)

Mitsubishi Evo II (1994-1995)
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Produced until February 1995, the Evo II consisted of a few, but important upgrades. This consisted mainly of suspension and handling improvements such as lighter sway bars and slightly wider tires. The body also received a bigger spoiler as well. Horsepower was also bumped up from 244 to 252 from the same four-cylinder turbocharged 2.0L engine. Just like the Evo I, a manual five speed transmission was the only choice.

Evo III (1995-1996)

Mitsubishi Evo III (1995-1996)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ca/f0/ac/caf0ac599bb57b2887dcbd8d35172626.jpg

Riding off the success of the Evo I and Evo II, Mitsubishi introduced the Evo III with a much more aggressive look consisting of new bumpers, side skirts, and a improved hood that delivered more air to the radiator, intercooler, and brakes. In addition, the motor had improved compression and the engineers improved the turbo as well. All these changes now produced an impressive 270 horsepower and 228 lb. ft. of torque. Just like previous models, the Evo was only offered with a five-speed manual transmission.

Evo IV (1996-1998)

Mitsubishi Evo IV
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The Evo IV brought with it several major changes including turning the engine 180-degrees for better weight distribution. The now successful car came in two distinct versions that consisted of the RS and GSR. Both versions came with their distinct exterior changes that made it able to tell them apart. Most notably, the large fog lights that the RS came with as a factory option. Both models received a new, twin-scroll turbocharger that bumped the power to 276 hp and 243 lb. ft. of torque at 4000 rpm. It should be no surprise that the five-speed manual was still the only transmission choice.

Evo V (1998-1999)

Mitsubishi Evo V (1998-1999)
https://www.evolutionm.net/forums/attachments/evo-show-shine/274077d1501285484-evo-5-9-build-mirage-imag2014.jpg

This generation Evo came with many drastic changes such as better Recaro seats, widened track, increased brake master cylinder, and so on. Once again, for the fifth generation Evo, Mitsubishi further upgraded the turbocharger to now produce the same 276 horsepower and 275 lb. ft. of torque. Many speculate that the power was much higher, but Mitsubishi had a gentleman’s agreement to cap the power at 276. It should be no surprise by now that only a five-speed manual transmission was available.

Evo VI (1999-2001)

Mitsubishi Evo VI (1999-2001)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/b0/9f/37/b09f370f73726aec7919bc99e8170c97.jpg

By this time, the Evo was a genuine star in the automotive world and loved by its fans around the globe. With this generation, Mitsubishi decided to focus its efforts on durability and cooling. Of course, there were a few cosmetic changes but, a bigger oil pan, larger intercooler, new pistons, and more notably, a titanium-aluminide turbine wheel were also added. Power and torque remained the same as the previous generation, but we highly suspect that it was increased over the previous model. This generation was also the one where the rare Tommi Makinen edition was created. It featured larger wheels, different seats and front, alongside many other small changes that all added up for a better and faster Evo. And you guessed it, a five-speed manual was the only transmission you could get the car with.

Evo VII (2001-2003)

Mitsubishi Evo VII (2001-2003)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/5b/3c/11/5b3c11bfac3bcea4eb320686065335fc.jpg

The Evo gained some weight in its seventh generation, but that was made up by a stiffer chassis. In addition, a better helical limited-slip differential was added alongside an improved center differential. The interior also received more luxurious options such as a full velour and leather Recaro interior, chromed door handles, new instrument panel, etc. All this added up to a better-looking car in order to attract new customers. And Mitsubishi did need new customers, because for the first time ever, the Evo was offered with an optional automatic transmission alongside the classic five-speed manual. They quickly realized that their customers had no interest in an automatic transmission and therefore discontinued it after this generation. Luckily, horsepower was bumped up to 284 an the torqued moved up slightly to 276 lb. ft.

Evo VIII (2003-2005)

Mitsubishi Evo VIII (2003-2005)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/5b/78/ba/5b78ba5cd377c1ac8c7545764d74a012.jpg

For the first time ever, the Evo was offered in America. Initially, Mitsubishi was planning for the Evo to only make one appearance in the US, but it did so good that they decided to keep on selling it stateside.

Cosmetically, not much had changed, but there were now a few trim levels offered with the top trim being the FQ-400 which was sold only in the UK. What is so special about this model is that it made an astonishing 405 horsepower from the factory!

In total there were six trims offered all lover the world. These included the RS Five-speed, RS Six-speed, GSR, MR RS Five-speed, MR RS Six-speed, and MR GSR. All of these had slight variations in between them such as different wheels, shocks, lower ride height, and a few minor engine modifications to set them apart from one another. This was also the first time we see the option of a six-speed manual transmission alongside the classic five-speed.

Evo IX (2005-2007)

Mitsubishi Evo IX (2005-2007)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/5b/78/ba/5b78ba5cd377c1ac8c7545764d74a012.jpg

The second last Evo ever made was unveiled in March 2005 in Europe and Japan and one month later in North America. This time around the car produced 287 horsepower and 289 lb. ft. of torque from its 2.0L inline four engine.  There were slight variations in power and weight from one trim level to another, but nothing too significant. A total of six trim levels were available of which three were standard trim and the remaining three were MR (Mitsubishi Racing). This generation had three transmission choices. One five-speed manual, a six-speed manual, and yes, one five-speed automatic. If you can get your hands on the six-speed manual, consider yourself lucky as only 15% of the cars made came with that choice.

Evo X (2007-2016)

Mitsubishi Evo X (2007-2016)
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4f/15/4c/4f154cd0c63e23b1bfb363f4e9b7270d.jpg

This generation Evo was by far the longest running, reaching almost a decade. The mighty 2.0L engine produced 276 horsepower in Japan, while the American version was bumped up slightly. However, once again the UK got the FQ-badged Evo’s which produced an astonishing 300-360 horsepower. This generation was produced around the time when twin-clutch transmissions were all the rage. Mitsubishi jumped on the bandwagon with their version that they named the “Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission” (TC-SST). Long name, great transmission. Luckily, the GSR trim was still offered in a five-speed manual as well, but no six-speed in sight. As time went on the car got more and more luxurious and tech ridden, which in turn added to its weight. As sales started to decline, Mitsubishi finally pulled the plug on the iconic car in May 2016.

FAQ

Is the Evo a reliable car?

In short, yes. There are plenty of things to consider when asking if a car is reliable. Has the car been modified? Was it driven hard? Which model are we talking about? And so on. We are happy to tell you that most owners have said that they are exceptionally reliable cars. One thing that has been well documented is that the automatic transmissions on the later models don’t seem to be all that great as they are prone to failure when compared to their manual counterparts. 

Are they easy to mod? 

Yes. There is plenty of aftermarket support for them, maybe not as much as a WRX, but there are lots of companies that dedicate their time attention strictly to the Mitsubishi Evo.

Does the Evo make a good daily driver? 

Absolutely. The Evo is a comfortable, sporty, AWD sedan. This means that it will carry your whole family, go through any kind of weather conditions with confidence and has tons of power when needed.

Were the early Evo’s available in LHD configuration?

Yes. These cars were offered in many countries in Europe where they drive on the left hand. However, none of the early Evo’s were ever offered in the States. There have been reports of people converting RHD vehicles with parts from the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Are RHD vehicles hard to drive? 

Not at all. It will feel a little weird at first grabbing the shifter with the wrong hand and you will constantly feel the need to stick to the right side of the road, but after the first week you’ll feel right at home. Plus, you will be the king of parallel parking.

Are the Mitsubishi Evo hard to find? 

Not really. There are still lots of good examples out there, but they are becoming increasingly rarer, especially stock examples. These cars were a rally vehicle for the road, and most people couldn’t resist the temptation to mod them. With a little bit of patience however, the right car will show up in your crosshairs. 

Sources

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_Lancer_Evolution
  • https://www.carthrottle.com/post/w65rd66/
  • https://www.evoxforums.com/threads/pros-cons-of-evo-life.388217/
  • https://www.breakeryard.com/car-parts/mitsubishi/lancer-evolution/common-problems
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/mitsubishi/comments/8j8in6/evo_x_reliability/
  • https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/used-car-buying-guides/mitsubishi-lancer-evo-vi-used-car-buying-guide
  • https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/reviews/mitsubishi/saloon/saloon/owner-reviews
  • https://www.evolutionm.net/forums/evom-newbie-faqs-forum/7093-left-hand-drive-evo-s.html

How to Import a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.

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