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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR vs GSR - Hey! Nice Set!

Fielding Melish
Aug 1, 2008
Photographer: Terence Fitzpatrick

It's Tuesday morning and as we contemplate life, the mind drifts to scan a mental horizon for delightful things that life offers in pairs. Pam's breasts, Carmen Electra's tempting flesh scoops and Sasha Singleton's BOLD homage to cosmetic surgery seem to malinger in this fractured mind easiest. BAPE Sta 88s are another desirable pair. After hot-boxing your Sentra, the two tacos for 99 cents at Jack in the Box can also be a pretty desirable pair. The rich bitch Olsen twins were ALMOST desirable in a creepy, lets-go-hot-tubbing-with-a-head-full-of-Grey-Goose sorta way before they started dressing like homeless Amish peasant women and we realized that they would get no taller. Add the latest pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions to that list of inviting pairs. The new 2008 Lancer Evolution GSR and MR are a couple of entertaining vehicular fun bags with distinct personalities and a willingness for tuning.

The keys to a 2008 Lancer Evolution GSR were waiting for us at the office one Friday afternoon. Having just topped off at Ph 54 after a photoshoot that was only memorable because the model had raging camel toe that would challenge even our most gifted Photoshop jockey (that's Terence, in case you were stumped), the keys were a reminder that the weekend held the promise of tooling around in a fast car. We had spent considerable time in the previous generation Lancer Evolution GSR (IX) and the memory of one long trip to the Bay Area still makes my kidneys wince. Still, the car was fast; no, it was brutally fast with the suddenness of a prom night bitch slap for getting "too fresh." Unlike my prom dates, the IX loved to be manhandled and, when driven in anger, this amped up compact sedan rewarded its pilot with supernatural speed, gobbling up tarmac with the gluttony not seen since the last time noted fat bastard Val Kilmer ordered room service.

Simply put, the new Lancer Evolution GSR does EVERYTHING better than its predecessor, short of straight line acceleration. The new car gains considerable weight in the name of safety, chassis rigidity and improved width. With 291 horsepower on tap (versus 286 for the previous vehicle), the new GSR relies on more aggressive gearing (4.687), and the magic of Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) to lap a track faster than the old car. At least on a twisty road, the new car can be a willing, tail-happy machine thanks to the previously-unavailable-in-this-market Active Yaw Control rear differential. This torque-vectoring unit endows the new Evo with arse-tossing, backside drifting manners uncommon for an all-wheel drive car. The proven Active Center Differential unit splits engine torque between the front and rear wheels, while a mechanical front limited slip differential aids traction up front. Not only does this new, faster reacting all-wheel-drive system help the new car turn fast laps, it elevates driver confidence and control to a silly, s#&%-eating grin level.

The new GSR is equipped with a robust, new five-speed transmission that is the strongest transmission yet to appear in the Lancer Evolution series. The cogs in the five-speed have been widened considerably and multiple syncros on every gear optimize this unit for higher horsepower outputs and track abuse. That the all-new engine design is more willing to support a revvier persona is another revelation. The previous 4G63 was a longer stroke (88mm) design versus the square dimensions of the new 4B11 (86mm x 86mm). The new cylinder head design, with direct acting valvetrain and higher velocity ports help the new Evo's turbo spool faster, offering improved response and torque (300 ft-lb). The aluminum construction of the new 4B11 might not allow tuners to reach the stratospheric power levels of the built-from-granite, eons old 4G63, but the engine is still very receptive to tuning and 400 horsepower has proven not to be out of the reach of the stock bottom end with bolt-ons and ECU tuning. The new Evo's 4B11 uses a unique semi-closed deck block, pistons by Mahle, and robust forged connecting rods attached to a forged crankshaft held in place by a thick girdle.

The new Evo's steering is as direct and sudden as ever (13.3:1), but now offers a much higher degree of control/refinement, seemingly shedding the IX's tendency to grab a seam in the road and lead you into the next lane. The brakes are still marvelous with enough stopping force to dislodge even the most stubborn booger. With its superior chassis, stiffer Tokico struts, rally derived forged aluminum suspension components, and the magical S-AWC system, the new GSR might just be the least expensive 1G car on the market for a base price of $32,990.

But this summer, the Lancer Evolution MR is going to attack. The previous generation car offered a six-speed manual transmission, Bilstein shocks and forged BBS wheels. While the new vehicle offers these enhancements as well, the new MR's heightened level of technology and equipment combine to create an Evo driving experience unlike any before it. The 2008 Lancer Evolution MR incorporates the new Twin Clutch-Sportronic Shift Transmission or TC-SST for short. Similar in concept to the VW DSG transmission, TC-SST offers fast, paddle actuated shifting in addition to three different fully automatic modes. Normal mode is a snoozer that attempts to get decent fuel economy, while Sport mode offers snappier shifts while also holding a gear longer. The S-SPORT mode is a balls-out track mode that holds shifts to redline and rev-matches upon down shifting. S-SPORT does the heel toe work for its driver, and makes lapping a joy of consistency. In short, it is probably a smarter transmission than most of us and does a better job of shifting automatically in track conditions than 99-percent of the people on the planet. If it had a willing mouth or could make a mean Monte Cristo sandwich you might want to take a knee and propose to TC-SST. On the track, it won't make you a better man, but a better driver for sure. On the street, its automatic modes lend sanity to the insanity of real world traffic. For high performance driving, TC-SST technology allows you to focus your attention on the fewer things a driver can screw up like steering and braking, and this is the key to help connect with your inner Senna and drive fast as hell with less skill. The new MR also rides on a more compliant but faster reacting Bilstein suspension. The forged BBS wheels and two-piece front brake rotors reduce unsprung weight further improving the MR's reflexes. MR also features an upgraded interior with Alcantara seating surfaces, and more upscale trim pieces as well as additional sound deadening material to isolate the cabin from noise. But it is really the unique operation and tri-modal nature of the new TC-SST that help distance this Evo MR from its GSR brethren. One of the key questions revolving around this transmission is whether or not the design or electronics will allow for any tuning or modification. Will the hardware fail? Will the software be ineffective with power upgrades?

To answer that, AMS Performance of Chicago applied bolt-on upgrades to one of the first MRs in the United States. The collective Mitsubishi think tank at AMS has probably forgotten more about Evo tuning than most of us will ever learn in a lifetime. Currently, they offer upgrades to take the new five-speed equipped GSR well into the 400-hp range. They wondered what would happen if some of those proven enhancements were applied to the new Twin-Clutch-equipped MR.

So for about $2,100 bones, the engine's output is raised to about 350 horsepower. Best of all, the new Twin Clutch performed well with the power increase. While the programmed shift points did not change in the Automatic modes, the shift quality remained very acceptable. Paddle actuated manual shifts make the most of the engine's enlarged balls and the car now leaps forward like a raped ape in all gears. The improved breathing of the AMS exhaust and intake modifications simply make the stock engine and turbo package more effective, responsive and willing to spin faster.

Couple this MR's additional speed with the fact that the interior of the MR we drove features the 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system in addition to the Hard Drive Navigation with music server and it becomes obvious why people see this MR as a more "grown-up" Evo. We all have to grow up at some point, and at least the new GSR and MR grew up the right way. Unlike the Olsen twins, who grew up wrong, getting weirder, uglier and harder on the eyes (but still rich), these cars have both become more sophisticated and capable. The new pair of Lancer Evolutions have not lost their responsiveness to tuning or tarnished the grins they deliver behind the wheel.

Faster Facts
AMS Performance'08 Mitsubishi EVO X MR
The Sticker $38,290 stock;
AMS Performance package: $2,114.90 (available through AMS Performance)

Under The Hood 2.0L MIVEC I4 turbocharged/intercooled engine; AMS Performance intake pipe, front-mount intercooler, upper intercooler pipe (hot pipe), single-tip exhaust and small battery kit

The Power stock MR: 291 hp at 6,500 rpm; 300 lb-ft at 4,400; AMS Performance MR: 350 hp

Scale Tipping 3,388 (JDM spec)

Layout Front engine, AWD

Gearbox six-speed TC-SST

Stiff Stuff Eibach springs; Bilstein shocks

Rollers 18x8.5 BBS forged alloy wheels; Yokohama ADVAN 245/40R18 tires

Stoppers two-piece four-piston caliper with ventilated 13.8" disc brakes (front); two-piece two-piston caliper with ventilated 13" disc brakes (rear)

At The Pump N/A

The Pack Subaru STI, BMW 135

Deep Thoughts If you can get past the idea of not having an actual clutch pedal, you'll learn to love the new MR quickly. It's a world of difference from the GSR and with the AMS Performance package, you'll be able to smoke fools in GSRs with ease. However, it would be really interesting to see if there ever will be a traditional manual version in the future.

By Fielding Melish
2 Articles

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