The iconic Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is no more. The current model will not be replaced. Instead, the company will create a sporty SUV that embodies the spirit of the Evo. But could an Evo crossover really work?
The Lancer Evolution has been Mitsubishi’s flagship vehicle for some time. Thanks to many epic rally performances, appearances in films such as The Fast and the Furious, and virtual representations in video games like Gran Turismo, Need for Speed and Forza, it is an iconic vehicle. Every petrolhead has a certain respect for the Evo.
So it was disappointing to many enthusiasts when Mitsubishi announced late in 2014 that the Evolution was on its way out.
Product boss Kanenori Okamoto said at the Paris Motor Show that the company had no future plans for the Lancer Evolution. Instead, Mitsubishi would focus on creating a sporty compact SUV that could replace the Evo “in spirit”.
Understandably, there was a kneejerk reaction. Staunch Evolution fans weren’t happy. How could an SUV ever replace the Evo?
But it is perhaps worth taking a step back and assessing the situation logically. An Evo SUV actually makes a lot of sense. Unconvinced? Allow me to explain.
One of the Evolution’s best features has always been its practicality. It is a sports car, but with the body of a sedan. It might be brisk and fun to drive, but it has four proper seats and a large boot. It also has an all-wheel-drive system that gives it incredible surefootedness on bad roads. That’s why it is such a great rally car.
When the Evo was created 1992, the sedan was the style du jour when it came to car design. The vast majority of vehicles were sedans. Now things have changed. SUVs in general, and crossovers in particular, are very popular, and sedans are taking a back seat, as it were.
So why not turn the Evo into a crossover utility vehicle? What made it great in the first place was that it was, in a sense, already a crossover vehicle. It combined the performance of a sports car with the practicality and versatility of a sedan. Moreover, a large part of its appeal was its all-wheel drive system.
With crossovers becoming so popular, the creation of an Evo SUV seems like a natural, well, evolution.
What will an SUV version of the Evolution look like? Mitsubishi has given a pretty good idea of where the project is heading. It has unveiled the awkwardly named XR-PHEV concept vehicle which, cumbersome name not withstanding, is actually a very exciting vehicle that foreshadows an SUV iteration of the EVO.
The XR looks fantastic – high riding yet sporty and fun, similar in styling to the Range Rover Evoque, BMW X4 and Porsche Macan.
But what really grabs one’s attention is the technology behind that shiny metal. The SUV is powered by a three-cylinder 1,1-litre petrol engine that develops 100 kW of power. However, that is not its only source of power. It also has an electric motor that develops a healthy 121 kW. This means that, when running only on electricity, the XR offers a respectable 121 kW. Add that 1,1-litre mill to the mix, and it pushes out 220 kW of power! Moreover, there’s no reason why the eventual Evo couldn’t have a two-litre mill mated to that electric motor.
It should be noted that the XR-PHEV concept has front-wheel drive, but there is also no reason why it couldn’t be all-wheel drive. Each axle (or wheel) could even get its own electric motor.
Despite our regard for the old Lancer Evolution, it was a vehicle with limited appeal that didn’t sell in vast numbers. A sporty crossover with “the spirit of the Evo” would be a more financially viable product. Let’s hope Mitsubishi builds it soon. But not before it gives us a new Pajero!