HIS face says it all – like a smacked toddler, Dunc’s mouth is down-turned like the economy. To make up for his ‘loss’, we point the grieving salesman towards the Aston and Dan and I climb into the Evo. For much of the weekend, the Mitsubishi has been the ugly duckling of the pack (while still not as ugly as the Subaru). Mostly forgotten, the rally-inspired menace has given way to the Hollywood cars; the glitterati of the likes of the DBS and R500.
And I think I know why – it’s because the Evo is just so easy to drive. Packed full of gadgetry designed to help the machine carve through corners quicker than any road-going rally car before it, it’s become so efficient it’s just that little bit un-involving.
Like a super-real game of Gran Turismo the Evo feels like it could as easily be driven with a pad and toggles than a steering wheel and pedals. The liberties you can take with the car are simply staggering. Turn in to wet roundabouts at, frankly, silly speeds and the Evo X just ploughs on through – your nerve is far more likely to give out before you reach its limits.
Put any driver behind the wheel of the Japanese masterpiece and they’ll be quick; there’s no real talent needed to keep it out in front, just bigger kahunas than your fellow drivers.
On more than one occasion the Evo X tied the cars following it in knots. The problem is, you trail it in a machine with more power and less cornering prowess and end up in a dangerous situation – just as my heart-stopping moment proved on the Saturday.
It’s this unfailing ability to turn in, punch out and attack the next bend that makes you feel a) like a driving god and b) somewhat detached, removed even, from the whole experience.
The question on most people’s lips when they ask about the X is whether it’s any better than the IX. Well it is and it isn’t. The nine was absolutely mad; completely and utterly bonkers, with ridiculous amounts of power and a savage delivery. The ten instantly feels more refined – it’s a grown up car that’s moved on in many ways – and not all of them for the better.
Our test model – the FQ300 – generates 295bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant. That’s good for 4.7 seconds to 60mph and 155mph. It feels quick too and with its clever yaw and traction control, plus countless other driver aids, it’s extremely effective on the roads we’re blessed with enjoying in south Wales.
On some occasions – not often – but some over the weekend, the Evo feels that little bit underpowered. Hard to contemplate, I know, but there are times when you find yourself looking for that added injection of power.
We know there’s an FQ360 available, but for this test we wanted a manual – the SST box we tried earlier in the year didn’t impress – so we had to opt for the lesser output. And the thing is, the X needs that extra 60bhp.
So, is the Evo X’s problem the fact it’s too good? Well, in some cases yes it is. Cars often get their soul from their faults; from their quirks – these are the bits that really stand out in your mind after driving them.
The Caterham is so loud it’s probably best to drive with earplugs; the DBS is leg-numbingly painful; and the Twingo needs so many revs it feels the valves are going to puncture holes in the bonnet. But it’s these very traits that make each of them memorable. And all of them are so much more of an experience than the Evo.
AS THEY have a nasty habit of doing, Monday morning arrives too quickly and we’re soon packing up for the long trip home. Most of the journey takes place in silence – like the end of the school summer holidays we’re all depressed. Thoroughly depressed. But, before we head back to reality, there’s one final stop-off in dreamland – Aston Martin’s Gaydon HQ where we’re to say goodbye to the DBS.
We arrive around lunchtime and crawl through the huge facility in the two cars, checking out what must be several hundred million pounds worth of Astons in various states of readiness.
As we’re handing over the DBS key to the press officer in the stunning art gallery-style reception, company chairman David Richards brushes past, but we’re too embarrassed to say hello.
The current Pro-Drive boss and former team principal of BAR and Benetton F1 teams is leaving for the short hop down the M40 to Prodrive in his V8 Vantage Roadster. We’re off at the same time and follow him along the country roads back towards the motorway.
What soon becomes clear is that he’s either had a very bad day at the office or needs to get somewhere sharpish and he’s not hanging about. He puts the Evo to absolute shame as he cuts a dash towards Banbury – we all nod in agreement as he leaves us for dead on the M40… legend.
It’s a fitting finale to an incredible four days…
MISSED THE OTHER PARTS OF RTotY 08? FIND THEM HERE…