EVO Obituary ! (March 2002)

March 2002 and I have to say goodbye to the evo. This year my initial plan was to purchase an EVO6 RS2 or EVO7 RS for low 20K's and modify it extensively for the track with a budget of around 5-8K. After deciding to sell the 340r, the RS was to be my only toy but in the end a number of things stopped me: depreciation, high running costs, massive outlay on brakes & suspension just to get the car trackworthy (so it doesn't eat tyres and discs) and of course the lure of the Caterham.

In the end I chose to get a Caterham Superlight R for my new toy. Not only is the depreciation very solid but the running costs will be a lot lower and no tuning or modding is required for the track (although I might just do some in any case !). Also, the Caterham is proven on the track and quite conveniently devastating in this environment - I expect the SLR to consistently get much better laptimes than a 350bhp evo in the dry. And thats the final straw...... the summer is coming.

I think it will be very hard for me to ever be without a lightweight special and since outgrowing the 340r it really has to be replaced with something in the same vain, albeit faster and with a different handling dynamic that will provide me with the hooligan and adjustability factor that the EVO seduced me with.

It was a sad day indeed when the EVO went though. To say that I adored the car is an understatement. Many will remember my inexorable rants all over the internet about just how good this car really is despite its weight and size. Indeed, a know of several people who have gone into evo ownership precisely because of my superlatives and endless evo-gospel. I have yet to drive a 5 seater tin-top which is as responsive, as precise, as fast, as devastating A to B, as fast in the wet and as much balls out ballistic all-conquering fun as the Lancer EVO6. I became so very attached to T600 EVO especially because it took me to work, the track, the twisties of deepest surrey & sussex come rain or shine, the in-laws and tescos car park ........and almost every time it never ceased to delight and charm me with its awesome racecar feel, its god-like capability and its breathtaking antics when pushed to the limit. The one trackday I did in it in treacherous conditions at Bentwaters was THE best fun I have ever had at any circuit in any car. I loved its looks, its anti-establishemnt image and its mammoth road presence. If I could justify and afford a lightweight, a family car (that the wife will drive !) and a 2nd toy car then there would be an evo once again sitting on my drive.

As a way of saying Au Revoir, I will reproduce here an extract from an article that I wrote for the Jackals Racetrack (but never published) that tried to tackle the impossible task of comparing the 340r to the evo. One day I hope to own one again.

"The best way to launch into this comparison is to take you down a winding country lane at a very high velocity... possibly quite a bit faster than you've even been or dared to keep pace to before - not just in pure mph numbers but also in terms of the amount of ground that you are covering per given unit of time, the amount of momentum that you can maintain despite all the rough patches, the puddles, tight corners and tricky camber changes. You're tavelling so fast that you are actually a bit scared although you realise that you're only scared because you know you should be (i.e. because of the number on the speedo). In fact the car is telling you not to be scared... its imparting an unbelievably strong feeling of security and infallibility. Its egging you on faster and faster... you feel like Luke Skywalker in the centre of the Deathstar, somehow you know the force will not let you down.

About a mile or so ago you suddenely realised that there was actually a bend in front of you and that the mirage that was fooling you into to thinking the road was staright was in fact an opening to a field of cows ! You glance at the speedo and you're approaching double the speed limit (and I don't mean 80mph ) yet you forecasted about 10-20mph below that ! You'd better break in time or its curtains... the adrenalin washes in and you feel a big wave of fear. Will this deceptive beast stop itself...... of course it does, no problem. There's absolutely no question over the stoppoing power of this car but unlike the 340r, the action on the pedal is quite light and somewhat removed and it doesn't quite feel as if your very feet are pushing hard on the discs. So then, why naturally, you're smiling again, exiting the tight 2nd gear bend with your foot fully planted, letting all 300 horses through all 4 wheels rip the disapperaing road to shreds.

Of course you're in the EVO6. Its one extremely capable car. So capable in fact that its way way better than you down a twisty, bumpy back road. The limiting factors here are firstly your own mortality, secondly the time limitations of your own not-so-quick thinking and finally the fact that your're not on a world rally stage like the man himself, rather, you're on "Cluddon Farm Road" heading East near "Tide Barn Stables". There's probably a horse or two lurking nearby... but there again, what does a blurred horse look like ? Maybe that was one back there before that hairpin !

After a while you take a left and head for a different set of roads. You're going dual-carriageway to get to the next "playing field" and suddenly the excitement wanes a touch. But thing is, the adrenalin is still pumping and you're even more keen for action. EVO says about 100mph but after whizzing past about 34,000 trees every 4 seconds for the last half hour it feels pretty dam slow. There's no wind in your hair but at least you can hear the rumble from the exhaust. So what do you do ? Well you can crank it up in a matter of seconds to a brisk 130mph-ish or drop to 70mph, change up and see if you can create some flames from the rear end. Your choice.

A few miles on and you turn left into "Hackets Lane". This road is bumpy and the EVO is just thundering over all the undulations and potholes.. it doesn't care about bumps, it doesn't try to smooth them out and they do get relayed back to you (perhaps just a little too vividly) but then again they don't bother the EVO and don't intrude too much once you are up to speed. Okay.. 60mph bend, no perhaps not... getting tighter, more like 30mph !!! Ease off, dab on the brakes mid-corner.. ouch .. EVO doesn't care though, it just slows and does what its told. In a way though it feels as though its being cocky, like "alright mate, so you're not a good enough driver to do this bend at 60... no problem, everyone has their limit, there you go how's that, done it for you already, a nice bit of 30mph... feeling bit more comfy now ?".

This car is egging you on, it's making you drive faster and faster and this is enough in itself to convince you just how good this it is. Most cars when driven across back roads reach a point when they tell you to slow down, they start giving out warning signals and the odd tricky moment makes you back off. The tricky moments in the EVO still happen but only up to the point where the car instinctively deals with the situation and you realise that the fear and the shot of adrenalin was all to do with you and your mind and little to do with the reality of the actual incident at hand. I've said it before, EVOs are for going fast in, very fast... thats what they do best !

Next bend, another tight one, heavy braking from about 90mph.... you really feel the weight of the car, still pitched forward you turn in but you've done it all a bit too late... no problem but suddenly everything feels a touch ponderous and clumsy.. you find yourself remembering the weightless fluidity, the way a lightweight elise executes these sorts of sequence of events into one instinctive seamless blur that never fails to make you feel like Micheal Schumacher's lost cousin ! But the way the evo gathers itself with supreme confidence and instantly feels ready for more punishment makes you easily forgive it .... somehow you understand that its just a very very different drive with different highs on offer. And then 200 yards up the next straight and you're entering high speed 4th gear acceleration thats simply not availble to the elise owner ,and less than ideal conditions, whether it be the odd puddle or dodgy bit of tarmac, are not hindering you one jot. Swings and roundabouts .... I think so ?

The road is widening and you see bollards. Theres a junction up ahead and a decent size roundabout. Of course it doesn't matter which way you go so you decide to get a good shot of the roundabout and come full circle back on yourself. There's no traffic about so you just carress the middle pedal for confidence. Then, as you turn into the wide arc of the roundabout you give the throttle plenty and the car is instantaneously lurching outwards, the tyres are screaming for their lives and your literally assaulting the roundabout in an excessive and arrogant way that you previously thought not possible ... you ARE the hero of your very own action movie. No understeer, the back though starts to drift out. You know that you can tighten the line, kick it and let all hell break loose but control it way after its happened with a real surge in the revs. So really, you have every single confidence in your heroism.... you know that you rule. Instead, you let the back drift out a little, conveniently at the same time as you begin your turn back onto Hacketts Lane. The rears are kicking up gravel in true rally style, you dial in a touch of opposite lock and balance the car through the final turn. You can just sense the AYC kick in and the rear is now stepping back into line. You straighten the wheel and then realise that the gas is fully planted and its time to change up. The dump valve takes a huge breath and already you are are going very very fast. What other car known to man could possibly have come off that roundabout with so much speed and traction ? You wonder.... certainly not a mid-engined Lotus !

A few miles ahead you notice a break in the clouds and the sun is leaking through. You flick off the windscreen wipers and wind down your window. The pouring rain has finally stopped and its time to take a breather. You make a mental note of all the roads you've been on ..... it would be interesting to come back here one day when its bone dry.

So now our virtual drive is over what of out comparison ?

Well its fairly obvious form our test drive that the EVO is a very very different drive from the Lotus. Driving the 340 is more of an artform, its more creative, more graceful and requires more intervention. In a bend it feels exquisite and the level of control and connectivity you always feel is unparalleled. As an onslaught on all the senses it wins hands down and for a pure driver/car relationship it comfortably has the last word.

Stepping into the evo you immediatley feel that there is more of a car to contend with but once up to speed it starts to become quite close to the 340 for reponsiveness, precision and grip. Bear in mind that if you go down the RS route with the EVO with less weight, a quicker rack, competition bushes, strut braces etc. it will feel even closer to the 340r. But as far as the gsr model is concerned, although the drive is never quite as transparent and you miss out slightly on the sublime intimacy you just realise that you are having fun in different ways.

You're travelling a lot faster and you're generally at liberty to be more heroic and bolder... you don't feel like a "racing driver" because that final level of precision and feedback is missing but instead you feel like an indestructible, unassailable fighter pilot. Also a new zone of speed opens up the other side of the ton and yet another dimension opens when the heavens open and it starts to pour. Sure, its more foolproof and it's not the best car to hone your skills in but then taking liberties - whilst the 340r is erring on the side of caution - IS a lot of fun. Unlike the Lotus, getting the car out of shape becomes a regular part of its repertoire and a significant part of the huge thrills that it consitently serves up.

No, do not make the mistake of imagining that this is any old Jap 4wd performance and is likely to be boring and lifeless, its actually pretty darn big on thrills and feels very very alive. In any case, you never really find yourself thinking that its worse or not as involving than the 340r when piloting it. Because it's such a different experience and offers so many other strengths in place of where it loses out to the Lotus, it is a monumentous driving experience in its own right. As a complete drivers "solution", given that it will also seat 5 people and 5 suitcases, brave any sort of weather, is quicker but also readily tuneable to beyond 400bhp ........ IT has the last word, and is easily the best car I have EVER owned or driven in this respect"

The Jackals Racetrack http://www.jackals-forge.com/lotus 1998 Richard Morris