There's one big problem with every iteration of the Lancer Evolution: it ain't cheap. Now it seems Mitsu is finally on the verge of producing a less pricey version, affordable to us mortals.
Caught here during hot weather testing in California's grim Death Valley is something more than a regular Lancer, but less than a full-blown Evolution X. Going by the presence of an intercooler beneath the bumper, all those scoops and vents on the hood, and the twin tailpipes out the back, we're betting that, yup, this thing has the Evo's turbocharged, 2.0-liter, all-aluminum 4B11 four.
However, close inspection doesn't seem to indicate a rear differential. So we're thinking front-drive only here, making this car a natural competitor to the Mazdaspeed3 (also featuring turbo power, but eschewing an expensive all-wheel drive system).
This prototype seems to be wearing the same 18-inch wheels as the Lancer GTS and a mix of body bits to give it a truly aggressive appearance. Where there's no deck spoiler on the car in these photos, holes for a wing on the trunk lid have been covered with silver tape. It seems to lack the wing-backed seats used in the Evo. Also, the brakes seem to be smaller and fitted with less hardcore calipers.
If the Evo comes in at 300bhp, we'll guess this one runs about 275 with support from a six-speed transaxle. And where the Evo is going to run about $36,000, the Ouija board says this ought be around $26,000. The Evo is due here in about 15 minutes. Let's put this Evo Lite on the table somewhere around April of 2008. Pure guess.