GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1992 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

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SPEX

Year: 1992
Country of Origin: Japan
 
Class: Sport Compact
Type: 4-door sedan
Host: GT4
 
 
Price as Tested: $9,582 (GT4 used car lot)

Starting Mileage: 41,444.6
 
Length: 169.7" // Width: 66.7" // Height: 54.9"
Wheelbase: 98.4"
Overhang: 5 feet 11 inches
Track: 57.1" [Front & Rear]
Ground Clearance: 5.9"

Construction: unit steel body, aluminum hood
Weight: 2,733 pounds
Steering: power-assisted rack & pinion
Layout: Front-Engine / All-Wheel Drive
Tires: 195/55R-15 84v
F.Suspension: Macpherson strut, coils, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: multilink, coils, anti-roll bar
Brakes: vented disc [F] solid disc [R]
 
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline-4
Construction: aluminum block & heads
Aspiration: air-to-water intercooled turbo
Fuel ystem: EFi
Valves / Cyl: 4
Compression: 8.8:1

Final BHP: 
246 @ 6,000 rpms
Fnl Torque:
227 @ 3,000 rpms

Credits per HP: $38.95
Pounds per HP: 11.11
HP per Liter:     123.2

Idle Speed: 1,000 // Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: 7,500
 
Transmission: 5-speed manual.
Limited-Slips: 1 in rear, 1 in center

```````````````from idle ```````````from 3,000->6,000 rpms
0-60 mph: 7.433 seconds       6.850 seconds
0-100mph: 17.383 seconds     17.xxx seconds
 
400 M: 15.393 @ 95 mph
1 KM: 
27.879 @ 121 mph
 
 
Brakes, 100-zero mph: 3.76 seconds
Test Track Time: 2:45.707
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,800
 
Top Speed at Redline
1st: 34 mph
2nd: 56 mph
3rd: 77 mph
4th: 104 mph
5th: 140.8 mph @ 6,700 rpms
 
 

-------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY--------------

One of the things I like to do as a car-enthusiast is see how things were early-on in a car's history. To learn the history, the evolution, of every car I drive. And with the 1992 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR, we have a golden chance to do just this.
 
The '92 Evolution in Gran Turismo 4 is not found in earlier GT games. As the first of the Evolution series, it oddly doesn't appear. Even in GT2, where a total of 10 versions of Lancer Evolutions (or ‘Evos’) can be found at used & new car lots, or won as prizes. Why is this? Or is there a reason? Did the original Evo get left out because it's not good enough? Let's find out.
 
The story of what was to become Mitsubishi's star throughout the '90s has been told many times in many magazines and on many websites, but I feel compelled to tell it again.

Basically, Mitsubishi had been involved with rally racing throughout the '70s and '80s. Towards the end of the '80s and into the '90s, their Galant VR-4 had some successes, but as other makes began abandoning larger designs for smaller ones (like when Subaru stopped supporting their Legacy, replacing it with the Impreza) Mitsubishi's Galant was simply too big and outdated; hence, the Lancer Evolution was born.

This was a more race-ready design than the regular front-drive Lancer or the Galant VR-4.
To qualify for the prestigious World Rally Championship (WRC) Class A, 2,500 examples needed to be built. And it took just days before they were sold, so Mitsubishi made 2,500 more!
 
There were two versions of the first Evolution: the GSR and the RS. The GSR was based (as it is throughout the rest of Evolution history) on the racing versions, in order to qualify for the WRC class system. It has the same dimensions, some of the same specs, but is civilian-friendly with typical features like air-conditioning, power steering, and a radio.

The RS, on the other hand, is more bare-bones...designed for those who want to race on an amateur level. Power-seats & windows, air-conditioning, the ABS braking system, and (I think but I may be wrong) the radio were removed in an effort to save weight. The wheels of the RS were lighter, as well. These were smart moves by Mitsubishi, since amateur racing would soar throughout the '90s, along with professional racing. Did they know that it would?
 
The original Lancer Evolution was sold in a very limited market, which was slowly expanded from Japan to other parts of Asia and Australia. In America, we didn't get Evolutions until 1999, matter of fact, after Mitsubishi execs started noticing healthy American sales by Subaru's WRX STI. Mitsubishi apparently had something to prove, and finally brought their long-lived battle with the STi to American shores.
 
....But none of that happened yet. In 1992, the Lancer Evolution was young, eager to prove its worth. We can find this car in the used car lot #1, along with others sold in the early '90s. Unfortunately, there isn't an RS version in GT4. Bummer.
 
At 2,733 pounds, the original Evolution started its life as a light-weight (considering it is a 4-door sedan with an all-wheel drivetrain and two sets of limited-slip devices). The GSR saved a bit of weight with its aluminum hood, and the RS may have replaced additional components here and there, as well. Unlike later versions, the original Evolution is on the demure side. The wing on the trunk hadn't become the giant rack we're familiar with from later versions.

The original Evo might have looked completely ordinary if WRC regulations didn't have the production versions needed to enter the qualifying class mirror the racing versions. Basically, all the scoops, vents, spoilers, wheel arches, and wings, etc. found on WRC race cars must also appear (and be functional) on the production versions. This is why the front '92 Evo bumper is so large, and also has air ducts. That intercooler sits right up front and needs to be fed!
 
So this is very interesting to me. Like the original Mustang, Z-car, and Civic (all of which appear somewhere in the Gran Turismo series), the Lancer Evolution was about to jump in and conquer.
 
 

---------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN--------------

 
It all starts here, with Mitsubishi's all-aluminum 1997 cc dual-overhead cam inline 4. This small engine had some advanced features for 1992, like its air-to-water intercooled turbo system. Variable-valve timing and other features found in later Evos hadn't come into play yet, but still, 246 horsepower with 227 foot-pounds wasn't a bad place to start in 1992.
 
Three levels of tuning are available on the aftermarket, folks; either from Ralli-Art or one of the various tuning shops. A Stage 5 turbo can also be bought from these shops, but it merely broadens the power-band as you drive to make lower revs available for usefulness--it doesn't increase power over a Stage 3, and seems not entirely necessary since it barely increases max-torque. This depends, though. Plenty of gamers say Stage 5 becomes useful at technical slow/fast tracks where the engine's entire power-band comes into play. 

But for tops, a Stage 3 system boasts 458 bhp and 398 foot-pounds. This will be our greatest achievement in GT4. Maybe not as much as some later Evolutions, but also not anything to sneeze at.
 
The 5-speed transmission, while stock, feels appropriately configured; although I found myself wanting a taller first gear for standing-start races. 2nd gear starts tend to bog down unless you have at least Stage 3 power...so 1st is necessary to get the best launches, but it unfortunately maxes quickly at 34 mph. Actually, the first four gears are closely matched, but 5th is thankfully taller--the Evo is therefore geared like some Civics. This translates to: great down-low acceleration that won't end with the 2.0 liter engine maxing out of revs (like some later Lancer Evos are prone to).
 
Though peak torque starts at 3,000 rpms, useful torque for racing situations starts at about 5,000. Turbo lag at any level isn't great, but at times as I slogged thru the 5-race Japan Championship, I found myself choosing the wrong gear and really wishing I hadn't.
 
Finally, and this is important, please notice where the power-band unofficially ends. Peak power is at 6,000 rpms, the redline is at 7,000, and just before we reach redline, the speed really drops off in any gear higher than 2nd. Automatic tranny users won't feel this anamoly too often, but manual ones should try and shift just slightly before the redline, to let the small engine dig back down to about 5,000 and keep speed coming on.
 
Sometimes, you will find the stock tranny just won't cut it, even if it's not maxing in revs, and then a full-custom transmission becomes necessary. I found this out in the first race of the Japan Championship at Fuji. It didn't seem to matter how much power I used, at about 147 mph, the poor Evolution starts to struggle to get any faster. And where does the tach needle play at this speed? Just around redline.
 
I theorized that a combination of blocky sedan aerodynamics and that "drop from the cliff" power near redline were to blame for the wall of speed I hit. After buying and tweaking a full-custom transmission, the Lancer Evolution GSR was finally able to move past 147 thru the 150s, just as I'd predicted.
 

 

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-------------CHASSIS / HANDLING------------

The Evolution series has long been known for its trademark handling traits: hoards of traction that help them accelerate faster than some sports cars, gymnastic maneuverability in and out of corners...all in an otherwise user-friendly 4-door. Did things start this way?
 
The quick answer is an immediate and definite NO!
 
From the get-go, as I started the Evolution Meeting races, I noticed the difference between this original Evo and its later cousins. All Lancer Evos understeer, as we know, but this can be overcome to some degree with settings and driving style. Plus, some later Evos, with their sophisticated yaw and drivetrain systems, display a compromise between understeer and rear-end assistance that helps you get thru corners.
 
Well, in the first Evo, get ready, because in this car, it's ALL UNDERSTEER! And I mean lots of it. After a few laps, it gets downright maddening!
 
The regular Lancer (not the Evo) started as a front-drive with a transverse engine-layout. The all-wheel drive Evo has as system of 2 differentials carried over from the Galant VR-4 rally cars: one in the rear, and a viscous one in the center of the car.

Obviously, these were used to assist traction, and the real-life racing versions no doubt used the same (or at least a similar but more advanced) system. But they were racing off-road! On pavement, it seems like overkill to have both differentials, but this is what the car had when it was stock, so this is what we're stuck with in the game.
 
The best cure? After I bought the VCD controller and dialed it with a 10/90 front to rear bias, things changed for the better. In later Evolutions (not to mention Skylines and STis) using a VCD is not recommended; it will screw up the fine-tuned acrobatic nature of these autos. But I couldn't help but notice most of that troublesome understeer had vanished after I installed the VCD in my '92 GSR. The difference was tremendous.

As I increased power for various races, I even noticed that with partial stage 2 turbo tuning (400 hp), the GSR starts to power-oversteer out of tighter corners. With full stage 2 tuning (430-ish hp) one must be careful with standing-start races like at Suzuka, because the rear wheels have a tendency to smoke up with excessive power (just as if the car was mostly rear-drive). That gentle power-oversteer I mentioned above becomes a full display of rear-end excessiveness as Stage 2 is replaced by Stage 3...the car is now fully capable of drifting on sports tires, but is also heavily prone towards spin-outs if you're not careful.
 
However, not all of that understeer goes away, especially late-corner. Enough of it sticks with the GSR, which I found out the hard way. Just when I'd find myself getting too confident and too eager to drive off a corner, that's when understeer returns in small doses, but large enough to make me say whoa! This led to extra taps on those brakes. Extra-cautious corner maneuvering ... massively slow, in an effort to avoid that dreaded understeer showing up later. It's annoying, honestly.


The good stuff starts to happen off-road, at any of GT4's Special Condition dirt & snow events. Now, the Lancer Evo GSR feels completely at ease. The acres of understeer felt while driving on pavement are now gone. While off-road, YOU are now in full control. With a tendency to slide or glide into corners of all kinds, the Evo can easily pull out of them...its understeery nature now a huge PLUS, rather than a drag. And actually, there isn't much understeer off-road, but just enough to pull you back to safety when this car gets sideways.

...And you'll notice, the original Evo is like later ones in that it LOVES to get sideways off-road, and can maintain long, aggressive drifts in the dirt...without extra help from a VCD, limited-slips, or extensive suspension tuning. This car can do great things off-road while it's nearly stock!
 
So overall, the first Lancer Evolution GSR was fully operational as a production car, had some power and some positive traits, yet in some ways was below-average as a tarmac racing car apparently. The tweaks that make the later Evos so great apparently hadn't been made, yet.

 


PROS-------------------------------------------------------

1). Inexpensive. An original '92 Lancer Evolution GSR (despite its low production numbers) apparently isn't in high demand like some other Japanese sporty cars, and is still very affordable at less than $10,000 from the used lots.
 
2). 246 horsepower to start with. 4 stages of intercooled turbos (stages 1 thru 3 + a stage 5) are available on the aftermarket. A great leap of power happens just with basic stage 1 turbo tuning + oil change.
 
3). Great acceleration till about 100 mph from such a small engine. The original Evo started its reputation for eagerly nailing speed to the pavement early. This isn't some sluggish vehicle like the original Trueno, Skyline, or RX7.
 
4). All-wheel drive traction, all the time. :tup:
 
5). The stock 5-speed allows plenty of acceleration in the first 4 gears, and 5th is configured higher to prevent the engine from maxing in revs.
 
6). There's something about the somewhat plain '92 GSR missing in later versions, so far as looks go. This car has "sleeper" written all over.
 
7). Decently middle-weight. Later Evos (you'll notice) get heavier and heavier. 329 pounds can be removed at best from the '92 Evo.

8). One of the best cars I've ever driven off-road. Period.
 

CONS--------------------------------------------------------

1). Good lord this car loves to understeer! The advanced traction systems of later Evos hadn't been employed yet to reduce this unfortunate trait.
 
2). Early, heavy braking (and sometimes additional mid-corner taps on the brakes) needed to avoid this understeer.
 
3). Great acceleration, but lots of gear-shifting is involved to achieve it. 1st gear in particular would be perfect for the tight hairpins and elevation changes of a dirt track, but feels too short on pavement. And sometimes, you have to use 1st!
 
4). 5th gear is taller than the rest when stock, but not tall enough to accelerate past 150 mph, even with lots of power.
 
5). Narrow power-band. At times, your speed will bog, and at other times, it will slow to a crawl as you near the redline, especially in 3rd gear or higher.
 
6). Full-custom transmission needed to solve the issues of Cons #3 thru 5.
 
7). VCD controller (set with a nearly-full rear-wheel bias) needed to counteract the understeer of Con #1. This isn't so with later Evos.
 
8). Not as inspiring to drive on pavement as later Evos, for all the reasons listed so far. This car (before we heavily tweak and modify it) disappoints more than it encourages.
 
9). Also a bit ‘plain-jane’. Some buyers may find its looks too ordinary when compared to later Evos.
 
10). Despite being a 4-cylinder, gas usage is on the high side. A bar of fuel vanishes just after doing a complete lap at Suzuka or Fuji, for instance.
 
11). 195 tread-width tires. This car could have started with a wider gauge, which would have improved braking and cornering. That would probably contradict its real-life Class A WRC requirements, though.   
 
 

Published: June 7th, 2008
 

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