Devolution: How do modern Evos stack up against a ten year old icon?
By Seth Hester
Photography by Bob-e and Seth Hester
Near the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, lies Lane Motor Museum. Their exhibition floor features vehicles throughout history, mainly European, with over 150 automobiles and motorcycles on display. The museum's tag is “Unique Cars from A to Z”, which is apt. There are several vintage racecars, microcars, amphibious cars, a massive military LARC-LX that looks like it could flatten houses at will, and a host of other vehicles to see.
I’ve had multiple visits in attempt to absorb everything, discovering something new every time. This museum is a bit of heaven for car guys, offering insight into vehicles we've dreamed of and read about, but not actually seen. Text cannot properly convey the wonder of this place, and a visit is in order to fully experience all it has to offer.
Under the exhibition floor is a massive basement, and a friend signed us up for a tour. Here, there are many vehicles in various states of restoration and build, as the museum staff is always striving to keep them in working order. The guide was showing us all the cars and talking about them, when I came around a corner and saw it, one of the greatest Evo treasures imaginable: A 2001 Evolution VI GSR Tommi Makinen Edition.
Some time after the tour, I placed a call to Jeff Lane, the director of the museum. I explained a bit about EvoM, and asked if I could come by and shoot some pictures of the car. Fortunately, Mr. Lane is a car nut, and he allowed me to do a lot more than that. Let the games begin.
We met on a Friday afternoon, and the car was parked outside the museum. It was strange seeing a VI in real life for the first time. Visually, this car is striking. The red paint scheme is adorned with decals that conjure images of full Makinen Marlboro/Ralliart racing livery. The exterior of the VI flows well. Though some could argue its appearance is a bit dated, I think the whole car is aggressive. The front bumper is asymmetrical for a cooling inlet that is completely functional, the body contours are sharp, the depth of the wheel arches just right, and everything makes sense to me.
Opening the door, the interior is very spartan. It makes an Evo X look like a luxury car inside, and that's no small feat. Though it has a Momo wheel, nothing else really stands out. There's not even a radio in the car. The seats are similar to Evo VIII seats, but with the fore/aft adjustment on the side instead of underneath, and red inserts with T. Makinen stitched into them. The dash and gauges are minimalistic and simple; it is an econobox that has been morphed into an AWD rally terror after all.
With a turn of the key, the aural assault is surprising. It was downright loud for a stock car, and sounded awesome. Think of an Evo VIII with only a cat-back, and you’ll be on the right track.
Jeff has a nice little loop he takes around the museum, which includes some seriously twisty city streets, a sharp on-ramp, and a short blast down the interstate back to the museum. After a very exciting round with him at the helm, he surrendered the wheel to me. Although I did lean on it a bit, I couldn't bring myself to flog on this museum piece (literally) too much. But I did get a good enough feel to share some things.
This is an unabashed racecar. Immediately when sitting in the driver's seat, I noticed the stiff stock motor mounts transmitting vibrations through the steering wheel at idle. The suspension damping on this car is brutal, making our stock Evos seem like easy chairs. We hit a pothole and I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore. The crash went up my spine, rattled my brain, fillings threatened to come out, I was in love.
The weight difference is stark. I was tired of reading varying weights on the internet, so we weighed three Evos for this article (more on that in a bit). The lack of heft really shows in the handling, and the turn in was very crisp. This car has an earlier generation of active yaw control, but it was still very nice to feel the reduction in push from an older Evolution. Like all Evos, it has a point and shoot nature. It just shoots easier and with less drama than its heavier offspring.
This car also has an adjustable spoiler, which is pretty trick.
Acceleration was very good for a totally stock car. Though this car was build long before Mivec controlled cam gears, they aren't missed, because the TME has a special turbocharger that spools quicker than standard GSRs. It has a convincingly better power:weight ratio than any stock US Evolution I've driven. Overseas cars are mapped more aggressively, the car pulls with authority to the rev limiter (which Jeff was happy to hit), and doesn’t have the high RPM wheeze-and-die our cars are known for.
Transmissions in Evos confuse me. In my experience, the newer model year of car, the more notchy and feisty the gearboxes tend to feel. This trend continues. I really loved the shifting feel in the VI, and it easily has the best Mitsubishi shifter I've used.
The brakes are one component that has continued largely unchanged other than upsizing to handle more weight. Seeing the red Brembos shine through the wheels feels like home to every Evolution owner.
The test drive concluded too soon, but I think it would have still felt that way even if I had driven a lot longer. This Evo really hearkens back to a time when Evos were built for homologation purposes- designed to win races first and foremost. There is not an inch of fat or options to compromise its mission statement. And to me, you couldn't build an Evolution more perfect.
For more information on Lane Motor Museum, please follow this link: http://lanemotormuseum.org
This article wouldn't be complete if we didn't bring newer Evos along for comparison purposes, so we brought my friend Eric's IX and my X. We corner weighed all three cars. Then we photographed them together outside the museum next to the LARC-LX.
Chassis comparison and specifications:
CP9A Evolution VI GSR Tommi Makinen Edition
Curb weight. Front, rear distribution: 3041 pounds. 60% front, 40% rear
Corner weights: FL-895 FR-944 RL-614 RR-588
HP: 276@6500rpm (Stock rating, actual power is likely closer to 300 HP.)
TQ: 275@4650rpm (No dyno data for this vehicle)
Test notes: ¼ tank of fuel. Unable to dyno due to location, but I think this car makes even more than 300. If I had to gamble, I'd put it around 240 on the Dyno Dynamics we often use.
Positives- Early version of AYC helps combat understeer. Featherweight for a turbo AWD car in this day and age.
Negatives- No radio, no comfort, no sissy stuff. This car will be too hardcore for 99% of the population and probably even some Evo enthusiasts.
Overall- The epitome of stock Evo racecar.
CT9A Evolution IX SSL
Curb weight. Front, rear weight distribution: 3352 pounds, 60% front, 40% rear
Corner weights: FL-1026 FR-981 RL-649 RR-696
HP: approx 340@6000rpm (267whp Dyno Dynamics)
TQ: approx 340@4200rpm (266tq Dyno Dynamics)
Upgrades: Dyno4mance tuned Ecuflash.
Test notes: Full tank of fuel less two gallons.
Positives- SSL package moves the car a bit upmarket, best version of the 4G63 inside, nicest looking of all Evos in my opinion.
Negatives- No SAYC on USA models.
Overall- The one you want as a daily driver.
CZ4A Evolution X GSR SSS
Curb weight. Front, rear weight distribution: 3510 pounds, 57% front, 43% rear
Corner weights: FL-1024 FR-989 RL-735 RR-762
HP: approx 385@6200rpm (309whp Dyno Dynamics)
TQ: approx 385@4600rpm (308tq Dyno Dynamics)
Upgrades: Ultimate racing full turbo-back exhaust, upper IC pipe, and Dyno4mance tuned Ecuflash.
Test notes: ¾ tank of fuel. Spare tire out, Recaro child seat in, weighed as driven.
Positives- SAWC safety with SAYC oversteer on demand, good stock audio, stock seats rule, exceptional factory HIDs.
Negatives- Most of the positives above contribute to the scale crushing curb weight, insanely short gearing makes for a buzzy highway commute, notchy transmission.
Overall- Has taken some time to catch on with the CT9A faithful, but absolutely an Evo at heart.
I’ve been on Evom a lot of years, and have been on staff about a year and a half. Over that time, one of the threads that demanded the most work as a moderator was the Evo X vs. Evo VIII and IX thread. There were tons of opinions and shots from each camp. One of the largest complaints of the Evo X was the increase in curb weight. But after driving the CP9A, I bet that Evo VI owners felt the exact same way about the Evo VII!
As I mentioned above, we were unable to dyno the VI. We use a Dyno Dynamics, so the numbers you see might seem low. For reference, a stock 2003 Evo VIII makes about 205whp on this dyno. A stock IX and X both make in the vicinity of 215-220.
Here is an overlay of my car and Eric's IX from the pictures. He just ordered some Ultimate Racing bits of his own, so his car should pick up a good bit of power after installation and retune. He values quietness, so the stock cat-back will remain. It will be interesting to see what his final numbers are.
As these cars sit, I think the X is fastest of the three, followed by the VI.
The power did not deter Jeff, and even though he owns the VI, the IX was his favorite car of the three. He pointed to his VI: "That car is awesome, but it is a racecar. It will beat you to death on the street." Then he pointed to the IX: "This is the one I would drive everyday. Its comfortable, has a nice (leather) interior, and isn't too loud."
I differ. I've had a lot of Evos and loved them all, so I’d probably be happiest owning one of each of these cars. But if I had to choose one, it would be the VI Tommi Makinen Edition for sure.