Model revisions in the Lancer Evolution range have been prolific and it isn’t long after one variation makes an appearance that another follows shortly after.
Well, the MR (for Mitsubishi Racing) is one 2007 variant we’ve always had our eye on. The “MR” tag was originally used on the first Mitsubishi production car to be powered by a DOHC engine, the 1970 Colt Galant GTO MR (yes, that’s the name of one car).
When the MR first appeared in Lancer Evolution VIII guise, it was outfitted with a lightened aluminium roof, race-tuned Bilstein/Eibach suspension, lightweight BBS alloy rims and an engine tweaked for a smidgen more power and torque.
Of course, there were little styling cues to help differentiate it from its GSR and RS variants. Back then, the Evo VIII MR proved to be a significantly more hardcore drive than its GSR sibling, so it was with bated breath that we approached the MR’s current incarnation in the form of the Lancer Evolution IX.
Sit the GSR alongside the slightly lowered (by 10mm) MR, and you’d be hard-pressed to spot the visual differences since the enhancements are found mostly under the skin of the car. Apart from the “MR” badge on its tail, the bodykit, Enkei rims and vortex generator stay true to the GSR’s styling.
At its launch, the Evo IX GSR had already inherited the performance bits from the Evo VIII MR, added MIVEC technology to the venerable turbocharged 4G63 engine and, thankfully, lost the “parrot’s beak” on the front grille.
Many are quick to label the Evo as a boyracer’s chariot of choice, but there’s no denying the car’s physics-defying qualities and sheer performance prowess. The Evo works on several levels to offer the enthusiast a versatile and blistering A-to-B transport tool at a relatively affordable price. Pricey compared to the average saloon or MPV perhaps, but few others will come close to offering supercar-worrying levels of performance.
The Lancer Evo IX MR features new leather/Alcantara Recaro racing buckets in front, but the seating position is set a little too high for a performance car. As if the huge boot spoiler with carbon-fibre centre wing and the car’s outrageous styling wasn’t enough, the cabin has all the cues expected by buyers in this class. Sports seats, Momo sports steering wheel, a trio of gauges and expensive Piano
Black finish panels add to the cockpit’s ambience.
The twin-scroll turbocharger has been tweaked to offer better responses and greater longevity. A titanium-aluminium alloy is used for the turbine wheel, and the compressor wheel inlet diameter has been reduced to achieve more instantaneous response. So it’s odd the car seems to feel laggier than the GT at engine speeds lower than 3000rpm.
With all the hype over the GSR and MR, the GT-spec Evo IX is still the sleeper hit as far as we’re concerned. Compared to the GT, the MR seems sluggish in the low end, but closes the gap the moment the turbo hits full boost. But at that point, you’re well into illegal three-figure speeds.
Contrary to popular belief, the ride is pliant yet firm enough to offer good body control, rather than the rock-hardness that so many seem to expect. The chassis is well-sorted and agile, and the keen steering allows you to place the car precisely.
The Brembo brakes require a firm stomp on the pedal to engage, but the level of retardation never seems to reach its limit. The Super AYC (Active Yaw Control) has also been recalibrated for the revised suspension.
The Lancer Evolution IX MR is an accomplished performer, but it seems to have lost a bit of its finely honed edge along the way. And if having a manual 6-speeder is not essential, the hardcore purist may find the GT or stripped-out RS variants to be more agreeable companions.
Read our comparison of the official Lancer Evo X and its parallel-import twin.