Subaru's Impreza is the undisputed King of the Road Racers in SA, but for how much longer? Mitsubishi will launch the Scooby’s arch-rival, the Lancer Evo in either VII or VIII guise later this year.

The Subaru Impreza is the undisputed King of the Road Racers in SA, but for how long? Mitsubishi will launch the Scooby’s arch-rival, the Lancer Evo in either VII or VIII guise later this year.

In oversees markets, purpose-built rally-inspired saloons and hatches such as the Impreza WRX and WRX STi, Ford Escort RS and Focus RS and Lancer Evo (abbreviation for Evolution) have sparked a cult following among rally fanatics, speed freaks and the Playstation generation.

Impreza WRX (or the GT as it was known before 2000) has been on the South African market since the mid nineties, and, as will probably be the case with the Evo, it is impossible to judge these special cars by the same standards as other sports cars, simply because they are not aimed at everyone.

The Lancer saloon, launched in 1,6 GLX form at the end of 2002 after making an appearance at the Auto Africa Motor Show in October, will get additional derivatives, including a two-litre and a 1,3, by the fourth quarter of 2003.

But at the top of the range, the local importers are waiting for the Evo VIII, but it could bring in some VII if the international release of the former is delayed, CAR reported in January.

This week, details of the Lancer Evo VIII, which will go on sale in Britain in March, were released. Tighter US and European regulations means the Evo’s engine has had to slightly detuned. Mitsubishi stripped it of some of the sophisticated technology, redesigned the front and rear and added a bigger fuel tank.

The date of the launch of the Evo VII or VIII will depend on availability of models and whether there is sufficient demand for it, DaimlerChrysler South African spokesman Bennie van Rensburg said.

“Mitsubishi will initially import VIIs but our focus will definitely be on the VIII,” Van Rensburg said, adding: “Very few of us expected the VIII to have been in production this early”.

The Evo VIII is nevertheless a powerful machine… it churns out 202 kW and 370 N.m of torque from the turbocharged two-litre in-line four. The car is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5,3 seconds and hit a limited top speed of 250 km/h.

The new car features a suspension that is slightly lower-sprung than that of the Evo VII, revised active centre differential (ACD), rear limited-slip differential and active yaw control system. New additions include a huge air intake for the intercooler, new front driving lights, a large carbonate rear spoiler, new rear light clusters and new 17-inch alloy wheels.

A three-nozzle intercooler jet system sprays water on to the front of the intercooler to help cool the compressed air and provide more power under hard acceleration, reports say.

The cabin features Recaro seats, a Momo steering wheel and fully automatic air conditioning.

While the Japanese market is looking forward to the new six-ratio box for the Evo VIII, export models will probably get the current five-speeder, albeit with modifications. The transmission uses a centre differential and viscous coupling unit, with torque distributed equally between the front and rear wheels.

Sources say owners will have the option to uprate the power with dealer-fitted aftermarket kits, which will offer various outputs up to around 239 kW.