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Spin Out - All The News Without Fear Or Favor

Feb 28, 2007
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There are people who get a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII and use it for commuting. Sure, they like the acceleration and handling, but they love the air conditioning, stereo and how the rear windshield wiper clears off the morning dew. The word for those people: wimps.

For those of us who find comfort just a distraction, Mitsu has now conjured up the Evolution RS; an EVO shorn of niceties and about 146 pounds. Gone are the rear wing, rear wiper, ABS, A/C, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, the trunk trim, the leather wrap around the parking brake lever, the sound system, map lights, most of the sound deadening, some bucks off the sticker price and a good chunk of the commuter friendliness.

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What gets added is a bar spanning the rear strut towers, a limited-slip front differential and a set of halogen headlamps to replace HIDs used in the VIII. Bye bye, civility; hello ferocity-at least, theoretically.

It's not surprising the ABS was deleted with the addition of the helical LSD up front. After all, making ABS work along with three limited-slip differentials is a neat engineering trick that, so far, can only be accomplished with an active center diff. But deletion of the ABS probably also let Mitsu drop enough cost out of the RS to be able to pay for the new diff and still knock the total MSRP down under $27K.

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Otherwise, the 3,175-pound RS is like any other EVO VIII; the 4G63 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve turbocharged still makes 271 hp and it still feeds a five-speed manual transmission and then an all-wheel-drive system twisting 17-inch Enkei wheels and Yokohama P235/45R-17 Advan tires. In short, blistering.

The RS isn't an ABS kind of car anyhow. On the big track at Willow Springs Raceway, driving VIIIs and RSs back-to-back, it takes a finely tuned hinny and a dozen or so laps to note much difference between them. The RS is more receptive to mudslide driving tactics as it passes its adhesion limits and rotates much more confidently than the standard VIII. It was far more receptive to direction changes through left-foot braking and more predictable in the execution of maneuvers. ABS is great in everyday driving, but anyone adept at threshold braking will find the RS's four discs easy and effective tools.

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The omission of the rear wing didn't show up until the car was screaming through Willow's Turns Eight and Nine at about 115 to 120 mph, where the standard VIII's butt stayed planted more securely. If you're a regular down at the track (and your track is a long one with some high-speed sweepers), get the non-RS VIII or opt for an effective aftermarket wing on the RS.

The lack of sound deadening doesn't make the RS unlivable, but no A/C? For God's sake, we don't want to sweat. Thankfully, the RS is also available with an "Urban Jungle" package that adds A/C, power windows, power locks, power mirrors and the keyless entry system back in the car. Since radios are cheap at Circuit City, an RS equipped for the urban jungle may just be the EVO to have.

The RS goes on sale in January.

For 2004, the standard EVO will receive an optional 315-watt, seven-speaker Infiniti sound system. Also new for 2004 are leather-wrapped Recaros. Last year's sunroof option remains.

EVO with carbon-fiber spoiler 3,263 lbs
EVO with sunroof, Infiniti sound system and leather interior 3,331 lbs
EVO RS 3,175 lbs
EVO RS with Urban Jungle package 3,197 lbs
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Stillen's Nissan Hoedown
The rest of the aftermarket was still exhausted from the SEMA show in Las Vegas the weekend after that monster show, but Stillen had the energy to put on its annual Nissan/Infiniti Day open house at its glamorous facility in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Were there a lot of Nissans and Infinitis at Stillen's event? If there hadn't been, the whole thing would've been beside the point now, wouldn't it? But what's remarkable is that all those Nissans showed up despite the fact that it was raining that weekend in Southern California and, well, Southern Californians treat rain like it's liquid scalding agony.

To no one's surprise, it was the Z-cars of all vintages that showed up in greatest numbers. But the G35s in both two- and four-door versions are obviously grabbing a loyal following among committed enthusiasts who will strain their credit limits buying bits, pieces and windshield header stickers for them. In fact, if there is one undeniable trend in Nissan fan-dom, it's that the VQ35 V6, and any vehicle powered by it, is first in the hearts of the true believers.

Besides throwing open its doors and securing adequate parking, Stillen also invited vendors like Tokico shocks, Advanced Clutch and Eibach Springs to display their wares. There was a chassis dyno on hand to challenge any poseur's ludicrous power claims and Stillen itself held a brake installation seminar. Imagine: fun, commerce and education all in one event. What more could someone who bleeds Nissan black and red dare dream?

This is the sort of event that's bound to occur next year. Try www.stillen.com for more information.

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Mitsubishi's Eclipse Concept
At January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mitsubishi is showing this slightly disguised concept version of the next-generation Eclipse sport coupe that's coming early in 2005 as a 2006 model. The concept includes an electric hybrid, all-wheel-drive system that's unlikely to sneak into production any time soon, is covered in obscenely expensive orange paint (The color is called glowing header orange.) that flops to red in the right light, and has radical plasma head lamps and neon "crackle tube" turn signals that are probably only legal on Neptune, but the rest of the car is tantalizing enough to just about make up for that.

Make no mistake, this car's overall shape is almost a direct lift from the next production Eclipse. The concept is about the same size as the current Eclipse, but the proportions have been changed with shorter front and rear overhangs and a shorter hood. The sliced, down-side window shape will also be part of the production Eclipse, along with the blistered fenders, curvaceous door surfaces, barely sloped fastback, and the cut at the taillights that leaves a surface for the third brake light. A particularly belligerent touch is the front strut tower bar that has been moved up so that it's exposed and abuts the trailing edge of the hood. That's just flat-out charismatic. The concept is relentlessly interesting in form and texture.

The basic platform for the new Eclipse will be the one that debuted under the Endeavor SUV last year and also underpins the new Galant sedan (both of which are built in the same Illinois plant as the Eclipse). So it's no surprise to find the Endeavor's hulking 3.8-liter, DOHC, 24-valve, iron-block V6 planted in this car's nose or that trucklet's four-speed automatic supporting it.

What's new is the second electric motor in the rear and the battery pack running down the concept's spine. The electric motor drives the rear wheels in concert with the fronts to produce all-wheel drive. Regenerative braking and other Prius-like technologies charge the batteries and manage the power system. This "E-Boost" system is experimental, but at least Mitsu is thinking about AWD in the Eclipse again.

One neat by-product of the hybrid installation is that it forced designers to move the dual exhausts to the sides of the Concept, where they exit just forward of the rear wheels.

Look closely at the bottom of the doors just behind the front wheels. That's a fold-down flap that opens with the door to expose a gorgeous aluminum hinge. If a detail like that makes it into production, we'll all know that Mitsubishi is swinging for the fences with this next Eclipse.

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Lexus IS430 Concept
In the annals of good ideas, the marriage of the compact Lexus IS sports sedan with the company's 4.3-liter V8 has to be up there with the spork and putting marinara sauce on pasta. But while this union has been explored in Europe, it hasn't shown up in the United States until now.

Built by Rod Millen's Long Beach, Calif., shop in cooperation with Lexus and displayed at November's SEMA show, this "IS 430" has a DOHC, 32-valve V8 yanked out of a GS 430 under its hood, lashed to a Getrag six-speed manual gearbox and then a rear limited-slip differential. Thanks to some womping on the engine, output now, says Lexus, is up around 340 hp.

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Inevitably, Millen's shop also pumped up the suspension and brakes to keep up with the new power-stiffer, lowered springs all around with four Brembo assemblies. Those are Speed Star SSR 18-inch wheels at each corner with the fronts inside 265/35ZR-18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup radials and the rear smothered in massive 325/40ZR-18s.

SCC will have more on this car, including the Chip Foose redecoration, when it's tested next month.

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Drift Bible - DVD Reviews
If you already know who Keiichi Tsuchiya is, you obviously put drifting up there with brain surgery on the list of impressive skills developed by human beings. But if you don't know that name, one viewing of the remarkable "Drift Bible" DVD will convince you that Tsuchiya may well be more talented than any ham-fisted skull-cracker.

Produced in Japan by the evermore familiar Best Motoring Video, the "Drift Bible" is the best, most informative DVD yet. Tsuchiya is identified as the "Drift King" in this video and according to all the evidence on display, he apparently is exactly that. He methodically goes through the whole art of drifting, carefully dividing the driving techniques down to six elements: side (e-brake), shift lock, power over, braking, feint and lift off.

The scenes of Tsuchiya drifting everything from an old AE86 to an NSX are nothing less than spectacular, and yet his instruction is easy to follow in dubbed English (the original Japanese track is also available). The producers use neat tricks like a "G-Ball" to indicate weight shift in the cars as Tsuchiya performs and a front-mounted brake light to show when he applies the stoppers. It's very well thought out and engrossing.

By the time you've listened to all he's had to say, you're ready to go grab the family minivan and drift it through aisle six at the Kroeger. Of course never once does Tsuchiya tell you where to practice these techniques, and few of us have our own race circuits to romp around upon.

If you're deep into drifting, this is a can't-miss video. If you're just casually interested in the art, this DVD will increase your appreciation of the nuances and subtleties involved exponentially. If you're interested mostly in macram, this DVD will drag you out of that effete activity and have you scouring used car lots for a Silvia of your own.

Access to retailers of the $19.99 DVD is available through Best Motoring's Web site (www.bestmotoringvideo.com). We also swiped the images featured here off a Quicktime preview available there. As this is written, Amazon.com is taking pre-orders of the Drift Bible at $16.99.

The New NOPI Schedule Is Here! The New NOPI Schedule Is Here!Yes, it's true. The NOPI Drag Racing Association (NDRA) will run a full schedule during 2004.So what is that schedule?

April 24-25 Virginia Motorsports Park Dinwiddie, VA
June 5-6 Cordova Dragway Cordova, IL
June 26-27 Maryland International Raceway Budds Creek, MD
July 10-11 Bristol Dragway Bristol, TN
July 24-25 Gateway International Raceway St. Louis, MO
July 31-Aug 1 Maple Grove Raceway Maple Grove, PA
Aug. 14-15 Moroso Motorsports Park W. Palm Beach, FL
Aug. 28-29 ATCO Raceway Atco, NJ
Sept. 18-19 NOPI Nationals Atlanta, GA
Oct. 9-10 Houston Raceway Park Baytown, TX
Oct. 16-17 NDRA World Finals/Texas Motorplex Ennis, TX
More info is available at www.nopi.com/ndra.htm.

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2004 Toyota Corolla XRS
At last November's SEMA extravaganza, Toyota showed that at least it's been paying attention to the Corolla with the introduction of the new Corolla XRS which transplants the 1.8-liter, DOHC, VVTL-i 2ZZ four and its accompanying six-speed manual transmission from the Celica GT-S into the Corolla.

The 2ZZ mutates somewhat during its move over to the Corolla. Instead of the 180 hp and 130 lb-ft of peak torque it makes in the Celica, it'll be rated at 170 hp and 127 lb-ft in the Corolla. That's because, says Toyota, it has retuned the engine for much better mid- and low-range power production, willingly sacrificing high-rpm zing in the bargain.

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Naturally, to go along with the new powerplant, the XRS also gets a more taut suspension, 16-inch wheels and tires, some sports seats, revised interior trim and fresh decoration on the outside. All XRSs will be built at Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario, with sales projected at just 5,000 cars for the first year.

Rumors & Lies
* Following the Corolla XRS, Toyota may bring the European-built, very small, Yaris T-Sport as a performance leader funkmobile for Scion.

* On November 11, 2003, Honda built its 10 millionth car in the United States. It started in 1982 and hasn't stopped yet.

* Saturn has said it will double the number of vehicles in its lineup to six by the year 2007. A minivan/SUV mish-mash called the Relay due in 2005 is the only one of the new vehicles that Saturn will own up to, though a sporty two-seat convertible is rumored.

* Mitsubishi chairman Takashi Sonobe, 62, died suddenly last October 30 of heart failure.

* Mitsubishi has canceled plans for a $200 million expansion of its assembly plant in Normal, Ill.

* XM Satellite Radio, Inc. announced in late October that its subscriber base has pushed past one million users.

* Ford built its 300 millionth vehicle, a Mustang, on November 19, 2003.

* Honda is developing a "casual use" pickup truck for both its Honda and Acura divisions. Honda CEO Takeo Fukui, as quoted by "Automotive News," has said the truck would be built in volumes of about 50,000 to 60,000 units a year and the Honda and Acura models would be distinct. Expect the Acura truck to be smaller than the Honda.

* There will be no Ford Focus SVT after the 2004 model year. In fact, all of SVT is in danger of being cancelled in favor of branding such products as "Shelbys."

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Mitsubishi's New WRC Weapon
On the heels of Mitsubishi's announcement that it was withdrawing support for SCCA Pro Rallying in America, came the Thanksgiving day unveiling of the car that will lead them back into WRC competition during 2004-the Lancer WRC04.

"The car is quite different from our previous World Rally Car," says Mario Fornaris, who oversaw the car's construction at Mitsubishi's Motor Sports subsidiary in Rugby, Great Britain. "We have made something like 6,000 new parts. We have taken advantage of the freedom permitted by the World Rally Car regulations, but my philosophy is to do very simple things and have a good understanding of the car before we introduce more advanced systems."

The most apparent difference with the new car is the slick bodywork that emerged from three weeks of testing in the Lola racing team's wind tunnel. The hood, fascia, fenders and, most dramatically, the rear wing are all brand new. The two elements of the rear wing are both taller and more radical than ever and are sure to be imitated throughout the world of EVO owners.

The 2-liter, DOHC, 16-valve engine is still a member of the 4G6 family of fours and still uses a cast-iron block, alloy head and turbocharger. But the engine is based on the latest version of the 4G6 used in the EVO VIII and the reciprocating assembly is significantly lighter than before. A new Garrett turbocharger breathes in through the required 34mm intake restrictor and feeds a completely new intake system. The engine feeds a new Ricardo five-speed manual (a rarity in WRC) gearbox.

The suspension consists of MacPherson struts at each corner, with Brembo brakes in charge of stopping. The Mitsu will be the only car in WRC without an active center differential. Instead, it runs an epicyclic differential.

The WRCO4 reflects the conservative approach Fornaris took with the car. Innovation isn't something they're pursuing until they've first proved they can finish races. Who knows what will come after they've accomplished that?

Pontiac Sunfire Autocross Concept
Chevy is finally going to replace the Cavalier with the all-new Cobalt this year. But Pontiac is sticking with the Cavalier's brother, the Sunfire, into at least the foreseeable future. Can the aging Sunfire remain relevant as newer compacts come out of GM and its competitors?

Pontiac's faith in the Sunfire was expressed at SEMA in the form of the Sunfire Autocross, one of five vehicles (the Grand Am, Vibe, GTO and Grand Prix were the other four) presented by the GM division modified along the same parking lot racer theme.

The Autocross uses the same supercharged 2.0-liter Ecotec engine that will be crammed into Saturn ION Red Line with some additional tweaking to heave output to 240 hp. Of course it's lowered over 18-inch wheels inside BFGoodrich T/A KD tires and the brakes have been swapped for more effective discs and calipers from Stainless Steel brakes.

Outside, the Sunfire Autocross wears a custom upper grille, one-off lower front and rear fascias, a special rear spoiler and projector beam headlights. Inside, there are "racing-inspired" front seat, aluminum pedals and the Pontiac Accessories catalog donated the "hydrographic interior trim kit in carbon fiber." It doesn't really look bad at all.

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Pontiac showrooms will likely have some sort of supercharged Sunfire in them in the near future. Will that be enough to spread enthusiasm beyond the members of www.j-body.org?

With a high-speed Wi-Fi connection, it's now possible to surf the Internet on your laptop from inside your bathroom while evacuating your bowels. The magazine monopoly on throne reading matter has been broken! But let us remind you that dropping a $1,500 laptop into a toilet can be an expensive proposition and that magazines still only cost a couple of bucks and dry out after a few hours left in the sun. Think about that before the next time you want to dump-and-surf.

Meanwhile, send suggestions for Web sites we ought to feature to SCCNews@Primedia.com and be both brief and witty. We've never been able to be both at the same time, but maybe you can be.

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