Walking through the halls of any major show, you're bound to see some pretty sick cars--nicely detailed layers of wax and tire shine, with some self-proclaimed model giving away stuff you don't really want--but what happens to these cars after the show? Do they just hop back onto the trailer and into storage for a lifetime of pampered show-car status? Or can they serve another purpose--a higher calling? That's exactly what Mitsubishi Motor Co. and the 2NR staff set to find out, by holding a little performance competition (cough, call-out, cough) for Lancer Evolutions displayed at last year's SEMA show in Las Vegas.
Going through the show, we hit up nearly every track-worthy EVO in attendance--VIII, IX and X--and by the end of the week, had a field of 15 possible candidates. It was time to put these show cars to the test; to see if they could back up their looks with an all-out assault on the track, L.A. rush-hour traffic, and the ham-fisted buggery of two of the import world's most revered (feared?) wheelmen.
The one-day competition was simple, yet brutal: all competing EVOs were to meet at Mitsubishi headquarters in Cypress, CA, and make the 150-mile death march through L.A.'s rush-hour traffic to Buttonwillow Raceway (a.k.a. Super Lap Park, named after your authority for all that is time attack, Super Lap Battle), where they'd be flogged around the track's infamous CCW-13 (counter-clockwise, 13-turn) configuration by Tyler McQuarrie and Stephan Verdier. Only one set of DOT-legal radials could be used per car, each with a minimum UTQG treadwear rating of 100, and each car could only sip good `ol 91-octane California pump gas. And if you happened to get pulled over for a loud exhaust or a missing catalytic converter on the way to the track . . . better luck next time! Of the original field, eight cars were deemed fit for track competition by our drivers, only one of which wasn't an EVO X.
Major Modifications Robispec Clubsport KW Variant 3 coilovers; Cusco bracing; AEM intake; APG front-mount intercooler; Endless CCX brake pads, stainless lines; APR GTC300 air foil; Seibon carbon fiber hood and trunk; Enkei RPM2 18x9 wheels; 265/35-18 Advan Neova tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This was one of two Twin Clutch SST-equipped cars in the competition. This car was OK on power, but the handling felt stock-like and a little too sluggish.
Stephan Verdier This was my first time driving an MR; it felt less powerful than the others but had a good power band and was really smooth--well balanced in entry, mid and exit out of corners. Input from the electronics was great on exit of corners, and I could really feel the LSDs helping to rotate the car. I was really surprised with the Super Sport mode, and was impressed with how the car selected the right gear up or down. I could stay at 30- to 40-percent throttle and modulate up and down in a long corner without the car up-shifting.
Major Modifications K&N cold-air intake; Buddy Club cams; PWR intercooler; Tanabe Concept G turbo-back exhaust; TEIN Super Racing coilovers, EDFC; Whiteline swaybars, endlinks; Agency power engine mounts, rear camber-adjustable arms; Quaife LSD; Cusco twin-plate clutch, flywheel; reflashed ECU by Tuning Technologies; Powerslot rotors; Hawk pads; 17x9 Volk Racing RE30 wheels; 255/40-17 Toyo RA1 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This was the only EVO IX of the bunch, and the first car to be tested. Aside from the car looking a little dated sitting next to all the EVO Xs, it performed fairly well. Power delivery was good and broad. The car felt pretty good on exit during throttle, but still had a hint of understeer. The ABS kicked in so much that it caused the car to understeer on turn-in into an apex.
Stephan Verdier Stable during braking until you touch a curb, ABS will kick in and lock the brake pedal, understeering in entry and exit of corners. Power delivery and torque at low rpm was great, though.
Major Modifications AMS intake, intercooler, test pipe; Fujitsubo exhaust; TEIN Mono Flex coilovers; ECUtek-reflashed ECU, tuned by AMS; EVO X MR two-piece rotors; Project Mu pads; AMS stainless lines; 18x10.5 Volk RE30 wheels; 265/35-18 Continental ContiSportContact3 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This was the tamest EVO as far as mods go. My first reaction was that it felt heavy, which made it feel down on power. The brakes were good and predictable. The front would work very well at turn-in, but the back would slide and then grip just before the apex and override the front, causing it to understeer.
Stephan Verdier The car felt good exiting a corner, and I could feel the LSDs working. It felt more balanced in entry and mid-corner, with good grip from the front tires. Suspension was really bouncy, and did not like curbs at all; the springs felt too stiff. Good power and torque throughout the power band, but really flattened out getting into Fifth gear. Overall, its chassis was stiffer than the IX, but needs softer springs for this track.
Major Modifications Robispec Clubsport KW Variant 3 coilovers; Robispec trans cooling system, rear swaybar; Whiteline front roll center adjusters, rear bumpsteer kit; Kmac caster plates; Buschur cat-back exhaust; AEM intake; Cobb AccessPORT, tuned by HB Speed; The Brake Man front and rear brake kit; 18x10.5 Enkei NT03 wheels; 275/35-18 Nitto NT01 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This was the other twin-clutch of the group. The power was great and the shifts were quick and seamless. The front of the car worked very well but the rear lacked grip. This made the car feel very good at turn-in but after the brake release going into the apex, the load never transferred to the rear, causing mid-corner speed to be down a bit.
Stephan Verdier This thing needs a rear wing. The car is really good in mid and exit of corners, but the rear end was a little scary under hard braking (lack of wing). The brakes are really good but they were not as consistent as some of the other cars through all the laps, and had some fading by the end. Power delivery was really good--nice and steady. The electronics on the twin-clutch SST are great.
Major Modifications Robispec Clubsport KW Variant 3 coilovers; Cobb Tuning front and rear swaybars, downpipe, cat-delete mid-pipe, intake, intercooler piping, AccessPORT; MXP exhaust; Project Mu brake pads; 18x9.5 Enkei TT01 wheels; 265/35-18 Advan Neova tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This was the dark horse of the group. Just looking at the car, I was not expecting much... but this car had the best-feeling power curve of all. It braked very well and because of that, turn-in felt good as well. It did have a hint of understeer mid-corner that I would like to see dialed out. But once back on the power, the car came off the corner very well
Stephan Verdier Power delivery was awesome, with almost no turbo lag whatsoever. Suspension was a bit too stiff for this track, but still handled awesome; really predictable in corners and well-balanced. It could use more aero for high-speed corners--a big wing would help, and bigger brakes. I felt really comfortable in it from the first lap. By far was the most fun car to drive.
Major Modifications Robispec Clubsport KW Variant 3 coilovers; Swift springs; Hawk blue front pads, red rear pads; Method 4 front and rear adjustable camber plates, front roll center adjusters; RS Akimoto intake; DC Sports hardpipe, downpipe, test pipe, cat-back exhaust; AMS intercooler and piping; Cosworth cams; 18x10 Enkei RPF-1 wheels; 265/35-18 Hankook RS2 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie The power felt good and very linear throughout the curve, but it lacked the braking power I would have liked to see from a car of this caliber. This car did everything well in a way that was very subtle and compliant with every input I asked from it. The car was very neutral throughout all the slow corners, but had a hint of understeer in the fast corners.
Stephan Verdier [The Filet-O-Fish he scarfed down for lunch did not sit well with Stephan; he did not have a chance to drive this car on track.]
Major Modifications Robispec Clubsport KW Variant 3 coilovers; Hotchkis front and rear swaybars, bumpsteer kit; Whiteline front and rear adjustable camber plates, roll center adjusters; StopTech six-piston 355mm front brakes, four-piston 345mm rear brakes, pads; AMS intercooler and piping; Harman Motive exhaust; Cosworth cams; re-programmed valve timing; 18x9.5 Volk Racing RE30 wheels; 165/35-18 Yokohama Advan AD08 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie Power delivery felt good, but its soft spring rate and big sway bar setup gave it a unique feel. Because of the soft set up, the car tended to move around a bit under braking, but had the best grip from turn-in to apex. It felt like the outside front was being driven into the pavement, which is a great feel to have as a driver. The brakes were great, and allowed for braking to start much later.
Stephan Verdier With a comfortable spring rate, softer ride, and no problem over the curbs, this car's only downfall was that it felt a little lazy in the esses--could have been the tires, or maybe the springs were a bit too soft. Awesome brakes, though--no fading, great feel when on the pedal, and consistent. Well-balanced in high-speed corners, the car felt really predictable with almost no understeer.
Major Modification AMS bolt-on turbo upgrade kit, intercooler piping, exhaust, bumpsteer kit, rollcenter adjusters; ECUtek-reflashed ECU, tuned by AMS; JRZ RS Pro coilovers; StopTech brakes; custom swaybars; 19x10.5 Enkei RPF-1 wheels; 275/35-18 NT01 tires
Tyler Mcquarrie This car had the best power, hands down! The brakes were great and the car turned-in very good, but seemed to understeer too much just before the apex. The understeer seemed to be stemming from a tire pressure issue (no pun intended) which seemed to go away under throttle. The car felt awesome on the exit of a corner and its little mid-corner understeer issue didn't change the fact that this car was easily the fastest on the clock.
Stephan Verdier This was my favorite car, handling-wise. It felt better in the esses and had a little more body roll due to softer sway bars--which I liked on Buttonwillow, with all its elevation changes--and felt like the inside wheel kept better contact. It understeered a little, exiting a corner, but that may have been due to tire pressure. Power was higher than the other EVO Xs, but had more lag; I had to keep the revs high to be in the power band.
After everything was said and done, AMS' EVO X came out on top, with the fastest lap time of the day--a 1:56.871. Right after this event finished (no doubt, partly inspired by Tyler's and Stephan's criticism) the AMS boys went back to Chicago and proceeded to tear their EVO X apart in preparation for Unlimited Class Super Lap Battle competition. Their next trip back to the California desert won't be for another year, at which time they'll have set their EVO's sites on the HKS CT230R's record-holding time. And make or break, as always, 2NR will be there to catch it all unfold.