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MSRP Range: $32,990
Fuel Economy: 16 MPG city / 22 MPG highway

All-new Evo affordable M3 alternative.

The all-new 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution is bigger and more refined than its predecessor. Rally fans may regret the Evo has moved away from its roots in World Rally Championship competition, but it's faster than its predecessor by almost every measure, now more like an affordable BMW M3.

The Evo is the sports edition of the Lancer sedan. Mitsubishi doesn't bring out a new version of the Evo every year. Although the first of the Evolution models appeared 16 years ago, this all-new Evo X, as it is affectionately called by fans, is only the 10th edition. Referred to by its fans with the Roman numeral X, the Evo X follows the Evo IX by two years.

Over those two years, some radical changes have been made. The Evo X is heavier, by some 300 pounds, than the IX. But it's more powerful, too, by five horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque, so it forfeits little if anything in sheer performance.

More important, though, are changes made outside the engine compartment. The interior is upgraded, importing many of the current family version of the Lancer's features and trim. At the head of this list is the optional navigation system employing a 30GB HDD for map storage that reserves some six GB for personal audio files. The system will also, when the Evo is parked, play video through its seven-inch screen. One interior piece, or rather two interior pieces the Evo doesn't borrow from the base Lancer are its front bucket seats. These are sourced from Recaro and break new ground with in-seat, side impact airbags.

Mitsubishi has also upgraded the Evo's running gear. There's a new, high-tech, twin-clutch, electronically shifted six-speed manual that's exclusive to the top-level Evo MR. It's a sweetheart of a transmission that puts some mega-bucks luxury sports cars to shame. The new Evo's all-wheel drive system is a serious move upscale, too, using data from yaw sensors, steering wheel angle, throttle opening, wheel speeds and the cars' sideways and fore-and-aft motions to regulate differential limiting action as needed to put the power to the wheels that can use it best to deliver what the computer perceives the driver is wanting.

The result of all this technology: Almost immediately after climbing in, we found it very easy to drive very hard. We were able to drive it right to the limit on the second lap of an unfamiliar racing circuit, this more a credit to the 2008 Evo's predictable handling than our driving prowess. It always seems to do exactly what the driver wants.

Pricing is competitive, as well. The GSR's $32,990 easily bests the most likely cross-shopped Subaru WRX STI's $36,000-plus. Mitsubishi hadn't released pricing on the MR when this was posted, but best-guestimates peg that at around $38,000, which again comes in under the STI's higher end of around $40,000. It's even plausible, as some Mitsubishi folk suggest, although off the record, to consider the 2008 Evolution as competitive with a two or three year old Audi A4 or S4.

Choosing between the Evo GSR and MR models comes down to personal preferences and budget; we liked both models.

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