The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is one of those rare cars aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts. It may look like a four-door economy sedan with an indiscrete wing on its rear deck, but when you get behind the wheel, you'll realize it's much more than that.
The Evo, as it's known among car enthusiasts, is arguably the best handling car available in its price range. Its communicative steering and amazing grip will blow your mind on twisty back roads and racetracks alike. The turbocharged Lancer Evolution has impressive straight-line speed as well, as only powerful V8 cars like the Chevy Camaro SS and Ford Mustang GT can keep up with it. What's more, the availability of both a conventional manual gearbox and an automated manual transmission makes Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive performance sedan more accessible to commuters and anyone who would prefer not to deal with a clutch pedal.
Of course, no car is perfect, and the reason we aren't all driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evos has plenty to do with the car's polarizing exterior style and significant sacrifices in comfort. In trade for its stellar handling, you get a stiff ride on city streets. And apart from the Lancer Evolution's wonderfully supportive Recaro bucket seats, there's not much in the way of cabin ambience. The overall design is dated and the steering wheel doesn't offer telescope adjustment, so many drivers will have a hard time finding that just-right driving position.
More disappointing is the hard plastic on the dashboard and interior panels. The Lancer Evolution shares most of its interior pieces with the base Mitsubishi Lancer (reviewed separately), and they're tough to take in a car that costs nearly twice as much. Finally, there's the Evo's tiny trunk. With only 7 cubic feet of space, it's not remotely practical for long trips.
For years, the Subaru WRX STI has been the main rival to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The Subaru has always had similar capabilities, but, alas, no automated manual transmission option. This could very well change in the upcoming redesign of the WRX (slated for 2014), but details were scant at the time of this writing. If you like the idea of the Evo but want more space and comfort, you might consider the 2014 Ford Focus ST. The front-drive Ford doesn't touch the Evo's performance, but it's significantly less expensive and still provides its fair share of driving thrills. If you need only two seats, you might consider the rear-drive Nissan 370Z, which is also known for its stellar handling and quick acceleration. On the higher end, the surprisingly quick and vastly more refined BMW 135i coupe is worth a look.
Ultimately, the desirability of the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has everything to do with how you plan to drive it. If you're a hard-core enthusiast and you plan to take your car to track days, the Evo is still our top recommendation in this price range.