Autos: Highly Evolved

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Some of the most thrilling sport sedans are the ones built by the Japanese marques specifically for track and rally competition. These cars are developed and designed with a form-follows-function philosophy. They lack even a pretense of luxury but often share their owners’ stables with far costlier and more elegant European machinery.

Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution—better known as the Evo—is an especially exciting sport-minded sedan that has evolved through 10 generations since its introduction in 1992. Five years ago, the racecar driver and time-attack champion Ryan Gates began developing his own track-honed version of a current Lancer Evolution model, the X GSR. Gates’s 311RS Evo X is now available, and it is the ultimate iteration of a platform that deserved the refinement he added.

Gates and his crew in Minneapolis build each 311RS to the buyer’s specification, and so the cost depends on the options and packages. With the extensive menu of enhancements, it is easy to double, triple, or even quadruple the standard Evo’s $35,000 price. Gates plans to give the 311RS treatment to only 11 examples of the Evo, in part because 2014 likely will be the final year that Mitsubishi offers the car.

The 311RS livery is white with blue accents. Carbon-fiber front and rear valances and a wing by Voltex improve the car’s aerodynamics, and increased fender clearances accommodate wider wheels and, critically, a lowered ride height.

To improve handling, which is the 311RS’s forte, Gates stiffens the body by adding a bolt-in roll bar that accommodates six-point Schroth racing harnesses. The suspension features billet mounts and custom JRZ dampers with external reservoirs, spring rates, and valving designed specifically for the 311RS.

Girodisc has developed a brake package for the car that combines Brembo calipers with special pads and lightweight rotors, heat shields, and braided stainless-steel lines. The 18-inch wheels—back and front—are finished in the same blue as the body’s accents and, compared to those on the base Evo, spaced an additional 2 inches apart.

Working with AMS Performance—the company that builds the 1,600 hp version of the Nissan GT-R—Gates lays his hands on every critical component of the Evo’s 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, including the intake, the intercooler and plumbing, the turbocharger, and the fuel system. The engine can be tuned to produce 480 hp and 420 ft lbs of torque on pump gas and 530 hp and 450 ft lbs on racing fuel. This is formidable power for a car weighing less than 3,300 pounds. The full-house treatment also includes a beautiful—and beautiful-sounding—titanium exhaust system by Akrapoviˇc.

Upgrades to the 5-speed manual transmission include an aluminum ball-bearing shifter, a metal clutch master cylinder, a Carbonetic single-plate clutch, and a Cusco mechanical limited-slip differential, for some fun on-throttle control of the chassis.

311RS, www.311rs.com

Photo by Jim Fets
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