Car Reviews

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition review

Robert Pepper’s 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: The Mitsubishi Evo may be based on an old platform, but the classic car for Peformance nerds delivers an authentic driving experience that does not age.

2016 Mitsubishi Evolution Final Edition

PRICE : $53,700 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 5 years / 100,000 km SAFETY : 5-star ANCAP (LANCER ALL VARIANTS 2015-onwards 33.56/37) POWER : 226kW @ 6500 rpm TORQUE : 414 Nm @ 3500 rpm Top speed : 240km/h TRANSMISSION : 5-speed Manual DRIVE : AWD with Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) BODY : 4510 mm (L);  1810 mm (W);  1480 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE : 11.8 m Wheelbase : 2650mm GROUNd CLEARANCE (unladen) : 140mm WEIGHT : 1570 kg SEATS : 5 FUEL TANK : 55 litres SPARE : N/A – TYre repair kit THIRST : 10.2 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : 98RON PREMIUM PETROL

Editor's Rating

How we rated the Mitsubishi Evo Final Edition
The Evo is very much a performance car focused on the driver, particularly drivers who are a bit nerdy, care more about function than form, and are willing to invest the time to get the best from the car by driving it hard. Those buyers wanting luxurious performance and lots of modern features should look elsewhere, but nevertheless as a 5-door sedan the Evo is more than practical enough for daily driving as an only car, and with only 150 of the Final Edition this could well be a smart buy.

Design

Here we are with the Final Edition Lancer Evolution, better known to its many fans as just the “Evo”.

The story started in 1992 with the Evo 1, and now 23 years later we’re at Version 10, known as the Evo X, which has been lightly worked over to become the last of its kind, the Final Edition.  Compared to the X, the important points are that the Final Edition has another 9kW of power to make 226kW, and another 48Nm of torque to make 414Nm. And what were once optional features on an expensive car such as better brakes are now standard with a price drop.

Final Editions are relatively rare.  There are 1000 for Japan, 1600 for the USA and 150 for Australia, each with a sequence plate – our test car was AU 0002, and yes there’s three zeroes where only two are needed.  Evo owners are the sort of people who would notice these details.  Number 0001 has been sold to a private buyer, and 37 of the 150 (as of this review date) have already been sold, only available from Evo franchises.

Compared to a standard CJ Lancer the Evo has a big wing, flared arches to accommodate the wider wheels, lower-profile 18″ wheels, bigger brakes, ventilation behind the front wheels, bonnet scoops and a few other details.  It is mostly functional, and fairly low key bar the wing.  Overall, it’s not a bad look, particularly in trademark Evo white.

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The front end is not the prettiest, but many people will find a kind of ruggedly functional beauty with the prominent intercooler and visible but restrained bonnet slits.

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From any angle it’s recognisably an Evo.

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The Evo has always been the car nerd’s version of the Subaru WRX’s hotter cousin, the WRX STi.  Many non-car people know of the WRX, not least because of Subaru’s world rally success, but far fewer are aware of the Evo. It is always interesting to see other people’s reaction to the cars we have on test – sometimes everybody gawps, but in the Evo nobody noticed except for drivers of performance cars, many of whom almost twisted their necks off. In fact, amongst my car loving friends there was much enthusiasm for the car, more than anything else I’ve tested in recent memory.  Such is the reputation of the Evo.

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Room & practicality

Like most Mitsubishis the Evo’s interior is basic but functional.  There is no split air-conditioning, no real use of soft plastics, no mood lighting or sunglasses holder. The two drinks holders get in the way of the gearshift when you actually use them for drinks (there are holders in the door pockets though).  There’s a USB port but only in the glovebox, and just one 12v socket.  You get cruise control, Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree, centre storage bin, glovebox and steering wheel controls.  The dash controls are simple, easy to use dials – no pretentiously irritating touchscreens or buttons here.
 
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The infotainment unit is basic, and as usual with Mitsubishi units didn’t want to pair with my Galaxy S5. I eventually changed the PIN from 2222 to 0000 and then it worked.  After that there were no more dramas and I found the unit easy enough to use and responsive.  There’s no sat-nav which is fine, but I was disappointed not to find a laptimer or other performance information… even the Outlander has a laptimer!
 
The front seats are Recaros with extremely deep bolstering and were the subject of praise from several occupants.  Like almost everything about the Evo, that’s not just for looks.  The forces this car can generate under brakes, acceleration and cornering mean you absolutely need a race seat.  However, there’s very little adjustment – just the seatback tilt angle and forwards/backwards.  Good thing there is a fair bit of headroom even for the tall.  The front seats are heated too.
 
You can fit three people in the rear in reasonable comfort, and foot/legroom is plentiful, but in contrast to the Recaros the rear pew looks boringly grey.  There is no rear 12v or aircon, and minimal sidepockets.  There is a rear fold-down table, but the rear seats do not fold down.  This is because behind them are the battery and other gear, which reduces the boot space a bit.  Normal Lancers have the battery under the bonnet, but there’s no room in the Evo with its other gear such as turbo and intercooler.  There are no tie-down points for luggage either.
 
The steering wheel is tilt adjustable only, no reach.  It is no work of art, but feels functionally good.  Mitsubishi have not bothered with the pathetic affectation of making it a square-bottom wheel, and I think that fits with the Evo ethos of function over form.
 
There is keyless entry, but it’s a turn-knob start, not a button (see photo in gallery below).  Clearly a cost cutting measure.  Still, handy to have the keyless system.
 

Overall, if you are looking for a mixture of performance and luxury then you are in the wrong place, but the basics are all there and work well enough.  Other performance cars are more practical, for example those hatches that permit the second row to be folded down for extra space, and most are more luxurious or at least have the impression of a premium product, but you don’t buy an Evo for cruising.  You buy it for driving.

Performance, ride and handling

Around town: The engine doesn’t do much at low revs and in first you often need more rpm than you’d think is necessary for a 226kW car.  The turning circle is the same as the Triton 4X4 ute at 11.8m.  The Triton can be proud of its turning circle, the Evo…not so much.  Other than that, the Evo is perfectly workable around town and as a daily driver.  Despite being a performance car it isn’t particularly low so driveways aren’t a pain, and visibility is as good as any other sedan except for the rear where the wing gets in the way a little, but it’s not a big drama.  The ride is comfortable for a sportscar, which means liveably firm.  You don’t buy a car like this expecting Camry-esque wafting.

 
As the fuel is 98RON and the Evo doesn’t mind drinking it, it’s not a particularly cheap car to run, but you do get lots of all-wheel-drive surety of grip in the wet.  The Evo isn’t one of those sportscars which is magic to drive even at very low speeds, but the quickness of turn and exhaust note mean you are always pleasantly aware your vehicle is not ordinary, and there will always be the odd freeway entrance from time to time.

On the open road: At 100km/h the Evo’s tacho reads 2800rpm and that’s one of the times you wish for a sixth gear which would drop say 500rpm and reduce both noise and fuel consumption, both of which are acceptable but there’s room for improvement.  In so many ways the Evo is an old car and that’s one of them.  Otherwise the car is stable and easy to drive. The Evo has no spare tyre at all, just a compressor and repair kit, and has highish fuel consumption with an appetite for premium fuel, none of which are ideal for roaming Australia.  Summary – this is more a short range bruiser than a long ranger cruiser.

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Performance driving: Now we get to the heart of what the Evo is all about.  This section gets a bit technical, but in case terms like ACD and AYC aren’t familiar we’ve explained everything in our Evolution Final Edition technical analysis.

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Let’s start where all serious driving begins and that is the driving position.  No complaints – the Recaro seats aren’t adjustable, but just about everybody found them comfortable and even taller folk can wear a helmet and fit.  I found the left part of the bolster to slightly get in the way of my left arm when shifting gear, but once you’re into the drive that minor irritant is forgotten. The pedals are well-positioned, and easy to heel’n’toe shift thanks to close placement of the brake and accelerator, and a nice long accelerator pedal.

The Evo needs some revs to get off the line without bogging down, and does its best work above 4500rpm.  Redline is reached 1500rpm later at 7000rpm, so your mission is to keep the engine in that sweet spot.  The shifter is not your short-throw super-slick operation found in say the MX-5 or Toyota 86, it’s long for a sportscar and not to be rushed.  Initially, I found my foot completing the clutch operation before the shifter had found the next gear, but I quickly adapted. The shifter can be seen as a drawback as it’s slow and so you get front/rear transfer during the shift, or you could just look at it as part of the driving thrill and skill.  I tend to the latter view.  Under hard acceleration the ACD will lock up, and then second gear arrives at 60km/h which takes you to 100, pulling hard all the way.  I suspect it pulls hard in third too.

With the revs up you start to notice the noise, which is a purposeful turbo-ish sort of whine that met with widespread approval. There is no apparent faux sound enhancement, or much effort in sound shaping.  Personally, I like that true, raw authenticity rather than knowing what you hear is what some engineer thinks you want to hear. 

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Now it’s time to think about stopping.   The brakes are excellent, as you’d expect from large-diameter Brembos; good feel, no fade in street driving, progressive.   We didn’t do any trackwork, but I’d expect the car to go well with maybe a change to DOT 5.1 fluid and some braided lines.  As you brake, you’d best be conservative with your gear choice as you don’t want those revs below around 4000rpm.  First gear can be used for really slow corners with ease on the way in, just needs a bit of a throttle blip to help smooth the selection.

Next up it’s the corners, which is really what the Evo is built for. 

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Every single time you turn into a corner you will smile, be that at 50km/h on a suburban street or piling in hard along some remote country road.

The steering is very quick – not even 1.5 turns from centre to full lock – and not only that, you have the AYC helping you turn in by torque vectoring the rear wheels.  The combination delivers impressive agility and responsiveness that never, ever gets old.  You can also reliably induce oversteer by lift-off; snapping off the throttle on entry with or without a bit of trailbraking, then maintain the slip with a hefty dose of right pedal.  The ability to play with different dynamic options like this is the mark of good sportscars – the poor ones confine your choices.

Mid-corner the Evo grips and tracks beautifully, again due largely to the AYC.  The cornering forces the car can generate are immense and this is actually one vehicle where padded seatbelts would not just be for show.  The steering is not precise and feelsome as you’ve got the front LSD to contend with – the Evo is about brute force and power, not delicate control.  It’s very neutral too, never understeering to any degree, preferring to slip all four wheels together.  Sometimes that means you get a bit of neutral steer, then slight oversteer, then slight understeer in quick succession… this is a bit disconcerting but is a sign you aren’t driving it correctly as it doesn’t really need to do the mid-corner balance thing, it’s more about pile in, pull that nose around and then power out. There’s no micro-adjustments to and from the apex in the Evo in the same way as say a light rear-drive sportscar such as the Elise or MX-5.

It’s on corner exit where you really feel the technology working.  With the car ready for exit you basically pull the trigger on the shotgun by hitting the loud pedal – the car rocks back, you feel the power surging through the front LSD, AYC does its thing to help complete the turn.  There’s not a whole lot of precision or delicacy to the operation, so you’d best ensure your gun is pointed where you intend before you set the process in motion.

The Evo does any form of corner well.  Long sweepers, hairpins, direction changes… there are no weak spots.

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While the Evo is not new, the major difference you notice in the drive is the lack of a sixth gear.  I would suggest that is not a major problem.  Yes, cruise rpms are a bit higher, and the car would be quicker with an extra ratio to play with, but otherwise on a fun drive I don’t think it really matters.

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It is interesting to reflect on the use of technology in the Evo.  Modern sportscars have become rolling simulations of yesteryear, empty fakes that flatter their drivers with various electronics that correct, aid and generally reduce the driving skill, to the tune of fake sounds, even now with deliberately rough automatic gearchanges and ostentatiously unnecessary blips.  Nobody I know in the motorsport scene wants this, and the top question for modern cars in the performance driving scene is “how do I switch that shit off, really off”. 

Listen up carmakers, if we want to be taken for a ride we’ll buy a rollercoaster ticket, not a sportscar. 

The 2016 Evo is different, coming as it does from a previous era.  Yes, the Evo has a sophisticated driveline but its focus is on delivering traction, not directly helping the driver, and the distinction is critical for lovers of performance driving. 

That is one of three reasons why I very much enjoyed my time with the Evo, and the second is its truthfulness.  The Evo has no trick sound system, there are no affectations, even what you could call flaws such as the less-than-slick gearshift are blemishes that reward mastery. There is no sense of achievement if things are too easy.

The third reason is that the Evo does nothing, and has nothing that gets in the way of driving.  Too many sportscars have some sort of dealbreaker – pedals that just don’t work, torque steer, weak brakes, poor seats or some other problem which dulls or destroys the experience.  Not so the Evo, as you’d hope after over two decades of development.

Finally, if you buy an Evo you have entree to a community of enthusiasts, and access to a wealth of knowledge for maintenance, parts, accessories and modifications, plus the knowledge you are buying a motorsports-tested car that will keep up with anything in its class.  It’s a go car, not a show car.

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Dirt roads: I don’t normally take sportscars anywhere near dirt roads, but this is an Evo which is a rally car at heart.

It’s kind of a mixed bag – the tyres and suspension are clearly set up for the tarmac, but the all-wheel-drive system is very good for loose surfaces, highly effective at putting power to the ground, and very easy to oversteer and control. Where it falls down it bit is directional stability which I put down to the tarmac-oriented suspension and tyre package.

As it is, the car still works well on dirt roads, far better than pretty much any other sportscar with the exception of the WRXes.   You need not stop in an Evo when the road turns brown, that’s just another opportunity for fun.  Or if you just feel like driving normally you can do that too, knowing you have one of the best all-wheel-drive systems on the market making your life easy.

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Safety

The Evo is rated 5-star ANCAP with 33.56/37, so has the basic safety features sorted.  However, it doesn’t have anything special; no active safety such as AEB, active cruise or blind spot monitoring.  All it does have is its excellent all-wheel-drive system.

There’s no spare, unlike normal Lancers which get a space saver. Instead, you get the dreaded goo and compressor:

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There is a reversing camera with fixed guidelines, and there are three child restraint points, plus two ISOFIX restraints.

Pricing & Equipment

There’s just one Evo specification, the Final Edition.  There are lots of accessories which are all bling; scuff plates, mud flaps, handbrake lever covers and the like.   The warranty is an excellent 5 years and 100,000km.

At $53,700 plus onroads the Evo isn’t trying to compete with other cars on equipment, because there’s no long list of mod-con features like park assist, electric seats, reach adjustable steering, split aircon, seat configuration options and lots of infotainment display options.

Instead, the Evo does its own thing, and will sell to enthusiasts who appreciate the car’s history, capability and technology.

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Mitsubishi Evolution vs Subaru WRX STi (again)

So many words have been written on this already, but with the demise of the Evo the STi will need a new long-term rival; Focus RS maybe, or AMG A45?  Regardless, here and now the 2016 versions of Evo and STi are, as ever, superficially the same with turbo 4 cylinder engines pushing out around 220kW and 400Nm.  Both are all-wheel-drive and have trick centre differentials, and they weigh around 1530kg with nearly the same dimensions.

But the two are different in several ways.  The mechanicals aren’t quite the same; the Evo has a 2.0L turbo intercooled engine, the STi a 2.5L turbo. The STi’s centre diff has much greater manual control than that of the Evo, you can preload it to the point where you almost get tranmission windup, and the STi will split its torque 40/60 front/rear on demand.  The Evo’s rear diff properly torque-vectors, the STi has a more basic Torsen LSD and offers a form of electronic torque vectoring (or so Subaru claim, I think that’s pushing the definition a bit) on the front wheels only, and then only under power after understeer is detected.  More on that here.

So where does all that leave the buyer?  There is no question the WRX STi is a better car – it offers more safety features such as blind spot monitoring and lane change assist, and features such as hill start assist, dual-zone climate control, even a space-saver spare.   It also has six gears, better sound insulation, better practicality and is the superior cruiser, all for the same price as the Evo.  The lower-powered WRX is also available in auto (if you must), but the STi is a six-speed manual only.

So why buy an Evo?  Because in the opinion of this tester it is the better performance drive, and by that I don’t mean quicker, but more rewarding and enjoyable.  The Evo has an appealing authenticity the STi once had but has lost as it moves from its radical youth to the greater sales volume potential of the all-round centre.  That’s not to say the STi is a bad drive, far from it, but it’s different, a bit less immersive. 

So Evo vs STi is an easy choice; if you intend to wring the last drop from the car go the Evo, otherwise buy a STi which is 95% of the performance and 90% of the fun with a lot more daily livability.  

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Second opinions

David – noted Porsche enthusiast (but drives a “sensible FAMILY CAR” M5)

A nice car but the world has moved on. Only the most diehard Evo fanboys (and girls) would put up with a 5-speed manual.  Great that it has a manual, but in 2015 six-speed manuals are what you expect.  It just reinforces that the core car is very dated.  The driver experience, even with 226kW, is not special enough to put up with a car that looks and feels ten years old… although I would take it over the current WRX. 

Stephen – generally interested in cars (owns a Europa, Smart Roadster and Discovery)

Driving over mixed condition roads in between being yelled at over the radio, more or less the same route used a while back for the WRX Auto vs. Manual test.

You can’t help but compare the Evo to the WRX and the clear difference is in level of refinement and bling factor. The WRX has more of both but for me the Evo is still the preferred drive, even though it falls behind in a couple of areas.

Where the Evo does suffer is NVH, it is a noisy car and exhibits some exhaust resonance at times. Could become irritating on the freeway for longer drives, providing an excuse to take an exit to secondary roads where the Evo is at home.

That slight rawness about the Evo is a positive when it comes to the amount of feel you get back through the wheel and seat of your pants; I felt confident with what the wheels were doing on the Evo where I found recent WRXes to be a bit isolated.  You can feel the diff technology at work and I think Mitsubishi has handled the compromises well in tuning the car to be a safe but also great drive.

Lack of 6th gear is a minor annoyance when cruising, but if you are being really lazy it could be argued that just lets you use 5th gear almost all of the time and saves on gear changes.  Although perhaps short a ratio, the shift quality and clutch feel was better than the WRX (in my opinion) and I would get used to slightly high cruising
rpm quickly.

The power delivery over a broad range is good and I liked that it didn’t run into a brick wall at the top end; the sort of characteristics that for short circuit work mean you can hold a gear between turns and save on gear
shifts.  A bit lacking right at the bottom end from a closed throttle, which probably again exposes that turbo engine design and expectations have moved on a bit since we got the likes of the A45 AMG to benchmark against.

The interior is fairly plain but also not as pretentious as a lot of cars have become, the instruments and controls are all pretty clear although a 300kph speedo is unnecessary and a touch impractical.  Ride quality was impressive given the performance potential, sitting in either front or rear seats was pretty good and no bums were bruised on the day.  You might not want to do a track day as a back seat passenger, but there is plenty of room and support even over bumpy roads and with an enthusiastic driver in control.

It is getting on a bit in years but for me the EVO still does exactly what it should do – the everyday/family fast car with a slight smell of mongrel about it.

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Paul – BRZ OWNER

Great all round car, firm but forgiving ride. Spacious comfortable interior, seats were supportive though for me too high and I felt required adjustment option [ Paul is rather tall ]. Definitely needs sixth gear for highway, wouldn’t get it if I did a lot of highway driving. Pretty minimalist interior which I felt was good, fewer distractions. Engine performed well, reasonable pull in all gears, 2nd required more revs to get going. Brakes are excellent.

I liked the ride and how planted it was. I prefer the seating position and adjustability of the BRZ.

Compared to my BRZ the pull of the Evo is awesome in the mid range but so is the BRZ in the right gear. The steering was good, much lighter than the BRZ, it felt more assisted.  Would I take one over a BRZ? That’s a tough one. Probably not the Evo, I prefer the look of the BRZ and while underpowered the BRZ is more enjoyable to drive, feels more connected.  But if it was an Evo 6.5 then yes, in a heartbeat!

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Juliette – Japanese car lover and BRZ owner

Worshipped for its capability, affordability and no frills approach to a family sportscar, the Evo has been a pillar of the Japanese sportscar scene. Surprisingly though, I’ve never been behind the wheel of one and only been a passenger or admired them zooming by and now I find myself in its last incarnation – the Final Edition.

I appreciate the Evo’s no-nonsense approach to everything. You sit down without fuss, everything is familiarly Japanese. The steering wheel is comfortable, seats supportive and the controls are where you expect them to be. Driving it at suburban speeds feels no different to driving most other medium Japanese cars. You’re only reminded by the deep rumble from the exhaust and the slightly firmer ride that you’re in something not so pedestrian, for the interior doesn’t give you the impression it is anything special. Very little attempt has been made to bring something that looked dated eight years ago into the modern day. Luxury has never been the Evo’s game. There’s good legroom for both front and rear passengers but the lack of access through the boot into the cabin really limits storage space.

The exterior of the car is subtle. Mitsubishi were onto a good thing when they styled the last Lancers from which the body of the Evo is based on. A few small differences – flared and vented guards, flared arches and doors, a big wing, bonnet vents – but nothing screams look at me. Instead it blends with the surrounding grocery-getters and hides the beast within.

And what a beast it is. Waiting for you is a decently powerful engine that needs to be revved to be at its best and a rewarding exhaust note. It won’t win any drag races, but it’s not what this car is about. It does really want for a 6th gear, at highway speeds it revs just that bit too high and the exhaust causes drone through the cabin making it hard for rear seat occupants to communicate with the front. The handling is assured. The car helps without unnecessary drama rather than waving warning signs at you to stop having fun. It knows you bought it to have fun and it will make sure you walk away grinning.

The car means business without asking for fanfare every time you take it out. I’d own one over a current WRX. Goodbye Evo, the enthusiast scene is really going to miss you 🙁

Kaye – sportscar afficiando (’99 WRX, ’15 AMG a45)

Kaye owns a 1999 WRX STi which for her is the benchmark.  Here’s her view:

Acceleration – no doubt the Evo is quicker, but the experience wasn’t as much fun as I had anticipated as it was a refined experience compared to my Rexy’s untamed/raw acceleration 😉

Clutch – definitely longer travel before it engages than Rexy.  Not necessarily bad but would just take getting used to so drags are not an embarrassing experience like last night!

Gear shift – Rexy’s is shorter and also the cover extends down part of the length of the stick, which is why I’m used to using the length to change gears rather than just holding the knob (be serious here!)

Seat adjustments – really needed to be able to change height to be comfortable for me.

Exhaust – Evo may not have Rexy’s boxer throb at idle, but it definitely gets 10/10 for grin factor from me!

Styling – Loving the rear end in particular (perhaps the wing could be a little larger?;) )

Brakes/wheels – Loving

Handling (as demonstrated by Rob) – Amazing and a bit scary!

Note: Kaye shifted gears at 4500rpm which is the point at which the engine has finished its coffee and is ready for work, so read the comments about acceleration with that in mind…

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The Evo about to head out with some friends. Cayenne, 911, AMG SLK, MR2, BRZ, M5, Focus ST, Megane RS.

2 Comments

  1. Adam McLeod
    January 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm — Reply

    USB port is in the glove box, has been since 2011.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper