Driver's Seat: Lancer Evolution fun, has drawbacks

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR: big fun, small package.

Price: $45,415 as tested; $38,195 without options.

Marketer's pitch: "Restraint is not its strong suit."

Conventional wisdom: liked the "excellent steering and handling; potent turbocharged engine; long features list; available automated-clutch manual transmission" but not the "tilt-only steering wheel; driver seat doesn't adjust for height; interior materials don't match the Evo's lofty price; tiny trunk; stiff-legged ride."

Reality: Can drivers live on fun alone?

Spirited: I thought I'd prepare for the Pittsburgh International Auto Show next week with a rollicking good ride. I'm not much of a racer fan, but I decided to let my hair down, and this car certainly fits that bill.

The 291-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter MIVEC four-cylinder engine is not like any four-cylinder you may have experienced in the past. In Sport mode, it plasters occupants right into their seats. The speedometer can quickly arrive at three digits if the driver is not paying attention. Kids, don't try this at home.

Fun: But it's more than just a fast machine. The car seems to ride on rails. It has no roll at all. The Lancer takes the Honda Civic Si approach to cornering and makes tight turns a blast. Super All-Wheel Control and active yaw control allow you to take curves as fast as your nerves will allow. It seems nearly impossible to cause the Lancer Evolution to lose control or skid. I cornered through an intersection at about 35 mph and the driver was probably the weakest link in this move.

Comfort: The Recaro bucket seats (part of a $2,150 Touring Package) hold the front seat occupants in just a little too well. The wings won't let go, and actually make it difficult to move arms and shoulders. Accessing one's CD collection in the console between the seats can be challenging.

Shifty: I was forever trying to make peace with the Twin Clutch SportTronic shift transmission. In drive mode, the downshifts come too quickly for me and lower the fuel economy in a hurry. In shift mode, the transmission hardly does any downshifting for the driver, even when coming to stoplights and entering sharp turns. The Lancer Evolution seemed to stay in too high a gear every time, and even needed a bit longer of a stop than I often do to shift into first.

No telescope: It's hard to accept a $45,000 car that comes without telescoping steering wheel. My shoulders ended up sore for most of the week because I couldn't get the steering wheel set where I wanted it. The wheel does tilt, though.

Night shift: The headlights were horrible. The special high-intensity-discharge beams cast a bright light, but -- despite the auto-leveling feature touted on the window sticker -- they were focused much too far down. I used the high beams more than I should have, and in many cases other drivers didn't even flash to suggest I turn them down.

Bumpy: The cool 40 series Yokohama tires are a big part of this model's performance, I'm sure, but I could feel the ride become extremely bumpy in cold weather. It was so noticeable that I pulled over to check for a flat tire at one point. And I hosted the Lancer long before I'd heard of a polar vortex, so it wasn't that cold.

Tunes: As usual, the Rockford Fosgate sound system is excellent. It's fairly user-friendly as well, as buttons outside the screen control mode and zoom the map, and dials control volume and tuning. But the tuner dial can be tough to move a single station at a time, at first not changing the station and then going a bit too far.

Fuel economy: Mitsubishi trip computers reset with every shutdown, but it stayed in the low 20s through the week I had it. Premium fuel only, please.

Where it's built: Kurashiki, Japan

How it's built: The Lancer Evolution has not gotten Consumer Reports reliability scores, but the Outlander crossover has surprisingly gotten good marks. The Lancer Evolution is built at a different plant, though, and doesn't carry the 10-year warranty of the Outlander (five years or 60,000 miles here).

In the end: It's a whole lot of fun, but some big drawbacks make the Lancer Evolution less of an overall contender among hot rods.

Inacura information: I committed a bit of journalistic malpractice against the 2014 Acura MDX in my Jan. 1 review, and an alert reader from Chicago let me know about it.

The vehicle does not offer three rows of heated seats standard. Heating the middle row is an option. The middle row also slides forward and back, though I never found the lever or button to perform this task.

The Jewel Eye LED headlights (I called them xenon) number five on each side. I said there were four, and my reader counted six.

Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at

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