No Smoke No Poke

Mitsubishi Lancer TDI | The thinking mans Evo X

9th March 2015 | BY Adam

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions have earned a reputation as some of the greatest rally cars of all time. As a child I loved smashing it through forest stages in an Evo E4 playing Colin McRae Rally on my Playstation and I always dreamed of one day owning one.

But now I’m older and wiser would I still have an Evo X? Maybe. But I actually think there’s an alternative out there which makes more sense as a daily road car.

Enter Nick’s Lancer TDI Sportback, which at 225bhp and 390lbft doesn’t hang about.

This is the thinking mans Evo X.

I know, I know, he’s finally lost the plot - saying an oil burning, front wheel drive, mid range Lancer could ever compare to the mighty Evo X.

But hear me out.

The Evo X FQ-300 makes 291bhp and at the time of writing this feature a 2011 model with 55k on the clocks will set you back £17,995 or an older 40k mile model around £12,750. The 354bhp FQ-360 are even more spendy, at £22,995 for a 13,000 miler.

The diesel’s on the other hand are worth around £7,500 with 23k on the clocks and can be had for as low as £5,988 if you don’t mind a few extra miles. Granted, that’s only going to get you a bog standard 150bhp model with none of the show or the go of the Evo X, but the flip side is it does leave you with the best part of ten grand still in your pocket. That’s a lot of cash to play with.

This is where it gets interesting, the engine in the DI-D is actually a VW 2.0l TDI lump and as we’ve seen before, they tune very nicely indeed. Nick’s Lancer has a custom hybrid GTB1749VC from Adam at TDI turbos, a Darkside intercooler, 2.5″ stainless exhaust system with a 100 cell sports cat, K&N panel filter and a True Core Remap - pushing the power to 225bhp and 395lbft. Even then, I would put money on it making another 5-10bhp by removing the cat and a little bit more work on the mapping.

If relatively tame tuning can make this family hatchback a GTI beater, imagine the difference a more aggressive approach could make. A set of injectors and a GTB2260 would push just shy of 300bhp and with head work and an even bigger turbo like the GTB2566 you’d be looking at closer to 320-350bhp.

Ten years ago I’d have been uncomfortable suggesting that much power could realistically be put down through the front wheels. But as the last Ford Focus RS proves, it’s not impossible. Fitting a trick diff from Quaife or Peloquin would remedy a large portion of the traction issues, especially mid corner and coupled with a set of sticky tyres the Sportback would take all but hard launches in it’s stride.

A benefit of being two wheel drive is the reduced drivetrain parasitic drag compared to a four wheel drive system, meaning more of the power is efficiently transferred to the road. In a real world driving situation, it means that a 300bhp, 2wd Sportback would out accelerate a 300bhp 4wd Evo X from a rolling start. It’s almost not a fair comparison, as the DI-D Lancer would have a lot more torque as well - remember, BHP sells cars, torque wins races.

But power is nothing without control, which is why Nick has fitted a set of BC BR Series coilovers, complete with adjustable top mounts. The chassis has been further stiffened up with a Whiteline 24mm rear ARB and an Ultra Racing rear upper strut bar to help dial in more oversteer to neutrally balance the car. Bigger brakes are on the to do list as well, but the grooved and drilled discs and uprated pads are sufficient for the current power - not to mention lighter. Sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to unsprung rotational mass.

The wheels are Evo X 18×8.5j Enkei’s and just prior to the shoot they had been refurbished in black with a heavy red flake. Subtle from afar, but up close the flake really sparkles as the light catches it.

What first drew me to Nick’s Lancer though wasn’t it’s tuning potential, it was the looks.

From the front you wouldn’t know it wasn’t an Evo X, with the FMIC on display and HID upgrades. It’s aggressive without being over the top and the offset number plate is a lovely touch. The blue paintwork looks just as incredible in the flesh as it does in photos and under the pink and yellow hues of the dusk sky it almost looks liquid.

Ironically, Nick’s Lancer was actually bought as a family car with no modifications in mind at all. That’s largely why I consider this the thinking mans Evo X, it’s a car which can offer the practicality and fuel efficiency of a sedentary hatchback but with the right mods, it brings Porsche beating performance to the table. On his way to the shoot Nick averaged well over 50mpg, even if he went for a GTB2566 he still wouldn’t see his daily averages dropping below the mid forties. As a road car it just makes sense.

To compliment the front end upgrade Nick has fitted the Ralliart rear diffuser and reflector LEDs. The Thule roof rack with fairing is both for form and function and sets it out from the crowd. The Lancer definitely has a ‘face down ass up’ stance which is accentuated by the lines of the body which lead up towards the rear.

Inside, I was surprised to find that the Lancer comes as standard with a Kenwood touchscreen head unit. Nick has replaced the standard front seats with leather buckets from Bad Boy Classics which are plenty supportive enough for spirited driving but don’t look out of place with the rest of the OEM interior.

This car surprised me. I’ve seen Lancers in this shape numerous times before but this one grabbed my attention right away and still holds it as I write this article.

There will people who absolutely wouldn’t settle for anything less than the noise of the boosted, 2.0l petrol in the Evo - especially a diesel. Or ones who wouldn’t forgo the unstickable traction that the 4WD drivetrain provides. There will be others who don’t want to modify their cars way above manufacturers spec to make 300bhp or who don’t want a Sportback. All of these are perfectly valid and justified reasons not to build a high powered diesel Evo X replica.

But I said this was the thinking mans Evo X and I’m convinced it is. If you were to throw ten-grand at a car like this (So you’d be spending as much as on an Evo X) you’d end up with something unbelievably special, unequivocally fast and most importantly, unique. Hell, even if you only threw four-grand at it you’d have something as quick as an FQ-300 and as economical as a Passat - think about it.

We are ones who take the path less traveled and Nick’s Lancer is the perfect example.