You may have heard rumors the next generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will be an electric car. Well, they're true. But before you start writing angry rants in the comments box, read on. According to one source inside Mitsubishi, the Evolution XI, due in 2013, will be the best Evo yet.
To be built off the same platform as the chunky PX-MiEV plug-in hybrid off-roader concept Mitsubishi revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, the Evolution XI will benefit from the company's latest electric/hybrid technology. The new Evo's 2.0 litre MIVEC petrol engine, borrowed from the current Japan-spec Galant, will be mated to a new plug-in hybrid system with lithium-ion batteries. But here's the twist: the Evo's main power source will not be the gas engine, but an electric motor that will drive the front wheels. The 2.0 litre engine, when needed, will drive the rear wheels.
The Evo XI will give drivers the option of driving in EV mode, though only for short distances, improving fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. But it won't be a namby-pamby eco-warrior. According to our source, the electric motor will be an upgraded version of the 63 hp permanent magnet synchronous motor used in the i-MiEV, and the 2.0 litre MIVEC gas engine is expected to generate around 320 hp. Depending on how Mitsubishi manages the power flow between the two, the Evo XI could effectively have up to 350 hp on tap. The current Evo makes do with a mere 291 hp.
Our insider suggests Mitsubishi engineers are working toward a target 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. "The new electric motor will effectively work like a turbo, only smoother," he says, "so there's no need to worry about power delivery."
What hardcore drivers will be more concerned about are the handling upgrades, which include a couple of hi-tech handling gizmos that were not finished in time for the Evo X, launched two-and-a-half years ago -- Active Steering and Roll Control Suspension. The Evo XI will also feature a new electronically-controlled active yaw control system (E-AYC) that regulates torque distribution between the rear wheels.
We tested an Evo prototype fitted with Active Steering and Roll Control Suspension way back in February 2006 and were impressed. But Mitsubishi Motor's recall problems, restructuring, and a decision to focus development resources on fuel efficient engines and cleaner CO2 emissions, led to these key pieces of Evo techno-wizardry being put on the backburner. We can still recall an engineer sighing at the Evo X's reveal in 2007 as he whispered: "This is not the finished product, you know."
Our sketches give one artist's impression of how the new Evo XI might look. Whatever the final design, this much is clear: Mitsubishi is determined to totally re-invent one of the world's great performance cars.