2009 Nissan cube: What The Heck Is That? REDUX

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cube_front_quarter_profile1Photos courtesy of Nissan North America

Introduction

In 2004, the Scion xB (or the Toyota bB as it is originally known as in Japan) set a new trend in the automotive marketplace with its quirky design, affordable pricing and a marketing push that specifically targeted younger, first time buyers. Indeed, the first few xB’s that roamed the streets often solicited a universal response: “What the heck is that?” The first generation xB drew quite a crowd, young AND old, to dealerships across the country to take a closer look and, more often than not, take home the Kleenex box on wheels.

Fast forward to the present. The xB has morphed into something much less than its original self, losing that design “edge” and the fuel efficiency of the 1.5L engine, however anemic the power delivery may have been. And with these changes, the obligatory price of entry has gone up as well. The xB was no longer innovative nor affordable, distancing itself from the very qualities that made it so appealing to so many.

Thankfully, a new generation of the Kleenex box is hitting American car dealers and bringing back “the funk” in a major way.

First Impressions

cube_rear4

The Nissan cube (yes, it’s lower case). Striking. Striking in a funky kind of way. The overall design is very organic in form, with no hard angles or solid corners to be found – which is rather the opposite of its namesake. The rear window wraps around to the passenger side, creating an asymmetric visual effect. The front driver and passenger window openings look more like portholes, as if you are looking through openings on a small submarine. The front fascia with its prominent headlights and low rear bumper treatment create an instant reminder of something… although that “something” isn’t apparent at first. Personally speaking, the word “octopus” comes to mind.

  • Step inside and the organic theme continues – everything is characterized by soft lines and rounded corners.
  • Unlike a commercial duty truck that is full of hard surfaces and sharp edges, the cube’s interior is inviting, a place where you COULD spend hours on end during a road trip; the seats, although lacking any significant side bolstering, are supportive and comfortable, and wrapped in good quality fabric.

cube_headliner_ripple_effect

  • Look above and the headliner has a ripple effect, the dome light positioned as the centerpoint. The same treatment is found on the audio speakers and, to a lesser extent, on the HVAC controls, tying everything together.

cube_interior_dash

  • Our evaluation cube came equipped with a bevy of audio options – XM satellite radio, iPOD / USB connectivity, CD changer, AM / FM radio. The optional Rockford Fosgate sound system delivered decent bass with clean mids and highs
  • The cube is also offered in the top-of-the-line “Krom” trim level, with a special front fascia treatment, unique design wheels and a host of other unique equipment – was this trim level name inspired by the character Crom in the movie Tron? Or perhaps by Conan the Barbarian’s god, Crom?
  • There is sufficient room to comfortably seat 4 adults; even with yours truly at the wheel, with the driver’s seat slid all the way back, there was plenty of leg room available in the rear
  • Storage space in the main compartment is everywhere and optional bungee cords, that allow you to literally hang things on the door handles, are available as an option
  • With the windshield having little rake, it feels as if the front end is miles away when sitting in the front and takes a bit of getting used to
  • There is a bit of liftover required to load items into the trunk, with cargo space seemingly at a premium – sure, you can fold down the rear seats to create more space, but if the cube is already loaded with passengers, you’d better pack lightly

Driving Impressions

If you’re expecting GT-R-like performance, look elsewhere. More than a handful of other reviews on this car speak of the cube’s lack of power under the hood. But really, is that even a relevant comment to make? Is the cube buyer looking for sub-4 second 0-60 times? 12-second quarter mile times?

The Nissan cube is intended as a stylish people hauler with a low cost of entry. The 122-hp 4-cylinder is certainly peppy and permits quick getaways from stoplights. Surely, it’s no VQ38DETT found in the GT-R, but power delivery is smooth and linear. The continually variable transmission does a great job of delivering what power the Cube does brings to the table and makes the little wagon feel quite a bit more crisp and powerful than it really is. And when things do get a little dicey, it’s good to know that traction and stability control come as standard equipment on this Nissan.

Handling is definitely aided by the placement of all four wheels at the farthest points of each corner possible. This creates an ideal weight distribution over each wheel, creating handling characteristics that belie the tall design of the Cube. For those aftermarket-inclined, they may opt to upgrade the stock 16-inch wheels and 195-width tires, but the stock set up is more than sufficient for the most of us.

Braking was steady and consistent. Initial bite, even when cold, was good and predictable. Even though the Cube is equipped with drums in the rear, you would never know it unless you took a peek under the wheels.

In terms of fuel efficiency, the cube generated an average of 27.5 miles per gallon based on a 60/40, city to highway split. That’s excellent gas mileage from a vehicle that can transport 4 adults quite comfortably.

Conclusion

New car sales have been flat over the last twelve months due to the economy sinking like the Titanic and people opting to keep their cars longer. As a matter of fact, the ratio of used car sales to new car sales went from 3:1 in 2008 to 5:1 in 2009, according to RL Polk.

Newer model cars just aren’t that exciting any more. Same, mundane designs across the board, uninspiring performance and rising sticker prices plague offerings from many manufacturers. With that being said, it’s good to see Nissan take the leap and bring this quirky, fun car to US shores. It’s certainly worth a look for new car buyers looking for a car with personality, good performance and value for money. We’re betting that the Cube will give Toyota’s Scion offering a run for its money.

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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The Latest Pony From Ferrari’s Stable

Daniel Lewis

Scuderia Ferrari, which means Ferrari Stable, is one of my favorite stables to stay up to date with. While everyone may have been talking about “Mine That Bird” from the Kentucky Derby this past weekend, the pony that I was watching was the Ferrari 599XX. Here is Ferrari’s take on the newest speed demon to come out from its stables:

While based on the 599 GTB Fiorano ,with the same transaxle layout and engine type, this prototype is an extreme track car. Ferrari’s engineers have carried out extensive work on the engine’s combustion chambers and inlet and exhaust tracts. These modifications, combined with the fact that internal attrition has been reduced and the maximum revs have been boosted to 9,000 rpm, helped achieve the target power output of 700 hp at 9,000 rpm. Particular attention was also paid to cutting the weight of the engine unit components. This was achieved both by optimising forms – as in the new crankshaft – and adopting exclusive materials, as in the carbon-fibre used for the intake plenums. A new gearbox shift strategy cuts overall gear-change times to 60 ms.

The 599XX is characterised by an innovative electronic concept called the ‘High Performance Dynamic Concept’, which has been designed to get maximum performance from the car by managing the combination of the car’s mechanical limits with the potential of its electronic controls. The mechanical and electronic systems work together to get the maximum performance from the car under extreme high performance driving, for consistent lap times. The sporty handling has been improved thanks to the adoption of second generation SCM suspension system. Track usage is also made easier thanks to the new ‘virtual car engineer’, a screen in the car that provides a real-time indication of the vehicle’s efficiency.

The 599XX’s aerodynamics were honed in numerous Wind Tunnel test sessions with the result that the car now boasts 280 kg of down-force at 200 km/h (630 kg at 300 km/h). The front underside of the body is completely faired-in and the vents that channel hot air from the engine bay have been moved to the bonnet.

The ‘Actiflow™’ system increases down-force and/or cuts drag, depending on the car’s trim cornering conditions, courtesy of the use of a porous material in the diffuser and two fans in the boot, which channel the air flow from under the car out through two grilles next to the tail lights. Winglets have been added to the rear buttresses to increase downf-orce, while synthetic jets have also been incorporated into the rear of the car to control and smooth the air flow and to reduce drag. Ferrari’s engineers have also used F1-derived ‘doughnuts’, which partly cover the brake discs and wheel rim. These have the dual functions of improving aerodynamics and cooling the brakes.

In terms of the bodywork, composites and carbon-fibre have been widely used and the engineers drew on their experience in working with aluminium to reach the weight target. The development of increasingly high-performance materials has also benefited the carbon-ceramic braking system. The brake pads are now made from carbon-fibre, which means the callipers are smaller while guaranteeing the same efficiency. The new racing carbon-ceramic braking system also delivers shorter braking distances and is generally more efficient due to the weight saving.

The 599XX comes with slick tyres (29/67 R19 front and 31/71 R19 rear), specifically developed to maximise stability in cornering and increase lateral acceleration. They are fitted to 19 x 11J wheel rims at the front and 19 x 12J at the rear. Ferrari.com

These pictures of the new 599XX have just been released for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!!

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Pontiac: Sayonara!

 

Pontiac, the 83 year-old General Motors brand once dubbed as the “excitement division” of the Detroit OE manufacturer, will be eliminated Monday, April 27.

According to The Detroit News, the demise of the Pontiac brand is part of the government-supervised restructuring plan of the automotive industry. GM is also set to close additional production plants and cut jobs to further reduce its $28 billion in unsecured debt.

Sure, Pontiac may have been an “exciting” brand in the past with the venerable old school GTO introduced in the 60s. But there have been nothing exciting about the forgettable Aztek, the front wheel drive Grand Am (’85 and up), the crappy G5 (rebadged Chevy Colbat), and the G6, which is just an updated & rebadged Grand Am. What about the latest GTO / G8? Both are made by Holden, GM’s subsidiary in Australia, and Holden is no General Motors (in a good way). What about the Pontiac Solstice? You can buy the same car as a Saturn or Opel (Germany), all sharing the same underpinnings. Hell, the Solstice’s roots can be traced back to the Opel Speedster / Vauxhall VX220.  There’s nothing original about any of their cars.

Rather than being an exciting brand, Pontiac – much like GM’s other brands – have incited an endless chain of yawns. And having no small car strategy has for sure hurt this brand. Personally speaking, I have never considered a Pontiac vehicle when shopping for a new car. Needless to say, I won’t miss it one bit.

2009 Nissan 370Z Aftermarket Parts Guide

While we are evaluating the 2009 Nissan 370Z with Sport Package…

The 350Z was hugely popular with the aftermarket crowd and we foresee the same level of popularity and aftermarket support for the 370Z. It is a new platform so it will take a bit of time for manufacturers to develop parts for the car. We will update this list as often as necessary to provide you with as comprehensive a list as possible.

Some of the parts listed below have been introduced / launched in Japan, but not in the States. Please verify compatibility and availability with each brand’s respective distributor in the US.

**Brake pads listed below are designated for the optional sport brake package (4-piston front / 2-piston rear) ONLY**

Brake Pads (OE Replacement; F/R) – Street

Brake Pads (OE Replacement; F/R) – Street & Track

Brake Pads (OE Replacement; F/R) – Track

Brake Kits

Engine – Exhaust

Engine – Intake

Suspension / Chassis

Sourcebox

Endless / Zeal USA
18421 Gothard St. Suite #200.
Huntington Beach, CA. 92648
(714) 847-0694

HKS USA
13401 S. Main Street

Los Angeles, CA 90061
(310) 491-3300

Mackin Industries (Project µ)
9921 Jordan Circle
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
(562) 946-6820

Tein USA (Tein / Fujitsubo)
9798 Firestone Blvd.
Downey, CA 90241
(562) 861-9161

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2009 Audi TT-S Roadster: Progress IS Beautiful

audi_tts_side_profile

Introduction

“The Strip.” Slot machines. Blackjack tables. Buffets. Bright lights. What happens there supposedly stays there. Yes, I’m talking about Las Vegas. And it’s where we discovered the true magic of the new 2009 Audi TT-S Roadster.

Designated as the top-of-the-line model in the TT offering (until the TT-RS is released to the public, at least), the Ingolstadt make has pumped up the base TT’s 2.0L turbocharged to produce 265hp and 258lb-ft of torque. And as we were about to discover once behind the wheel, the TT-S offers fresh competition against the likes of the BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK and Porsche Boxster.

First Impressions

audi_tts_frontquarter

Even at first glance, the TT-S is a looker. The addition of a revised front fascia, with a deep chin spoiler and splitter, gives the roadster a much more aggressive, masculine feel over its non “S” brethren. The optional 19-inch five-parallel-spoke star design wheels on our tester elevated the ante even further – if you are considering purchasing the TT-S, definitely opt for the 19-inch wheel option. Even in a city as jaded as Las Vegas, the TT-S garnered more than its share of looks, from fellow drivers and pedestrians alike.

Step into the TT-S’s cabin and a sheer truth becomes very apparent – there are few manufacturers that can construct a vehicle interior as well as Audi. Whether it be materials, construction quality or sheer design, Audi does it better than just about anyone out there.

  • The seats are firmly bolstered, without being constrictive or cumbersome, with plenty adjustment and room to comfortably fit 6’+ drivers; the same cannot be said for Japanese cars or even other German roadsters
  • The flat-bottom steering wheel is solid and comfortable to hold, with a simplified set of buttons and controls for the radio and Bluetooth mobile phone interface
  • Speaking of Bluetooth, it automatically downloads the mobile phone’s phonebook so that you can search and dial directly from the dashboard-based interface
  • The dashboard is comprehensive, offering every bit of pertinent information to the driver
  • Climate control is easy to use, without referring to the manual, and dials look and feel upscale
  • The navigation system, unfortunately, is a little more difficult to use; there is no touch-screen functionality and you must manually rotate the control knob and select destination information letter-by-letter
  • Overalll, the Bose sound system is excellent, offering solid bass and clean mids and highs
  • The trunk features a surprising amount of space, big enough to hold two fully packed carry-on bags and two briefcases
  • The soft-top requiring about 17 seconds for operation, opening and closing with ease; whether the top is up or down, the cabin is surprisingly quiet and does not require yelling at the top of your lungs in order to have a conversation

Driving Impressions 

audi_tts_engine

Turn the key and the engine starts with a solid feel that you’d expect from a premium German car. But unlike the previous top model in the TT line up – the TT 3.2 with a naturally aspirated V6 – the TT-S takes the 2.0L turbo from the base TT and fuses it with a bigger turbo, intercooler, more boost and fortified internals to handle that extra boost. A full bar (14.7 psi) of boost, as a matter of fact. That extra boost is more than noticeable once on the throttle. Acceleration from a standing start is smooth, getting the roadster up to freeways speeds and beyond without much fuss.

We tried out the launch control system standard on the TT-S to see if we could achieve a more thrilling experience under WOT, but came away completed unfazed. Following the directions in the owner’s manual, we anticipated instant forward motion. What we got was an initial bog, followed by the usual acceleration levels we were experiencing. We tried again. And again. The results were the same. There wasn’t any smell of burning rubber. Rather, the smell of a burning clutch was all we were left with.

audi_tts_interior

Aside from the case of the missing launch control system (at least for us), the DSG gearbox works wonderfully well and we did not miss not having a third pedal to deal with – left foot braking is so much fun! Whether left in automatic D mode or switched over to manual shifting mode, DSG simply works. Shifts were crisp, instantaneous and even under heavy flicks of the left paddle under deceleration, the system never downshifted in a violent manner as exhibited in other vehicles (3rd to 2nd and 2nd to 1st gear shifts in the Lexus IS-F are absolutely terrifying). One thing left us scratching our collective heads, however…

As wonderful as the DSG system is, we’re perplexed by the shifter. Once pulled into the manual shifting slot to the left, the shifter presents the driver with a secondary shifting option. And shifting in this manner produces the same, quick gear shifts as found via the steering wheel paddles. Upshifts are literally “up,” as you push the shifter forward / away from you, where as downshifts are literally “down,” as you pull the shifter down towards you. For all intended purposes, however, this action for up and downshifts is counterintuitive. Perhaps it’s a literal translation for the novice driver who has never encountered or completely unfamiliar with a true sequential gearbox. Perhaps Audi is “dumbing down” the TT-S for the lowest common denominator. Whatever the reason may be, even simple physics suggest that upshifts should match the momentum of the body during acceleration (pull the shifter towards you) and during deceleration (push the shifter forward, away from you). Granted, other car makers make the same mistake, but Audi, the company that produces the multi-24 Hours of Le Mans winning P1 RACECARS, shouldn’t follow suit.

Rounding out the outstanding performance of the TT-S is the Audi magnetic ride system. In line with what is quickly becoming the norm in higher price point vehicles, Audi’s system permits the driver to select a “normal” or “sport” mode, which changes damping characteristics on the fly. For the most part, we discovered that “sport” mode is more than capable of handling the roughest of roads with ease. Only when dealing with Interstate 15’s rough patches on the way to Vegas did we switch over to “normal” mode. We did wish, however, that this magnetic ride system would offer another level of damping adjustment on the stiffer end of things. Considering that the “S” is positioned as a more spirited and performance-oriented TT, a third damping level would be very much in line with this logic. The current BMW M3’s electronically controlled suspension system would be a good benchmark to emulate.

Finally, Audi’s ubiquitous Quattro all wheel drive system ensures optimum power delivery and dependable footwork. The return trip from Vegas to Los Angeles presented us with thundershowers and high headwinds, both of which may unsettle many vehicles. The assurance of Quattro inspired confident driving in wet conditions and the TT-S never lost its poise no matter the prevailing weather conditions.

The Competition

Against its German roadster brethren, the TT-S offers the advantage of all wheel drive. Although you would suspect the added weight of the AWD system may hamper its efficiency, the Audi offers the highest mileage rating out of the foursome. The real question will come down to whether you favor the stability of an all wheel drive system or the joys of a rear wheel drive system that will let you hang out the rear with throttle oversteer.

If you have any desire to take one of these roadsters to the track, the Porsche Boxster and the BMW Z4 seem much more appropriate for track use. The TT-S tips the scale at up to 400lbs+ over the Boxster and Z4, and this is sure to pay penalties in terms of braking performance, brake fade and transitional stability. But is the TT-S really a roadster you would take to the track?

Much like the Mercedes SLK, the TT-S seems much more appropriate for gran turismo – long-distance, high speed trip done in both comfort and style. This is where the Audi’s greatest strength exists and sets itself apart from the Porsche and the BMW. As for the SLK350, surely the Mercedes brand means something, but we have to question whether it’s worth the $7,000+ premium. And with the new visual accoutrements added to the TT-S, the Audi is a much more masculine, aggressive form in which to drive all those miles.

Buy the SLK350 for your girlfriend / wife. Save the TT-S for yourself.

Conclusions

Simply put, we like the 2009 Audi TT-S. No, we actually love the 2009 Audi TT-S. Small complaints aside, this roadster does everything well. And in style. It makes the base 2.0L turbo and 3.2L TTs rather obsolete. All things considered, we can’t fathom why anyone would choose to buy anything but the TT-S.

Although it’s certainly capable, we don’t believe pitting the TT-S against the likes of a Boxster or Cayman on the track is a fair contest. We’ll wait for the TT-RS for that purpose. But the TT-S fulfills its duty as a GT incredibly well. And although the $56K price tag may scare away some potential buyers, it’s actually quite reasonable in the bigger scheme of things when compared to other German-made roadsters. Frankly, we wouldn’t mind having one as a daily driver regardless of it higher price tag.

Progress is indeed beautiful.

Notes

  • We achieved a fuel economy of 22 mpg in 70% highway / 30% city driving; although this is far below the claimed highway mpg of 29, there were considerable headwinds during the Vegas roadtrip and we tended to mash the throttle quite a bit
  • Although our test TT-S did have a 6 CD changer, we quite don’t see the point of those anymore; perhaps they have some appeal to the geriatric set
  • We would have liked to see the addition of a boost gauge

Sourcebox

Audi of America, Inc.
2200 Ferdinand Porsche Drive
Herndon, VA 20171
1-800-FOR-AUDI (367-2834)

Thanks goes out to Christian Bokich @ Audi of America and the gang @ STi Fleet Services!

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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X MR: The Evolution of the Evolution

evo_family_portrait

Introduction

Until the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution actually reached US shores, the turbocharged “sports” sedan – really,  “sports” is an understatement – was just a figment of the imagination that could only be enjoyed through a round on Gran Turismo. And it was made even worse by the demise of other Japanese sports car platforms – the Supra, MR2, RX-7 and NSX. It seemed Japanese car makers forgot about drivers on the other side of the Pacific.

That seems like ancient history now as Mitsubishi launched the newest iteration of the Evolution – the X – in 2008. With a completely new chassis (CZ4A) and engine (4B11 turbo), the 3rd generation of the Evo was put to pasture. Considering that yours truly and our feature editor, RevnRen, both own Evos – IX MR and VIII GSR, respectively – RevdCars.com has a soft spot for these 4-door speed demons. Needless to say, we wanted to give the X MR a thorough examination and, admittedly, bashing to determine if the evolution of the Evolution was in the right direction.

First Impressions

We won’t delve too much into the design of the new Evo, as form tends to be a very subjective kinda thing. But we do want to note a few things about the goings on outside and inside the CZ4A.

second

  • The look is a complete departure from anything else seen before in the Evolution family. The front end is reminiscent of the Nissan BNR34 GT-R, with a blunt nose and high surface area for the intercooler and radiator. The belt line is now taller, creating a more cocooned feel inside the cockpit. The rear end looks much taller as a result of this as well, making the previous generation Evo look like a Ooompa Loompa from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory children’s story.
  • The Recaro seats featured in the X are a far better at supporting the driver and front passenger. The previous generation featured the back section from the Recaro Sport seats, but the bottom section seemed to be a unit straight out of the plain Lancer, albeit with upholstery treatment to match the back section. The new Recaros have real thigh bolsters, which should work well when things get more curvy and dicey. What’s the tradeoff for the new seats? Whereas the previous generation’s seats have a hard plastic backing, the new Recaros are just “draped” in a vinyl cloth. Blame the beancounters for this one.
  • Gone is the carbon rear spoiler from the CT9A. The X features a spoiler made entirely of… plastic.
  • HVAC controls are now automatic. You can set a desired cabin temp and let the system work its magic. This is nice and all, but the control dials look and feel rather cheap.
  • There are no apparent gauges for water temp, voltage, boost or any other useful parameters. To see some of this information, you have to scroll through the digital information display situated between the tach and speedometer. At the minimum, water temp and fuel level should be visible at all times.
  • The seating position feels high and there are no controls for seat height – this is an on-going gripe of mine about most Japanese cars; the Europeans do a better better job of accomodating tall AND average sized drivers, whereas anyone taller than 5’10” face a rather high seating position in Japanese vehicles. Since there are some electronic tidbits situated under the driver’s and front passenger seats – I’m assuming these are the amps and related components for the sound system – there’s no way to modify the seat bracket to lower the seating position. Unless you relocate all those electronic tidbits, that is.

Driving Impressions 

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As our friend, current Mazda engineer & former Sport Compact Car editor Dave Coleman said at the new Evo’s launch, “You buy this car for what’s forward of the firewall.” Indeed, the Evo has been known to deliver outrageous performance in a compact 4-door platform for a relatively reasonable price. The CE9A (first generation, I to III), CP9A (second generation, IV to VI) and CT9A (third generation, VII to IX) have not only been the foundation for street performance but for motorsports as well, ranging from the WRC to the Tsukuba time attack in Japan. In addition to the completely new powerplant, the 4B11, the Evo X MR brings two completely new features to the table – the TC-SST sequential manual transmission and the addition of Super AYC to Stateside cars, resulting in what is dubbed “All Wheel Control,” also known as AWC.

The 4B11 is a departure from the 4G63 engine that has been used for all three previous generations of the Evo. Whereas the older engine’s foundation was based on a cast iron block, the new engine is based on an aluminum block design. Surely, the 4G63T was built to withstand boost way beyond what comes from the factory due to its stout nature, whereas lighter weight was the greater focus of the 4B11. Although not as stout as the older engine – which can be easily solved by throwing in some machining and sleeves – the new engine does give better weight distribution and balance in the CZ4A chassis. And the 4B11 is no slouch either, producing greater horsepower and torque figures out of the box.evo_x_engine_shot

Behind the wheel, the 4B11 produces plenty of power from down low. The engine doesn’t seem to require as much revs as the 4G63 to start putting the power down, which proves well for quick getaways from a standing or rolling start. And it pulls decently to its 7k rev limit, although it seems to start running out of gas in the high end of the rev spectrum when compared to the 4G63. Whereas the X unwinds with smooth boost, the IX is much more raw, pushing you back in the seat with greater urgency and impact. Obviously, the boost characteristics of the X is in line with the more “mature” driving feel Mitsubishi engineers were shooting for. Perhaps opening up the intake side of the equation would alleviate this bit of a “choking” feeling on the top end.

The new power delivery characteristics are augmented by the incredibly capable TC-SST transmission in the X MR. With three modes to choose from – “Normal,” Sport and S-Sport – the driver is given the choice of throttle response and aggressiveness in the shifting. “Normal” mode seemed to be best for lugging the car around town with traffic, whereas sport mode engaged with a quick flick of the toggle switch, immediately changing the behavior of the X. Personally speaking, I found S-Sport mode to be to my liking, with its quick throttle response and ultra-quick shifting.

Two qualities bothered me a bit, although they don’t take away from the driving experience itself. First, in order to engage S-Sport mode, you must come to a complete stop and push and hold the toggle switch for a few seconds. I imagine that this is designed to prevent potential damage to the sequential system, but not having all your missiles at the ready is rather disappointing. Second, even if you have engaged Sport or S-Sport mode, the car reverts back to Normal mode once you shut off and restart the car. This is not a shortcoming I have just for the Evo, however. The Nissan GT-R and Lexus IS-F are two vehicles that come immediately to mind that possess what I deem to be a nuisance. The driver should have control over the car, not the car have control over the driver and what he wants to do.

All small niggles aside, the combination of the 4B11 engine and TC-SST transmission is quite a convincing one, and completing the circle of performance is the new Super AWC system. It combines Super AYC (Active Yaw Control; first time in a Stateside Evo – adds side-to-side torque transfer ability to the rear wheels translating more cornering capability; similiar to Honda’s SH system), ACD (Active Center Differential), ASC (Active Stability Control) and ABS braking into one.

Simply put, the Super AYC system works. As the biggest handling difference between the US Evo IX, it allows the driver to push the throttle harder and earlier out of the apex. And you can watch S-AYC at work in the central display located between the tach and speedo. Even with the softer Bilstein suspension and higher ride height, it inspired just as much, if not more, confidence through the corners than a modified Evo IX. Some may argue that such electronic aids don’t help the driver in improving his skills, but anything to get you through a corner faster and SAFER is a plus in my book.

The stock Brembo braking system does a good job of bringing the Evo down to zero. While this set up is more than adequate for most drivers out there, the persistent “squishy” feeling under heavy braking is a carry-over from the Evo IX. Whether it’s late braking on the track or a panic stop on the freeway, the stock Brembo pad compound just doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. As done with the in-house Evo IX, a change of pads, lines and fluid will do wonders for more spirited braking maneuvers. Or if your wallet allows – and to generate “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” from your friends – upgrade the system altogether to a number of aftermarket brake systems listed below. It will transform the Evo X into something completely different in a way that words cannot describe.

Finally, the wheel & tire combination on the X MR is great right out of the box. The Advan (Yokohama) 13C is a dry weather UHP (ultra high performance) tire that provides excellent traction on tarmac. Although the life expectancy of such a gummy tire is rather low, this is a price that any performance minded car enthusiast would not mind paying. And the 18″ forged BBS wheels, unique to the Evo X, is a strong, lightweight wheel that really does not need to be upgraded for performance reasons.

The Competition

It’s rather difficult to compare the Evo X to the Subaru WRX STi, as they seemed to have gone in different direction with the current iterations. Whereas the Subie has transformed itself into a 5-door hatch, resembling a downsized Lexus RX-series SUV, the Evo maintains its 4-door sedan heritage. And has upped the ante a bit with a more user-friendly, pseudo entry level luxury vibe.

Considering the new approach of the Evo, we can only compare it to some of the 4-door sports sedans out there in the low- to mid-40k range. Having spent extensive seat time in all 4 of these vehicles, it’s hard to place the Evo X in the same class. Why? It’s just a different beast altogether. There is a greater emphasis on luxury, refinement and finish / materials in the Audi, BMW and Lexus. It’s hard to imagine that a person in the market for an entry-level luxury sports sedan would put the Evo X under consideration. Sure, Mitsubishi has made its bid with more features and gizmos inside but the execution honestly falls short of what its competitors have to offer. And although the Subaru WRX STi could be considered its closest competitor, the Evo and the Subie seemed to have traveled in different directions with the current offerings.

Conclusions

The 10th iteration of the venerable turbocharged sedan has lived up to the legacy established by 9 iterations before it. It offers an incredible driving experience with a greater level of refinement. Whether you are a current Evo VIII or IX owner, or interested in a kick-in-the-crotch level of performance with room to spare in the back, there’s really nothing that comes close to what this Mitsubishi has to offer.

Having said that, we would highly recommend that you opt for the GSR version instead. The TC-SST transmission is great, but it seriously limits aftermarket options if you plan to further “evolutionize” the car. And there’s no telling how much power this sequential manual can handle before it gives up the ghost. At an MSRP of over $41,000 for our loaded MR test car, that is $8,000 on top of what you’d pay for a base GSR, based on MSRP. Yet, the base GSR in question will still have the same potent 4B11 engine, the superb Super-AWC system, Brembo brakes (sans the two-piece front rotor) and the same gummy Yokohama Advan tires (although they will be mounted to slightly heavier cast Enkei wheels). $8,000 is a lot of money that could be spent on aftermarket performance components to spruce up the X GSR to your liking.

Notes

– We achieved an average of 20mpg on mixed city & highway driving, which is not Yaris efficient, but quite good considering we were mashing the throttle every chance we got.

-We thank Mitsubishi engineers for keeping the shift paddles mounted to the steering column, rather than the steering wheel.

– Our baseline for comparison, a mildly modified Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR, features:

Sourcebox

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.
PO Box 6014
Cypress, CA 90630-0014
(866) 876-3018

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