There have been many excellent Japanese performance vehicles over the years (and on this site we aim to gradually archive and “preserve” the memory and history of them as time takes its toll, and cars become more mundane and the “war on the motorist” continues from national and local governments around the world).
At Garage Dreams, one of our favorite Japanese performance vehicles is the Mitsubishi Evo.
This furiously fast sedan represents everything that is so great about the potential of performance cars.
If you’re looking to buy your own Evo, then check out our Mitsubishi Evo buyer’s guide here for more information on getting your own example of this great Japanese modern classic performance sedan.
In this article, we are looking at why the Mitsubishi Evo is so popular, even a number of years after the last model rolled off the production line in 2016.
Just what is it about the Evo that makes it such a popular and enduring car?
In our opinion, there are a few key reasons that explain why the Mitsubishi Evo is so popular, all of these years after its first release:
The Mitsubishi Evo Is A Fast, Exciting Car
One of the most obvious reasons for the Evo’s continued popularity is its fantastic performance.
Even earlier Evos (which were still governed by the Japanese “Gentleman’s Agreement” limiting vehicles to an output of 280 BHP, although many claim this was exceeded on a regular basis by manufacturers including Mitsubishi) were fast cars and are still quick by today’s standards.
Don’t believe us? Here are some Evo acceleration videos to whet your appetite.
Later models carried even more power, with some models having up to 440hp in some markets.
Of course Evos weren’t just quick in a straight line. Thanks to the chassis setup and all wheel drive system, Evos go around the bends well and have excellent grip. While there are certainly cars with better handling in existence, you’d have to be a bit dishonest or ignorant to claim that Evos aren’t great handlers as well.
Beyond the pure speed and handling prowess, the Evo is also popular and desirable due to the “raw” nature of its performance. While many modern cars are more then capable of similar turns of speed (both in a straight line and around corners) there are few cars that do it with such excitement and purity as the Evo. Driving one of these is a different experience, and you feel a lot more connected to the car than you do in many more modern vehicles that might be similar or better performers “on paper”. For this reason, the Evo is still a popular choice for driving purists.
Evos Are Great Looking Cars
In our opinion, part of the Mitsubishi Evo’s continued popularity can be placed squarely at the feet of its good looks.
While the Evo may not be “beautiful” in the way an Alfa Romeo is, for example, all generations have an aggressive, muscular appearance that has not really dated. An old colleague of mine once described the Evo IV as looking like a “Robot’s Foot” but claimed this was a term of endearment, as robots are cool.
Evos still turn heads all these years later, and it is the writer’s opinion that the 6 & 6.5 generation Evos are some of the best looking four door performance cars ever.
The Evo looks purposeful, and lets the driver – and others – know it means serious business! These good looks definitely contribute to the continued popularity and desirability of the Evo.
Practicality Is A Factor
Although an Evo is not as practical as say a Range Rover, it is still a fairly practical car, with all generations sporting four doors, reasonable interior space and also decent trunk space. The base Lancer was, after all, meant to be a compact family sedan, so it stands to reason that anything based on this platform is going to have at least some degree of usable practicality.
While the Evo can be a bit harsh for a daily driver (and dailying an Evo is likely to lead to a lot of maintenance and fuel bills) it is still a car that is capable of being used regularly for any purpose that you would use a normal sedan for.
Evos are a bit spartan in terms of interior features – especially earlier generations or sportier RS variants – but if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t care too much for creature comforts, then this might not bother you.
Because of the decent level of practicality when compared to conventional sports cars, the Evo remains a popular choice for those who want power and usability in a single vehicle.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo vs WRX STI – A Rivalry For The Ages
In our opinion, another reason for the Evo’s popularity is the legendary rivalry between the Evo and Subaru’s WRX STI.
Anyone who is in to this “genre” of cars will have a take on what is better out of the Evo or the WRX STI (and it’s also fair to say that in different generations there are winners and losers). It’s similar to the Ford vs Holden rivalry that any Australian or Kiwi reader will be familiar with.
This rivalry/competition has made the Evo the stuff of legend, and we’re sure there are many Evo owners who own their examples because they want to prove to their friends or family that Mitsubishi’s offering was – and always will be – better than that of Subaru.
It Was An Icon Of Its Time
Alongside the power, handling, practicality and that rivalry with Subaru’s WRX STI, the Evo was a bit of an icon of its time as well.
From featuring in video games such as Gran Turismo 1 & 2:
To appearing in the venerable Fast & Furious franchise (specifically 2 Fast 2 Furious) the Evo was a desirable “icon” of Japanese motoring performance:
It’s no great secret that cars that were desired in their heyday often become classics, and the Evo represents a great example of this.
Conclusion – Why Is The Evo So Popular?
To recap, the Evo remains a popular vehicle for a number of reasons:
Firstly, it is a phenomenal performer in every generation and guise. Sure, some generations are generally seen as being better than others, but basically any Evo in good running condition will satisfy all but the most demanding of owners. Simply put, the Evo is seriously fast and will put a smile on your face. The fairly raw nature of the driving experience (compared with today’s more powerful and more accessible, but more sterile performance cars) also adds greatly to the appeal. To borrow a cliched saying, “they don’t make ’em like that anymore”.
Secondly, Evos are fairly practical cars. Although they are a bit basic in terms of interior appointments, luxury features etc you can still seat 4-5 people and there is a usable trunk/boot. This means that Evos can be used as daily drivers (although we think they are becoming rare enough to warrant preservation, rather than potentially tortuous daily use – but we can certainly respect anyone who wants to use theirs daily). If you only have space for one car but want something that combines practicality with extreme performance, then the Evo could be a good choice.
Thirdly, they have a special place in the hearts and minds of a generation that grew up on a diet of Gran Turismo games on the Playstation, Fast & Furious movies etc. Along with other Japanese greats such as the Nissan GT-R, Toyota Supra, WRX STI etc, the Mitsubishi Evo is a car that many lusted over in their younger years, and can now afford.
For these reasons, the Mitsubishi Evo remains a popular “modern classic” of choice. Prices on even ropey examples are climbing, so if you’re looking to get your own, then you best read our Mitsubishi Evo buyer’s guide which has information about finding a good example and securing a great deal on it as well.