The motoring press has, this week been up in arms about the new Mitsubishi Evolution concept car, the e-Evolution.  The quotable quotes came thick and fast;

Jalopnik – The Mitsubishi e-Evolution Is Everything The Old Evo Wasn’t;

It’s done. The final nail in the coffin of the Mitsubishi Evo has been driven.  …..and it’s depressing as hell.

Car and Driver – Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept Eclipses Another Great Name;

Now it has repurposed its iconic Evolution moniker and applied it to this e-Evolution crossover concept.   …But the Evolution name—“Evo” for short—that used to be used only on the brand’s high-performance Lancer variants.

C&D is factually wrong on a small point there but I’ll come back to that.

and Wheels – Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept revealed;

FORGET whatever you have come to associate with Mitsubishi’s iconic gravel-slinging ‘Evolution’ rally monsters, because the Evo moniker is back, but on a very different kind of vehicle.   …. it’s either a sign of progress or a sad indication of where the global automotive world is headed…..

Populist journalism by going for the low-hanging fruit?  Yep.  The point is, the Lancer Evolution is dead.  The Lancer itself isn’t far behind it, with the decade-old current generation ‘CJ’ coming to the end of production in Japan at the end of this year with no replacement planned.  It’s one thing to mourn the death of a legend but we need to be real.  Without a new Lancer, there’s no new Lancer Evo.

The small company has rightly focused their attentions on more profitable areas.  But if, like Porsche with the Cayenne, it means Mitsubishi survives in the short to medium term by building more SUVs then that’s just good business and a win in general.

Why so Much Fuss?

The e-Evolution concept should be celebrated.  This is the proof that Mitusbishi still cares about us.  Still cares about making fast, interesting cars.  Forget all of the bumf and AI driving stuff.  That’s all just headline-grabbing concept car talk.

There is a little snippet of interesting buried inside the press release that everyone else seemed to miss –

The large hexagon shape at the rear draws inspiration from the spare tire cover of the quintessential SUV, the legendary Mitsubishi Pajero, a hallmark of off-road driving, and one of the most iconic chapters of MMC’s heritage.

This isn’t meant to be a nod to the Lancer Evolution, oh no.  The e-Evo is the spiritual successor to the mighty Pajero Evolution.

Wait, Didn’t C&D say Evolution was Only Affixed to the Lancer?

Yes, the last great homologation special is largely forgotten.  Why, I don’t understand because all the pedigree and numbers are there.  The Pajero Evolution was built for one purpose – winning the road car based T2 Class in the Dakar rally.  As was the case with many homologation specials in the 80s and 90s it was a thinly veiled race car.

To clear the rules, 2500 road cars were produced.  It featured a 206kW (276bhp) V6 with upgraded differentials and skid plates.  The torsion bars and live axle from the standard Pajero were flung in favour of a double wishbone front and multi-link rear end setup.   Then there’s those wider flares for more wheel travel.

A Legend is Born

And win it did.  It raced in the 1998 Dakar rally, not only winning the T2 class, but beating all the rally special T3 cars in positions 1,2,3 and 4 overall.  I can only think of one other time the road-car based class would beat the purpose built racing specials –  the 1995 LeMans 24 Hour and the legendary McLaren F1 GTR.  Versions of the Pajero Evo would also win the 2001 and 2002 Dakar Rally, before a purpose-built racing Pajero would be adopted for 2003.

The Lancer Evolution is famous for its World Rally Championship success and drivers championships with Tommi Mäkinen.  However it only ever brought Mitsubishi one manufacturers championship in 1998.  Nothing remotely like the Pajero, which, on the other hand is a Dakar Rally legend.  12 wins overall is a feat that is unlikely ever to be matched.  12 triumphs collected from 26 attempts, a staggering 46% success rate and a record 7 consecutive wins from 2001 to 2007.

Look Closer

Look closer at the e-Evo.  That styling has more than a hint of Dakar Pajero about it.  The big arch flares, that aggressive cut under the front bumper, the pinched waist, the rear hatch angle. How is this is very different to a gravel spitting monster?  Mitsubishi’s press imagery would argue different.  That ground clearance is for Argentinian sand dunes, not muddy rally stages in Wales.

Mitsubishi has been on a bit of a roll with its styling lately.  The dynamic shield looks great on all the new designs despite the clear miss in slapping it on the Outlander and current ASX.  Still, the Pajero Sport is a daring car in a sea of boring and the Eclipse Cross is also a real looker.  Take the conjecture about the name out and the e-Evo is a gorgeous thing, as are the concepts XR-PHEV and GC-PHEV.

The electric powertrain?  It’s possible that they might work towards a production version.  Far more likely is a petrol-electric hybrid.  The Outlander PHEV has a petrol engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rear.  A twin motor electric rear drive would give instant response and with Mitsubishi’s Super-All Wheel Control, infinite torque vectoring not restricted by differential mechanics.  The potential for excellence is massive.

Then there are the persistent rumors that the next Mitsubishi Evolution will be based on the next generation ASX.  If that is the case and they lower the body like they did with the wild Vision Gran Turismo, which was clearly based on the ASX-previewing XR-PHEV then we might wind up with both a Tarmac and a Rally Raid inspired Evo.

2 Evos?  Now that’s a future I can subscribe to.

Posted by Lehmo

Tragic automotive enthusiast, motorsport fan, car salesperson and now amateur writer. Always drives with his hands at 9 and 3. Has been known to watch more than one motorsport event at a time.

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