People tend to forget about Mitsubishi. The little silvery triangle has been tootling around on the roads for years, but people seem to remember the Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic much more readily. Mitsubishi never seemed to do big advertising and hence resultant minuscule Press coverage particularly well and they also produced far fewer cars than their rivals. Also, most of them that I see out and about appear, for some odd reason, to be silver or that shimmery grey colour. I knew an old lady who had one – absolute pillar of the community, a righteous adherent to the speed limit and as anonymous as a traffic bollard. She drove it around until her mid-eighties. And yet, when other marques like Suzuki and Isuzu have slipped into obscurity or liquidation, little Mitsubishi has kept her head above water very nicely indeed, thanks to judicious alliances with Renault and Nissan. She has appeared in a number of movies – in fact, over fifty – where some of the more raucous examples were driven insanely fast, in at least three of the “Fast and Furious’ franchise. So, they’re not shopping trolleys after all, it would seem. Indeed, the brand is spoken of by serious petrol-heads in somewhat breathless awe since it produced the Lancer Evolution series of what at the time were described as ‘sporty sedans’ which dominated the World Rally Circuit almost thirty-odd years ago, giving arch-rival Subaru and its Impreza WRX STI a serious run for its money. We’re going to hear more about these. Don’t go away.
So, to the cars. Which is the fastest? And what do we really mean? One straight off the production line or a relatively humble Evo IX with an extreme makeover. The Greek based Extreme Tuners did some stratospheric work on one of these creating a Frankenstein’s monster and christened it the World Record Evo IX. The screaming noise it made at full throttle could easily mistake it for a Suzuki Hayabusa, one the most powerful motorbikes on the planet. The car allegedly produced an insane 2000 bhp, yes, that’s two thousand, and 13,000rpm from a four-cylinder 1.8 litre destroked engine. Paired with an absolutely humungous Dalek-eyed turbo the size of Australia sticking up out of the front end, tungsten crankshaft and valves, 4-way camshaft etc., etc., the list goes on and on… This thing has delivered a quarter mile time of 7.884 seconds at 185.54mph pulling nearly 5 gees. That’s astronaut stuff. You get to do the math for 0-60 by yourself. Safe to say, you won’t see one of these outside of a drag strip. And, unless you have a death wish or you’re as fearless as Spartacus and don’t mind your rib cage ending up in your spine, it’s unlikely you’ll get to drive one, either.
Coming gently down to earth, let’s take a look at the ten fastest Mitsubishis without the psychopathic components. First a word about the choice of name because all of them fit into this one category – various iterations of the Lancer. A Lancer was a lightly armoured cavalryman equipped with a long spear or lance, sometimes over three metres in length with a wicked steel point on the end. They were described as ‘frighteningly efficient,’ so it’s not a bad label to hang on this range of cars. Furthermore, it’s instructive to note that the Evo is simply a diminutive of Evolution which appears in all of the ten fastest. Like so many other Japanese manufacturers, they didn’t bother with a complete redesign, name and badge every five minutes; instead, they found something good and kept making it just a little bit better each time with half an eye on fuel economy and the other half on good looks. It’s a shame that the Lancers are now part of history, since up until 2017 they were some of the best and quickest road-going sports cars in the world. There are currently ten iterations of the Evo, denoted by Roman numerals. The truth is, there’s not a lot to choose between the top three at least and there might be quite heated disagreement as to which one really does deserve to be ranked higher than another. All ten of them used two litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder engines with AWD systems and they’re all saloon cars with five seats and five or six speed nothing-very-special manual gearboxes. I’ll give them their full names, out of respect. Oh, yes – I do hope this gets past the censor – the FQ designation was, if the legend is true, dreamed up by Mitsubishi marketing and means face shattering, bowel emptying quick. No, really! It was apparently sold to the rather strait-laced Brits as Fantastic Quality, however. You choose.
So, in approximate order of merit, here we go.
First – Lancer Evolution X FQ440
In first place, the Lancer Evolution X FQ440; specifications are from the 2014 model. Top speed (regulated which means a lot more is available) at 155mph and 0-60 in 3.6 sec, the 440 derives its name – as did they all – from the available bhp at 6800rpm – the red line of choice, it seems for Mitsubishi and a gutsy 412lb-ft of torque at 3100rpm, clearly contributing to its impressive acceleration. The Evo X was equipped with Active Yaw Control or AYC. It helped to change the torque between the left and right wheels of the vehicle and one of the nearest things the average driver is going to get to a race car that you can drive on the road. Not as fast as the VIII, but quicker away from the starting blocks. A worthy number one. It was a good-looking, tidy car as well – so many seem to have extra bits hanging off them as if they’re worried about pushing the air out of the way. Not this one. It’s all business, with a fat, low-loading grille like a black, tight yawn, sleek no-frills body line and extra air intake on the bonnet. The thing screams efficiency and raw but unpretentious determination, so for my money, it goes to the front of the queue.
Second – Lancer Evolution VIII FQ400
The Lancer Evolution VIII FQ400 – Specifications (2004-2005) With an unregulated top speed of 175 mph and 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, you can imagine driving one on long, straight empty roads, without speed cams. Tuned up to 405 bhp was not uncommon. Imported into the US in 2003, brought in as a direct competitor to the Subaru Impreza S WRX STi which had had considerable commercial success there. Very, very fast but just a tweak less impressive than the X and even this depends on who you ask. Not that most of us would really notice the difference; this kind of acceleration is hideously quick and a couple of tenths of a second might matter to the purists but not for the rest of us since we have a reaction time of about 0.2 seconds anyway.
Third – Lancer Evolution IX FQ360
With a total power output of 366 at 6,800 rpm,and peak torque of 363lb-ft at 4,200rpm, the Lancer Evolution IX FQ360 takes third place. Very quick indeed away from the lights, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and flat out at 160mph. There’s a curious nozzle air intake at the front also another mounted on the bonnet which sets it apart looks – wise. The ubiquitous little spoiler on the back still looks rather like a bolt-on added extra, however and makes the line of the car look quite clumsy.
Fourth – Lancer Evolution X FQ360
In at #4 with a total power output of 354bhp at 6500rpm, and 363lb-ft of torque at the lower end of 3500rpm, was the Evolution X FQ360, made from 2008 to 2014. This car was a direct marketing replacement to the Evo IX and looked very similar at first glance. Clocking 155mph with a 0-60 time of 4.0 seconds, many of the differences look cosmetic. There’s a big fat chunky grille and front skirt to help keep the front end down and again a silly-looking spoiler which is supposed to do the same for the rear.
Fifth – Lancer Evolution IX FQ340
The Evolution IX FQ340 from 2005 takes fifth place. At 157 mph, 0-60 in 4,3s a test car managed 345 bhp at 6500rpm and a torque of 321 lb-ft at 4600 rpm – a little bit more than the advertised mark. This had VVT technology as standard – variable valve timing and variable valve lift which improved both performance and fuel economy. The car looks deceptive. A wraparound bar holding the headlights looks as if it’s been put there to tame the beast a little bit but the fact that there is a huge grille almost concealed beneath it plus a sleek air intake both at ground level and another on the hood is rather a giveaway. This cat isn’t housebound at all, it’s a leopard in disguise.
Sixth – Lancer Evolution VIII FQ340
Sixth place is virtually the same vehicle in its eighth incarnation and there’s barely a whisker between them in terms of performance, a bit slower off the blocks at 4.7s, same torque but at 5000rpm, max power this time delivered at the slightly less 6700rpm. Personally, looks-wise there’s not a lot to choose, the front end layout is prettier than its faster cousin the front end swooping gently down to the road. As always, the little spoiler on the back doesn’t quite look as if it belongs.
Seventh & Eighth – Lancer Evo VIII FQ330
We seem to be just going down a list. Mistsubishi, like so many Japanese manufacturers found a car that sold and just kept making it better and better. Price was probably a consideration for the seventh placed Evo VIII FQ330 from 2003 – less power (330bhp at 6800rpm, and 315 lb-ft at 5000) rpm so less torque than previous models. Not much difference in styling, however. Similarly, the next one down in eighth at 326 bhp and 309 ft-lb, just a slight downgrade but still able to deliver 4.7s from 0-60 and 157mph.
Ninth – Lancer Evo X FQ330
With a total power output of 324 bhp – Mitsubishi obviously thought 330 sounded better, the 2008 Evo X FQ330 takes ninth place. A bit less sluggish away from the lights at 4.4s but not much, topping out at 155mph. You see, these cars seem to deliver very fine performance differences and some of the specs seem to be inaccurate. So, why isn’t this one higher up the list? For the same reason, I suppose is why #10 isn’t higher up. It’s almost a matter of choice where you slot the cars and performance figures like this could be overturned by the skill of the driver, tyre and road conditions or whether you had a row with the missus that morning.
Tenth – Lancer Evo X FQ300
I left the Evo X FQ300 from 2008 in tenth place – seems like a let-down really, but it isn’t – delivering 295 lb-ft at 6500 rpm, 300 bhp at 3500 rpm, topping out at 155mph and 4.5s from 0-60.
I know, the last few just look like a jumble of figures, so I thought to round off, we’d go back to the beginning, just for fun, to the absolute weapon of a car that we began with. We talked about the fact that if you’re as rich as Croesus and you like going faster on level ground than an F-16 taking off, the Evo makeover from Extreme Tuners might be a good fit to satisfy all that pent-up aggression. Everything was done in-house from the carbon fibre compressor wheel to the turbo to the Billet aluminium alloy sleeves and pistons with titanium rings. Looking at peak boost on a performance graph, the figures just look made up. At 9400 rpm the methanol/nitromethane booster kicks in and the driver must almost be able to see a Doppler shift of colour because he’s going too fast to see much else. There’s not a lot of room inside. In fact, there’s about as much internal space as might comfortably house a seven-year old or a rather agile Napoleon with a little bit extra to fit in a crash helmet. Nor will my little old lady in her eighties ever be squeezing herself behind the wheel. She’s too big.
So, there you have it. If you see the old girl on the road – she’ll be the one driving down the middle of it – do give her a wave from me. If you are interested in buying a Mitsubishi Evolution or want to know a bit more about the history of the car, make sure you check out our “buyer’s, history and specifications guide“.