For 2004, Lancer Evolution buyers may opt for leather front Recaro(R) seats, and they may opt for a 315-watt Infinity(R) sound system, complete with subwoofer. A limited number of brave souls may also opt for the latest trim level, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution RS.
If the lightweight, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Lancer Evolution was not the right car for you, then the Lancer Evolution RS is even less right. But for racing purists, compact car tuners and hard-core driving enthusiasts, the best bang-for-the-buck sports sedan just got better.
Thanks to numerous weight-saving measures, the Lancer Evolution RS tips the scales nearly 150 pounds lighter than the Lancer Evolution. Its featherweight status notwithstanding, the RS has also been blessed with quicker reflexes: a front helical-type limited slip differential and a rear crossbar help to improve the handling of one of the world's best-handling automobiles.
"Lancer Evolution RS reflects the essence of high-performance value," said Finbarr O"Neill, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA). "We"ve boiled the cost-per-thrill ratio down to its lowest conceivable point, providing tuners and racing enthusiasts with more of what they need, and less of what they don"t."
Less is More
When the difference between winning and losing can be measured in tenths of a second, the difference between the 3,321-lb Lancer Evolution and the 3,175-lb Lancer Evolution RS becomes significant. To achieve a curb weight lower than the already-lean Lancer Evolution, the Lancer Evolution RS sheds several non-essential items. Most notable from outside, the RS is not bedecked with the Lancer Evolution's distinctive rear wing spoiler. The high-intensity discharge headlights also were deleted, as was the rear window wiper. Inside, RS drivers must make do without an air conditioning system or an AM/FM/CD audio system. There are no power mechanisms for the windows, locks, or side mirrors. Trunk compartment trim has been removed, as have vanity mirrors, rear assist grips, map lamps, and the parking brake lever's leather covering. An antilock brake system is not available.
There are also fewer color choices; the Lancer Evolution RS is available in Rally Red or Weightless White.
A Differential Difference
The Lancer Evolution RS doesn"t compromise performance, whether performance is defined as straight-ahead acceleration or exit speed out of an apex. Higher performance is achieved in part by lowering the vehicle's mass, but the RS is also better equipped to handle lateral motion, thanks to the addition of its front limited slip differential.
This helical limited slip differential (LSD) takes the place of the Lancer Evolution's open front differential, giving the RS mechanical front and rear differentials that split power delivery between their respective left and right wheels, and a center differential that splits the power between front and rear. The front differential's helical design provides it with smooth operation and superior responsiveness. Small in both size and weight, the helical unit does not require special oil or additional maintenance.
Helical-type limited-slip differentials offer several advantages over the clutch-type or viscous LSDs. Viscous limited-slip units tend to wear out after extended use, as their oil is heated and reheated until it degrades, rendering the unit ineffective. Clutch-type differentials provide good off-the-line traction, but the 50/50 stability that's beneficial in a straight line is not so desirable when a vehicle is turning. The helical-type limited slip provides better durability and performance when it's needed most: while turning. Unlike an open differential, which shifts power to the wheel with less grip, the helical LSD constantly shifts the bias toward the wheel that has more traction.
Under straight-line acceleration, power remains evenly split between the front wheels. While cornering (e.g. accelerating out of a turn), the helical LSD directs power away from the inside wheel and toward the outside wheel, allowing the driver to begin accelerating earlier and exit the turn at a higher speed, without losing traction in the process.
Performance is also improved on slippery mud or snow that's often encountered on isolated dirt roads, where the Lancer Evolution series spent much of its development.
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