Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII – XI
(2002 - 2007)

  • Superb driving experience
  • Incredible performance
  • If maintained well, mechanically reliable
  • Genuine practicality
  • Low rent interior can age poorly
  • Many examples abused and mistreated
  • Lacking in safety and infotainment tech
  • Cost of maintenance can quickly add up
Overview

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The ‘Evo’. Legend. Cult car. Bona-fide heroicism. Its nameplate spans a quarter century across ten generations, producing an armada of rally-bred road-going sport sedans – and the occasional wagon – with stove-hot performance and a mantra of giant-killing potential on a relative shoe-string budget.

Want to tyre-kick? A warning: Evo providence is a dizzying rabbit hole full of petrol hedonism. It’s a universe hard-wired for enthusiast geekery, with a history and breadth of production machinery that demands deep diving if you’re shopping for specifics.

Here, our overview blankets Evos seven (VII), eight (VIII) and nine (IX). Common is the underpinning (gen seven Lancer) CT9A platform that broadly groups the four doors – and CT9W for the wagon – as a technical generation of sorts.

The proceeding gen-six Lancer-based Evo XI/6.5 road cars, the linage’s most heroic and revered extrapolations, were hard-core Group A rally homologated. With Mitsubishi’s shift to looser WRC-based rally involvement, the VII’s arrival in 2001 introduced a new era of increasingly nicer, more well-rounded and more-sophisticated Evos base off the seventh-generation Lancer that continued through to 2007’s gen-eight-based Evo X, bringing a new engine and platform for what became go-very-fast Lancer’s swansong.

Firecracker on-boost response, pin-sharp dynamics and stunning point-to-point pace are all Evo hallmarks, retained in Evo VII guise reasonably faithfully from its manic forebear despite slightly softer and heavier execution. But unlike the 6.5 Tommi Makinen Edition, sold in Oz through Ralliart on very limited (98 units) volume, the Evo VII was never officially released locally. They’re all grey imports.

The VII is a cracker. Despite a weight spurt, the lithe all-paw sedan is renowned for its nimbleness, bringing an active centre differential and helical front differential to a thrash-fit package centred around Mitsubishi’s much-loved 4G63 turbocharged four, with 206kW and 380Nm advertised. The infamy around Japan’s domestic ‘280PS’ (206kW) ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is well documented and the Evo breed, like many turbo heroes of the times, was suspected of breaching it in certain model generations.

Brembo, Enkei, Recaro: both the road-oriented GSR and off-street-ready RS versions brought lots of name brand artillery to the proprietary Mitsubishi go-fast goodness, the lion’s share as five-speed manuals though a slushbox auto GT-A version – largely snubbed by enthusiasts – was also offered in VII guise.

Come 2004’s VIII, the Evo returned to Oz as an official release. But… Limited to 100 units annually, Australia got the Euro ‘tune’ of 195kW and 355Nm with a five-speed. Japan’s version, though, packed 206kW and 373Nm with a new six-speed. Still, its dynamic alacrity, leveraged largely through it complex active all-wheel trickery, and immediacy to march proved demonstrably quicker than its Subaru WRX STI nemeses of the time.

At $62k, the Aussie version was cheaper than the old 6.5 TME ($80k), bringing broader appeal. It had grown up, too, with less manic road manners and plusher appointments. The VIII rides nicer and is quieter, too. Today, buyers can, of course, opt for grey/SEVS import, notable higher standard performance, nicer six-speed transmissions, and either regular GSR (Grand Sport Rally) or tickled MR (Mitsubishi Racing) variants, the latter menu offering features such an alloy roof, Bilstein suspension mods, carbon trim work and various other niceties.
(There are also RS, or ‘Rally Sport’, versions, too, though as racecar donor variants these don’t comply with local road-going compliance requirements.)

True to its namesake, the IX, arriving in late 2005, was an evolution of minted formula with lots of polish and honing and few key hardware changes, other than the adoption of MIVEC valvetrain trickery for the 4G63 engine. Outputs were advertised at 214kW and 392Nm in some markets, if 206kW and 355Nm for Aussie spec. A $3700 Performance Pack, with firmer ‘race’ suspension and different wheels, was offered optionally, though buy-in for Evo was, at around $57k, around five-grand cheaper than its forebear.

Australia did, in a way, produce its own special: the Evo IX TMR 220, a juiced-up, factory warrantied version outputting 220kW (hence the name) and 400Nm from the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart skunkworks in Melbourne. Track suspension, 18s, huge brakes, it asked for a frosty $78k and targeted harder-core weekend warrior buyers and is, today, a used-car unicorn.

Something different? The IX series was the only Evo to offer a tasty wagon version, import only, in either manual or auto guise.

And that just scratches the surface when it comes to choosing a used Evo of this ‘WRC’ era. Do you want a local example, a landed ‘grey’, or import one of Japan’s myriad variants yourself. Are you after a mint original, something to mod or perhaps an example already stretching the lofty limits of Evo’s aftermarket tuned potential?

Narrowing down your preferences will surely dictate your tyre-kicking methodology. But as a general guide, the seven-to-nine linage did get progressively nicer and easier to live with, while still plying levels of pace and fun factor the Evo reputation is built upon and still thoroughly deserves today.

As for key danger signs to look out for, read on…

Ads goes here
What goes wrong
  • Rust. As the Lancer Evolution (of all variants) grow older, rust has become more common and it is critical if you’re in the market for an Evo, make sure you raise it up on a hoist and look underneath for rust. Look along the chassis rails, around the front cross member, around the rear subframe, the tops of the strut housings, honestly just look everywhere and if you find rust, we’d recommend walking away.
  • Examples with a sunroof can leak and again, are susceptible to rust. Also, the sunroof mechanism can fail and or become very noisey with rattles and squeaks.
  • Many Evos have now been fully resprayed and it is important to check that any re-spray has been completed correctly and to the highest quality. If you can see where an owner has cut corners, it could be a very bad sign.
  • As the Evo is a performance car with copious levels of grip, when that grip runs out, the resulting accident can be quite large. Make sure you go over the entire car and check that the panel gaps all match, that paint matches in colour and texture and look for scratches and dents. Obviously these cars are getting older and a few car park scuffs are to be expected but if the panels and paint miss match or there are signs of spray paint overspray, it could be a very bad sign.
  • This is extremely importune t to be aware of if shopping for an Evo. As many Evos are imports or can have a mysterious history, there are many reports of certain owners swapping out the instrument cluster for one that is showing far less kilometres.
  • It will depend on where you’re reading this from on how to ascertain if the kilometres are correct in terms of previous registration records or documentation but if the odometer is showing 70,000kms but the pedals, carpets and steering wheel are heavily worn and the seat bolsters are collapsing and the car just feels old, there’s a high chance that odometer, and the seller are lying to you.
  • If there are extra gauges or any aftermarket equipment in the interior, does it all work? You’d be amazed how many people buy modified cars only to find out after they’ve bought it that nothing works.
  • Make sure you turn the key onto accessories and check to see if the ACD lights illuminate correctly.
  • Press the ACD button and make sure the lights scroll through as you select them. If these don’t illuminate, something way be very wrong.
  • The specific display of lights can vary depending on the generation of Evo and ACD, but just make sure it they illuminate correctly for the model you’re looking at.
  • Check that the seats match the model of the car. The Recaro seats can be the target of theft and they are often swapped out for a bucket style race seat. If the seats have been changed, you need to know why.
  • Next the tyres, do the tyres all match and are they a premium performance tyre? If the owner hasn’t invested in quality tyres, the one part of the car that touches the road, where else are they potentially cutting corners.
  • Look at the wear and tear. If the wear pattern isn’t even, the car may need a wheel alignment or even worse, may have some suspension damage. If the outside of the tyre is heavily worn, the car has been cornered hard. While that’s what these cars are designed for, just know, it has had a tough life.
  • Try to get underneath the car and look for any impact damage or gouges or big scratches or, any fresh paint trying to hide damage or dodgy repair work. Also look for any leaks or wet areas. If it looks sketchy, it probably is.
  • Mechanically, the 4G63 is a fairly bulletproof engine but things can go down hill very quickly if not maintained correctly.
  • Open the bonnet and check that everything look right. Is anything loose or falling off? Again, are there any signs of paint overspray? Are any modifications fitted correctly? Are all the fluids at their correct levels and what is the condition of these fluids?
  • Make sure the timing belt has been changed at the correct intervals, this is critical.
  • Look for any signs of oil leaks, how bad are the oil leaks?
  • Check diff bushes and make sure the gearbox isn’t grinding.
  • The Evo 7 has something of a reputation for weak transfer cases, although, this will generally only show itself with excessive modifications or if it has been driven without mechanical sympathy.
  • An overflowing expansion tank can be quite a common problem that can effect many Evolution models. The problem occurs because the cap does not seal properly and coolant leaks around it, instead of going down the drainpipe. If the coolant drops below minimum and doesn’t settle, there may be a coolant leak somewhere in the system. This needs to be fixed as soon as possible and will require further inspection.
  • All Evos are beginning to have AYC and ACD pump issues when owners fail to service them correctly.
  • For those wishing to modify extensively, the bottom end in the Evo 7 is weaker than you’d expect. We’d recommend sticking to Evo 8 or 9 if chasing big power numbers.
  • The 5-speed gearboxes are proving to be stronger than the 6-speeds, but mechanical sympathy goes a long way.
  • Timing belts and serpentine belts tend to be worn on older examples. Make sure you replace them because if they snap, it will be expensive to rebuild the engine.
  • It might be worth getting AFR, water temp, oil temp and boost gauges to make sure everything is working nicely.
  • If unmodified, the Evo is a tough vehicle and should only suffer from the general old age, high kilometre issues that can impact any turbocharged all wheel drive car of this age.
  • But remember, the more modifications done to it, the more chance it’ll go bang and cost a small fortune to put right.These are a high maintenance vehicle and if cared for correctly, should provide many years of incredibly enjoyable driving.
Model range, pricing & features

VII GSR

  • Price when new: $65,000 - $85,000
  • Price used: $35,000 - $65,000

The VII generation Lancer Evolution was not offered offically in Australia by Mitsubishi Motors, and so the GSR model is the base grey import model most companies brought into Australia.

In addition to sport seats, electric windows and mirrors, VII GSRs also added a sports body kit, 17-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, ABS, dual front airbags, Recaro seats and Momo Sports Steering wheel.

Some GSRs came standard with air conditioning, some came without it. Most GSRs imported into the country came from Japan and therefore didn’t come standard with a stereo system as it was common in Japan for owners to fit a third party system post purchase.

Given the VII GSR is a grey import, our recommendation is to inspect the car with a fine-tooth comb as there are no warranties with these cars and servicing requirements are a bit vague given some importers will recommend to follow the safer and more conservative UK servicing guidelines (7,000km or every 6-months) or some importers and sellers will use the Japanese servicing guidelines (10,000km or 12-months).

Standard Features include:

17-inch alloy wheels
Brembo brakes
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Dual driver and passenger airbags
Central locking
Immobiliser
Recaro seats
Momo steering wheel
Leather gear knob
Sports instrument cluster
Electric windows – front and rear
Electric mirrors
2x front cup holders

VII GS-A

  • Price when new: $75,000 - $90,000
  • Price used: $28,000 - $31,000

The VII GS-A is an automatic variant of the GSR model, and like the GSR model is offered only as a grey import (meaning no official warranty, servicing or support from Mitsubishi Motors Australia).

The GS-A benefited from a 5-speed automatic tiptronic transmission, where gears could be selected using the “+” and “-” buttons on the steering wheel.

It came standard with additional comforted orientated features over the GSA model.

Adds:

17-inch alloy wheels in diamond cut finish
Chrome beveled gauges
Chrome door handles
Tiptronic control via steering wheel buttons
Suede seat trim

VIII

  • Price when new: $61,990
  • Price used: $36,000 - $72,000

The Evo VIII was released in June 2004, and was officially offered by Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

The Evo VIII featured largely the same feature offering on top of the VII GSR, with exception being a slightly detuned four cylinder engine which was fitted due to the hotter climate, and largely resembled the FQ260 model offered in the UK, which offered 195kW of power and 355Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual.

The Evo VIII was did not offer an automatic option in Australia.

The VIII was imported into Australia under the SEVS – Specialist Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme, limiting imports into Australia to 200 units.

Standard Features include:

17-inch Enkei alloy wheels
Brembo brakes
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Electronic stability programme (ESP)
Traction control (TC)
Front seatbelt pre-tensioners
Active Centre Differential (ACD)
Dual driver and passenger airbags
Central locking
Alarm with tracking system
Immobiliser
Rear fog lights
Recaro seats
Tilt adjustable steering wheel
Leather gear knob
Sports instrument cluster
Air Conditioning
Electric windows – front and rear
Electric mirrors – heated
6 speaker sound system
CD player with MP3 compatibility
2x front cup holders

VIII MR

  • Price when new: $81,000 - $90,000
  • Price used: $45,000 - $85,000

The MR model of the VIII generation Evo was commonly on sale and offered through grey importers.

The key difference between the VIII offered by Mitsubishi Motors Australia and the grey imported MR is the 6-speed manual transmission and additional power from the 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine.

Furthermore, the MR offered a range of race-orientated features.

Adds:

17-inch BBS alloy wheels
Revised limited slip differential
Aluminum roof
Bilstein shocks
Carbon interior trim
MR badging
Black suede Recaro seats

IX

  • Price when new: $56,789
  • Price used: $52,000 - $135,000

Based on the same generation as the VIII Evo, the IX Evolution was an updated version of the Lancer Evolution range and once again was offered by Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

The biggest changes were subtle styling changes to the front and rear of the vehicle as well as added interior features such as climate control and a six-stacker CD player.

Adds:

Rear carbon fibre spoiler
Recaro seats with Alcantara suede upholstery
Leather steering wheel
Climate control air conditioning
6-stacker-CD player with MP3 compatibility

IX TMR220

  • Price when new: $75,000 - $105,000
  • Price used: $50,000 - $145,000

Released in late 2006, the TMR220 was a special edition IX Evolution offered with more race-orientated mechanical features.

Adds:

18-inch alloy wheels
6-point performance brake calipers
Front spoiler – carbon fibre
Blacked out headlights
Lowered race suspension
Sports exhaust
Strut brace
White sports gauge instrument cluster
Auxiliary and boost gauges

Should you buy it?

So, should you buy an Evo? Well yes and no.

It’s a yes in terms that these generations of Evo still provide a brilliant driving experience, both when standard or when modified properly and with pricing ever increasing, there is some potential that you may be buying something of an investment as well an iconic drivers car, that also happens to offer quite good practicality and if cared for, great reliability.

But, unless you’re buying a Evo as a project car and are happy to spend every waking hour and final dollar transforming it into your dream ride, it’s a very big no if the Evo you’re looking at has been abused or mistreated in really anyway.

You are far better off spending more money on the most original, mint condition low kilometre Evo with minimal modifications and a full and thorough service history than an Evo with a questionable history as the money you may save in actually buying the car will soon be eaten up in repairing and maintaining a rough example.

The Evo 7, 8 and 9 has become almost like a vintage Ferrari,

The actual cost of buying and maintaining them is ever increasing yet they come with real racing pedigree and the right one will provide a truly wonderful driving and ownership experience.
But the wrong example will drain your bank account faster than an Evo can drain the blood from your extremities mid fast corner.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:
No warranty – due to being a grey import (VII, VIII MR)
5 year/130,000km (VIII, XI)

Servicing:
12 months or 10,000km (VII, VIII)
12 months or 15,000km (XI)

Tech specs

Body Style:
4-door sedan

Engine:
2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol

Power:
206kW (VII, VIII MR, IX)
195kW (VIII)

Torque:
385Nm (VII)
355Nm (VIII, IX)
400Nm (VIII MR)

Transmission:
5-speed manual, all-wheel drive (VII GSR, VIII,
6-speed manual, all-wheel drive (VIII MR)
5-speed automatic, all-wheel drive (VII GT-A)

Fuel Consumption:
10.9 – 11.5L/100km

Length:
4,455mm (VII)
4,490mm (VIII, IX)

Width:
1,770mm

Height:
1,450mm

Kerb Weight:
1,310 – 1,470 kg (depending on generation and variant)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of December 24, 2021.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

Read our full terms and conditions here.