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REAR VIEW MIRROR: THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS; Mitsubishi EVO VII shows it's a real beast when let loose on the open road.

Byline: Brian Twomey

MITSUBISHI EVO VIII

RECENTLY had the dubious pleasure of being invited to go on a blind date.

I was unsure as to whether I should subject myself to such an ordeal until I heard her name was "Cindy", and which point the image of a leggy blonde popped into my head and I promptly agreed. Unfortunately, my imagination had no bearing at all on reality, and Cindy turned out to be more of a Helga. It just goes to show you how suggestive a name can be.

The name "Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII" doesn't leave you in any doubt about this cars purpose.

This is a car from those of us who absolutely adore driving, particularly at the more politically-incorrect end of the spectrum. A quick glance at the specification sheet reveals why the car deserves such a pompous name: 2.0-litre Garrett turbocharged four cylinder engine, 280 bhp, four wheel drive with an electronically controlled central differential, Brembo brakes, Recaro Seats, Momo wheel and a partridge in a pear tree. 0-60 arrives in a frankly ridiculous 5.3 seconds and top speed is more than double motorway speeds so unless you have the a racetrack in your garden you're unlikely to ever realise this car's full performance. But dabbling with a fraction of it is still huge, huge fun.

I decided that a weekend in Kerry was the only thing for such a car. In and around the Capital it remained fairly civil, but the firm suspension, heavyish clutch and stiff gearchange had me knackered after a while. Even on the long trek down the Cork road, holding it back to legal speeds proved even more tiring than the loud exhaust and growling engine.

Considering the performance on tap it's a pussycat, but compared to a family saloon it's uncompromising.

But get it on the right road and all that ceases to matter. In the dry it sticks to the road like dog-do to your boot-soles and if the eye-popping traction wasn't enough, it can be goaded to kick it's tail around with surprising ease yet never feels out of control or loose. In the wet, there isn't as much grip, true enough, so it slides around corners with amazing grace and all the time screaming information about what's going on to the driver through the steering wheel and the seat.

If you've got around EUR50 grand to blow, this is where it should be.

No, the interior isn't up to scratch for that money and the stereo is, frankly, dire. But everything else about the Lancer Evo VII is just perfect, right down to the word EVOLUTION printed in bold letters on the boot. The only name I can think of that might be better is "Mitsubishi Prince of Darkness."

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WISH LIST: The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2004
Words:474
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