2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition vs. 2017 Ford Focus RS: Little racers, big fun?
This week: Mitsubishi Lancer
Price: $41,295 as tested (a base Evolution can be had for $34,395).
Marketer's pitch: "One of a kind; last of a kind." And a note that only 1,600 are/were coming to the United States.
Conventional wisdom: That sales pitch is probably not working all that well, if we still have 2015s around to buy brand new.
Reality: I guess I'm too old for this car or something.
Farewell: So there's a little Japanese rocket from a company barely selling 100,000 units that goes really fast and costs more than an entry-level BMW, Acura, Cadillac, and even as much as a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro.
Why? I thought. But then one morning as I returned from the store and Sturgis Kid 1.0's 24-year-old boyfriend caught a glimpse of it, he mentioned how sweet it must be.
Up to speed: The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder creates a whopping 303 horses and certainly gets onto the highway in a hurry. Zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Shifty: While I normally rejoice when given a stickshift, the five-speed in the Evolution test model gave me no joy.
The long clutch pedal and long gearshift throws sucked all the energy out of the engine. Shifting just seemed to take an exceptionally long time and sapped whatever forward momentum the car had, making me feel as if I were driving a bus.
And five speeds? What is this, 1996?
On the road: Handling was sharp. Country roads could be taken at a quick pace, and the car hugged the road fairly well.
But the steering wheel could be touchy, so the car had a nervous feeling when I was just trying to get from Point A to Point B that took me a few days to get accustomed to.
Driver's seat: The manual seat was comfortable enough and quite shapely. But the cloth material felt cheap and the filling was exceptionally spongy.
Outside: The large jet-tail added to the Evolution model is reminiscent of the Plymouth Super Bee of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As part of a $1,600 package, it seems expensive.
Friends and stuff: A small console between the seats holds a little bit of stuff and a small cubby above the gearshift holds the phone.
Rear-seat passengers have a comfortable-enough ride. The middle passenger will have none of that, though, with a tall, wide hump and the front console intruding well into foot space.
Charge this: I just finished up a week in an Acura ILX, which I thought had that hardest charging port to locate.
Mitsubishi topped that, though, with a USB port tucked inside the glovebox that we located only after reading the manual.
Backing up: Be careful; no backup camera in the Evolution.
Getting comfy: The steering wheel lined up in such a way that when my arms were comfortable, the wheel obscured my view of the high-beam light and top of the speedometer and tachometer.
It also offered only tilt; I found no telescoping function.
Play some tunes: The Mitsubishi standard stereo interface remains another step back in time on certain models, and looks as if it were designed using Windows 3.1. The lone dial for volume sits on the right side, where one would expect to find tuning. Tuning is a beep-boop-beep endeavor in the touchscreen. Why not just go with two dials and an LED readout?
Night shift: I previously had a Lancer Evolution with headlights that rendered it virtually impossible to see at night on low beams.
This model is a step up from that level of dim, but not by much. And the strong, glaring map light over the rear-view mirror made night driving far too difficult with the interior light on.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 21 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat mix of country and suburban roads and highways. Feed this engine premium only.
Where it's built: Kurashiki, Japan
How it's built: Consumer Reports gives the Lancer a good rating for 2015 overall.
In the end: Surely I thought I'd get more joy out of this rocket. It made me start noticing the crows' feet, and the wrinkly hands, and I thought I was losing my gearheadedness. But then . . .
Next week: 2017 Ford Focus RS