CRAZY HORSES beneath the bonnet
BENEATH a considerable amount of wing, skirt and angular metal lies a car, the chavmobile that is the FQ 400. I clamber on board the Mitsubishi gunship, turn the ignition key and on comes Radio 3. What? The delivery driver, an ex-policeman, had been driving the mother of all on-road anarchy magnets whilst listening to Radio 3. Perhaps he felt too tempted to gun it everywhere and the calming tones would quash any fervour bubbling away within.
The first time I found myself behind the wheel of an Evo was around 10 years ago when I was considering buying one, either that or a Scooby Impreza. The thing that both cars had in common was dodgy build quality, brittle plastic-fantastic – they felt far too fragile to lunge forth with a right foot – but they drove like a dream. I didn’t purchase either in the end because there are days when comfort is high on the agenda, not the spinal injuries clinic.
The Impreza drives just as well, if not better and build quality has been improved, but eye candy it ain’t. In contrast, the latest FQ 400 is probably the best-looking Evo there’s ever been. Turn the key and it bellows such a harassed-sounding opener that the car alongside me in the Terminal 5 car park replies with its alarm.
But I’m sensing an upgraded car, altogether stronger and less brutal in all ways but looks. With 403bhp available and a manual gearbox to maximise the hoped-for pleasure, has this latest incarnation come of age?
Under the bonnet we have the same 2.0 litre turbo engine that features in the 330 and 360 models, but the task of prizing more horses from the original was given to a Japanese tuning company and the result is something that – being fans of crazy horses – the Osmond brothers might appreciate.
It doesn’t feel stupidly quick at first, certainly not before you reach about 2,500 rpm, and then Shergar rocks up and leads the cavalry into battle. Third gear and pushing hard, it seems that there is far more chance of running out of land on which to sprint than the torque to power it. But add to this a phenomenal amount of grip and all-wheel-drive and a jab of the ample Alcon brakes is enough.
Steering is more progressive too – this is a much less raucous experience than I was expecting and a lot more agile, thanks to upgraded springs and dampers. The FQ 400 is lower than its lesser-powered siblings and slightly wider, which helps to balance out the extra power and it feels the most harmonious Evo yet.
Returning to the build, if the quality check team were onto this, they’d be picking holes – it’s no German product, naturally, but I genuinely think it has improved. Race-seats are nicely padded and supportive and there is room for four. Gripes? The rear wing is big as hell and can impede rear vision occasionally. It’s also a thirsty beast, but then again I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
All the blowholes and downforce scaffolding announces your presence with a good deal of noise – what my friend described as a noise akin to two performance bikes arriving, quickly.
But is this a £50,000 car? On balance, no. Although the interior has been improved, as I believe build quality has too, what I’m sitting in is an extremely quick and accomplished driver’s four-door saloon.
MITSUBISHI EVO FQ-400
5 SPEED MANUAL
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 328g/km
OTR PRICE: £49,999