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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Overview

America's Best Gets Even Better

Mitsubishi fans have finally had their prayers answered. After much screaming—mostly from Mitsu driver's getting smoked on the streets by Subaru's turbo terror, the WRX—Mitsubishi Motors has finally brought its own rally-inspired all-wheel-drive turbo monster to the states; known world wide as the Evo, here in the states the proper name is the Lancer Evolution. Though it shares the economy-minded Lancer's body and interior bits, the Evolution is in no way to be confused with the OZ rally car, which is little more than a dressed-up Lancer. No, the Evolution is serious stuff, designed to test the limits of man, machine and in some instances, the law.

If you don't know about the Evolution and its roots, we can tell you that overseas, this car has been one of the top contenders on the world rally circuit for years; its abilities off-road are surpassed only by its blistering fast acceleration and tenacious road holding. For whatever reason, we in the States still don't get the full-blown rally car package; that's because Mitsubishi has replaced the rally car's fabulous electronic differential setup with a less aggressive viscous coupling system that splits the engine's torque evenly front to rear. Still, with enough power to banish most compacts to the back of the pack, this is but a small gripe and one that won't mean much to anyone who hasn't driven the overseas model.

The Evolution is powered by all four of its wheels, an attribute that gives it phenomenal road handling abilities as well as reliable all-weather traction. Assisting the tires grip is a dynamic sport suspension and an aggressive wheel and tire package that bump the Evolution's fun factor to an even 10. And then there is the little issue of the car's 271 horsepower and 273 lbs-ft. of torque, both squeezed from a mere 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The secret to the Evolution's power is a massive high-pressure turbo that force-feeds air into the little 2.0-liter; a beefed up 5-speed manual transmission has been added to deal with the engine's additional torque. All this high-tech gear translates into a thrill ride that can take you from 0-60 mph in five seconds flat, and with a top speed of 157-mph, you'll probably attract the long arm of the law just as quickly.

On the road, you'll be amazed at how tight the Evolution feels and how quickly the car responds to your inputs. Turn in is almost instantaneous, with little to no body lean or roll. The trade-off for such precise road holding is a ride that is harsh and unforgiving, transmitting even the most subtle of bumps directly into the passenger cabin. Make no mistake, this is a ride that true enthusiasts live for; it just may be a bit too harsh for those more accustomed to the more compliant rides of cars like the VW GTI or Honda Civic. We think it's highly advisable to take the Evolution for a good long test drive before you decide to make it your daily driver.

At full throttle, there is a good deal of engine noise inside the car but once you reach cruising speed and back off the gas, the noise level drops to a livable drone. And unlike the rally cars on the circuit, you'll get the luxury of a really fine 140-watt stereo with an optional six-disc in-dash CD changer to drown out whatever noise offends your ears. The Evolution's ability to stop is almost as impressive as it is to go; aided by huge Brembo brakes both front and rear, the Evolution can stop on a dime every time with no sign of fading.

Inside, Mitsubishi has dressed up the standard Lancer dash with lots of painted silver plastic, a three-spoke MOMO steering wheel and terrifically comfortable set of Recaro performance seats. The instrument cluster also gets a freshening, with a 170-mph speedometer flanked by a 9000-rpm tachometer and a full set of gauges. Though the cluster is permanently backlit in a deep red light, the small numbers are a bit difficult to see, especially around dusk. You'll likely find most of the switches and controls to be well-placed and easy to reach and operate, including the controls for multi-adjustable seats. One of the coolest features of the Evolution is a small switch located on the center console that allows you to manually spray the intercooler with water; this helps cool the incoming air from the turbo and gives the Evolution a bit more punch. Unlike most other cars in this class, the Evolution's Lancer-based platform provides it with a large, roomy rear seat that can comfortably accommodate two adults.

In addition to its outlandish speed, the Evolution also gets a bit of over-the-top styling cues to help distinguish it from the base Lancer, the most obvious of which is the enormous rear wing. Other more subdued features include a front hood scoop, mesh grille, lower side-body skirts and built in fog lights. Standard features include power windows and door locks, HID headlights, air conditioning, headlight level control, keyless entry, electronic brake force distribution and ABS brakes.

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