This is the car Mitsubishi needs to build if it wants to win back its hard-won performance image.
This stunning illustration of a would-be Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution XI has been created by graphic artist Rain Prisk, and it shows just how good a reborn ‘Evo' could look. A brand that once ruled the World Rally stages with Subaru, Mitsubishi is now focused on selling its utes and SUVs, but with a new Subaru WRX around the corner and Toyota producing the GR Yaris as a homologation special, a new Japanese hot hatch war is brewing – and it would be great to see the diamond brand involved.
The Lancer Evolution ran for 10 generations as the company's Group A rally homologation special. In Tommi Makkinen's hands the Lancer Evo won the WRC title four years in a row between 1996-99 – going head-to-head with Subaru and Ford. But with the WRC moving away from Group A and Lancer sales in decline as the model aged, Mitsubishi discontinued the Evolution in 2016.
To be fair, Mitsubishi has talked of Evo return for years, specifically on a compact SUV in keeping with the modern trend of high-performance crossovers – but that's yet to materialise. Which is where our hypothetical Lancer Evo XI comes in, while all a theory we believe there's an argument to be made that Mitsubishi could (and should) bring the famous model back.
Small car sales are still dropping and Mitsubishi hasn't announced (or even hinted at) any plans to bring back the Lancer, which is understandable. But as the GR Yaris demonstrates, there is a business case to be made for building a bespoke hot hatch with a premium price tag to justify the development. It would help reignite Mitsubishi's image as a maker of exciting vehicles and act as a halo model for the entire range.
There's an obvious starting point for Mitsubishi, that would save time and money, thanks to the alliance between Mitsubishi, Renault and Nissan – the Renault Megane RS.
The French hot hatch is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo making a punchy 221kW of power and 420Nm of torque – ideal for a revived Evo. It's mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and comes with Renault's 4Control four-wheel steering as well as a Torsen limited slip differential.
One classic Evo element is missing however, the Megane RS is only available in front-wheel drive format, not all-wheel drive which would be in keeping with the rally spirit of the Lancer. But that would allow Mitsubishi to add all-wheel drive and create a point-of-difference between the two cars.
Maybe we're being too optimistic, but given how good this illustration looks and the long and successful history of the Lancer Evolution it's hard not to wish for its comeback.