2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Famous with rally fans, video game aficionados and driving enthusiasts the world over, the Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution is a serious performance sedan that delivers huge grins for a relatively low price. Though based on the humble Lancer economy sedan, the "Evo" stands out thanks to a potent turbocharged engine, all-wheel-drive and incredibly responsive handling.

Fast, fun and raw, the Evolution is powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. While those aren't eye-popping figures, the little sedan is capable of sprinting to 60 mph from a dead stop in less than five seconds thanks in part to a low curb weight. The hood, roof, front quarter-panels and front and rear bumper beams are all made from aluminum in the interest of mass reduction.

Transmission choices consist of a traditional five-speed manual and a paddle-shifted six-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Fuel economy isn't likely to be a primary concern for buyers in this segment, but it's still worth noting that the Evolution is rated at 17/23 city/highway mpg with the stick and 17/22 with the dual-clutch 'box.

Providing a big boost to the Evolution's acceleration and handling is a highly sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that Mitsubishi calls Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC). An Active Center Differential allows for torque to be apportioned to the front or rear wheels as needed by driving conditions; the default power split is 50:50 front/rear, while up to 80 percent can be sent to other end.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire system is Active Yaw Control, which integrates a limited-slip differential with a pair of clutches that correspond to the left and right wheels. In effect, it's a torque-vectoring technology that allows power to be split between the rear wheels to create impressively neutral handling on curvy roads.

Between the high-output motor, the tech-intensive AWD system and remarkably tactile steering, the Evolution provides a memorably engaging and exciting driving experience that belies its sticker price

Life Aboard
The tradeoff for the bargain performance comes in the form of a downmarket interior that shares much with the entry-level Lancer. While the overall design is pleasing enough, the materials aren't what one would expect at the Evolution's price point. The other typical sports-car downsides, including a relatively stiff ride and abundance of interior noise, are also present and accounted for. However, enthusiasts will likely be able to live with these issues given the car's outstanding other qualities.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Evolution is offered in two trim levels: GSR and MR.

The GSR comes with the five-speed manual transmission. The list of standard features includes Recaro seats, Brembo brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, cruise control, a six-speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD sound system controlled by a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite radio with a free three-month trial, Mitsubishi's FUSE infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and voice command functionality and a USB input. For better or for worse the GSR features a prominent, oversized rear spoiler.

The MR uses the six-speed dual-clutch transmission and also features unique BBS 18-inch forged alloy wheels and a conservative rear lip spoiler.

Highlights from the options list include leather upholstery, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, LED interior accent lights and a navigation system that also adds a larger 7-inch touch screen, voice command and voice command.

Occupant Safety
All Evolution models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Key competitors
Without a doubt, the long-term rival Subaru Impreza WRX STI Hatchback is the biggest competitor for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The Ford Focus ST is strong competitor as well but it eschews all-wheel drive in favor of a more traditional front-wheel drive setup.