EVO vs. P1
I've been wanting
to write this for a while simply because no one ever really explained
what these 2 cars are like side by side and just how different they
are. Most internet based evo vs. scooby debates always start and
end with talk of 50litre fuel tanks, sub 20mpg, "Tommi's from
outside the UK", "impossible to tune beyond 350bhp",
"hairdressers car", "looks like it drove into halfords
then out again with a load of bits on it" etc. etc.. Lets hope
I can do a better job and shed a bit of light on it all.
Firstly the look of the Impreza has never done it for me (perhaps apart from the 22b) and the high numbers of them on the UK roads I find very troubling so even if I did prefer one to drive over an EVO its unlikely that I would actually swap. With any car, its looks have to please my eye and its image has to fit. Nevertheless, ever since evo magazine started banging on about them saying they were better than the 6 GSR and that they were better than a 550 maranello etc.. etc.. ad infinitum I thought it might be interesting to go have a play.
Setting out in the P1, it wasn't long before I felt quite at home. Some cars take maybe a good 5-10 minutes to get used to before you can relax into the test drive but the P1 is a car that you get on with almost instantly. Nothing that the driver does is particularly demanding and despite what you might imagine from its exterior appearance the car is anything but intimidating.
First I turned my attention to the steering. Initially it felt not dissimilar to a new age wrx that I drove, not particularly meaty but instead quite light and floaty. Making small inputs from dead centre it was clear that like the EVO there is not a great deal in the way of feel from the front wheels but I would say that the P1's helm felt even more remote with not nearly as much bite or precision. The EVO steering is not great for feedback but it IS razor sharp and very cart like; the same cannot be said of the P1.
Making progress beyond local traffic and through some wide, gently curved B roads a clearer picture of the overall feel of the P1 started to emerge. Overall feel is very important on my list and many journalists ignore it. Evo magazine for example will tell you all the intricacies of what the latest Caterham will do when backing off then planting the throttle with a whiff of clutch slip after a power induced lift off-oversteered understeer trailbraking manoeuver but when it comes to telling you that the P1 softness (i.e. its ride/turn in/steering weight/gearshift/pedal movement etc..) makes an EVO feel like a BTCC car in comparison.......... naaaa, they only say the clever stuff that makes them sound like pro drivers.
Compared to the EVO the P1 feels so very soft in all its controls that interface with the driver and the feeling of indestructible grip, surefootedness and ultra-responsiveness that you get with the Mitsi are just not there. Suffice to say that these two cars feel very very different to drive with the P1 having a much more broader and mainstream appeal . With the EVO you do experience an increase in the evils associated with more hardcore vehicles: tramlining. camber-chasing and hard suspension that can be intrusive when driving around town. For many these things would be too much to live with and any dynamic gains that you get would not be worth it. I would imagine that P1 ownership would feel like a correct and smooth transition for many many people from a whole range of lukewarm performance cars - that's not something that you could exactly say about the Lancer.
U turning at a roundabout and traveling back the other way I got a good chance to stretch the P1's legs. Dumping the throttle in 2nd the Scoob doesn't rocket hyperwarp like an EVO, instead there's a gentle build up out of lag and then by about 4K your on the move. In terms of outright acceleration we know that a GSR is a fraction quicker than the P1 but then the small differences in 0-60 and 0-100 are pretty academic. What I would say is that the P1 doesn't feel that fast because it does take considerable time to build and the power band is long and lazy as opposed to the short quickfire nature of the lancer's power. What is significant speed wise is that this would make the EVO noticebaly faster in the midrange in-gear, always ready to surge ahead with good low down boost from 2500-3000rpm.
Having said all that I have to state that I prefer the style of delivery and gearing of the P1 engine. The engine has bags more character and the sound of the thing is far superior. Okay so an EVo with full magnex lungs sounds pretty awesome but it is just roar, with no actual true engine note. Best of all though is that you can hang on nice and long in the gears with the P1. Like the Rover VHPD K series it feels right all the way up to 8000rpm and seems a lot more rev happy than the 4G63 powerplant. I personally love huge wide powerbands and although I'm not so keen on the lack of low down grunt (more lacking than the 340r perhaps) I get a lot of satisfaction from wringing an engines neck right to the redline. The P1 is just that.. whereas the EVO with its shorter ratios is just blat (2nd), blat (3rd), blat (4th...oops ...130mph !).
I definitely found the P1 gearbox more fluid. Its quite wishy-washy with a lot of slack but somehow I think gearchanges felt more natural in the scooby. The actual shift action cannot compare to the Lancer but then the Lancer's overall feel is quite clinical, almost switch-like and can't really be hurried as much as the P1. On balance I'd take the Mitsi box if I had to choose but neither of them come close to something like a Caterham or S2000 gearchange !
Carving up some long sweeping bends I really started to enjoy myself in the P1. Like I mentioned earlier, you get acclimatised to this car very very quickly, it is very inviting and not the almost awkward and alien experience that an EVO can be if you've never driven one before. A few roads later and it was becoming obvious that the P1 is a very serious cross country tool. I suspect that at higher ground covering pace the EVO might be a little more effortless (when it enters its super-talented state and starts to create real magic) but the Subaru works in reverse. At 7/10ths and at road legal speeds (well almost) its the Scooby thats much more laid back and effortless. The controls are all quite light in comparison and the suspension is pretty soft. The car has a kind of firmness to it but nothing like the Mitsubishi. As a result it glides round bumpy bends very nicely and before you know it your making quite swift progress in comparative comfort.
But then thats where we come to the crux of any test drive - its more about personal preference and less to do with which car is "better". Traveling the same speeds and the same roads in the EVO, the whole experience would be a fair bit more raw and more alive. The steering would be a lot sharper, the sensation of grip and mechanical stiffness would be almost overwhelming and in a sense the outright ability of the car intrudes upon you more. Its a much much more frenetic and white-knuckle drive. In a way the EVO just makes you feel like your not trying hard enough and eggs you on even more, quite simply its not a car thats happy at 7/10ths like the P1 seems to be; whether you like it or not, Evos are for going nuts in. If you don't plan on doing this then you'll never have the Mitsi come into its own and P1 ownership may well be more rewarding and more amicable more of the time.
The EVO swallows its power so omnipotently and feels so aloof and capable when pushing hard that it never really feels like it has enough power to match its handling & chassis. Its no wonder why so many EVo owners badly get the tuning bug and aim for 400+bhp. On the other hand, its been written that the P1 gets ragged at the edge and dynamically it will understeer way before the Mitsi and of course it doesn't have the AYC tricks up its sleeve. Poeple have said that ultimately for sheer dynamics the evo easily has the last word and whilst I suspect this to be true (it appears that way the moment you set off in the P1) I'm afraid I can't really comment as it was only a short test drive and certainly not on a circuit. One thing is for certain, despite them being very dissimilar and that you're bound to vastly prefer one of the other because of that, you have to test drive both of them extensively if you are looking for a 4wd, 4 seat Jap supercar.
Back to the test drive, which was comg to a close. At the end of quite a long straight there were some traffic lights looming. I left it late and buried my foot harder and harder. The car stopped all right but the pedal felt quite mushy and the overall ability of the brakes didn't appear very effective at all. This was the single biggest criticism of the P1 that I discovered that day. I would not class the OEM brakes as matching the performance of this type of car and they would definitely need looking at.
A right turn, one last chance to nail the boxer engine and then we were back at the dealership. Judging by the remark of the salesperson as he got out - something to do with changing trousers - I think he was well pleased that it was all over. Strange, didn't ever feel that fast to me and was on the whole a composed little blast to the next village and back ?
Overall I liked the P1 a lot. Like all reviews it comes down to "different" as opposed to "better'. The EVO is indeed a very different animal and gives an almost opposed driving experience - its most certainly a lot more focused, more precise, harder edged and definitely a lot more sensory and frenzied.... more of a rush you could say. I guess that depicts just how I like my cars to be but I can also see why some punters would take the P1 instead. In some situations and on certain roads, because of its suspension setup and lack of urgency, it would make more sense than the EVO and would even be more satisfying because it doesn't laugh at how slow you're always going (like the evo seems to do !). But for me it felt way too much like a normal car, it didn't feel particularly special or thrilling in any department apart from its nice 8000rpm redline and its engine. Like the 340r, the EVO feels almost like a race/road car and nothing like a "fast saloon" and its manic nature, colossal footprint, ultra solid & meaty feel and razor sharp steering attack your senses everytime you get in it. If it wasn't for the family duties I'd actually upgrade the suspension and stiffness to even more extreme spec.
So there you have it. I reckon the P1 is a great car with a very broad appeal and although it would probably mess & confuse the whole Evo character up it would be interesting to drive one that had the P1 engine & gearing in it. If the EVO didn't exist (and nor did the Lotus Carlton ) then I'd probably own one or something similar (Sti type V ?) but one things for certain, I'd have to stiffen the suspension, upgrade the brakes, make it faster and quicken the steering rack.......... eh ? but then that would be pretty much making an EVO wouldn't it ?