Remember when the cars of the World Rally Championship were really cool? Like really, really cool? When you were either Subaru or Mitsubishi, blue or red? It feels like an eternity ago, yet the last direct descendant of that special era, Subaru's Impreza-succeeding WRX STI, has only just discontinued production. Its departure closes a chapter that once included Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution, a car that itself bowed out of Britain with the final Evo X four years ago - a decade since its maker last fielded a factory effort in the WRC and 40 years since Mitsubishi first entered the UK.
Having arrived eight years into the Evo X's life, the FQ-440 MR was already a dinosaur - but with 440hp produced by its heavily boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, Mitsubishi's 40-car run-out did far more than leave with pride; it threw rebellious punches at the incoming class of super hatchbacks that ultimately spelled out its demise. The Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Focus RS and even the BMW F80 M3 looked outgunned next to the FQ-440. Here was an Evo X capable of hitting 60mph in 3.8 seconds. It was plainly a thumb in the eye to the model's detractors - and a deity for its fanbase.
To achieve its remarkable 440hp and 412lb ft of torque peak outputs, the Evo X was given a spec list befitting the British aftermarket tuner scene. Its 16-valve unit used motorsport high-flow fuel injectors and was force fed by an HKS turbo, which worked with an intercooler endowed with Janspeed-supplied piping. The intake and exhaust systems were also provided by the esteemed UK tuning firm, while Eibach lowering springs, larger Alcon front brakes and BBS 18-inch wheels completed a long list of upgrades. It pushed the price to Β£50,000, which was, well, a lot. You were only Β£5k short of F80 money.
Direct comparison with the cars it once called rivals is no longer relevant because almost instantly, the last-of-the-line Evo X FQ-440 achieved mythic status. Encountered now, it is clearly a product of that once celebrated era; not even the boisterous Focus RS can square up to its muscular form, nor does an M3 provide such an unyielding focus on being driven quickly. Just look at those bonnet intakes, roof slats and the rear wing. It is impossible to coast in traffic without drawing attention; if it's not the volume of the exhaust system, it's that spoiler. This won't appeal to everybody.
The FQ-440, considerably more so than its lower-powered siblings (FQ400 included), feels honed. You'll need to make your peace with that, and the alway-tense quality of the ride which sees those 245-width boots incessantly pushed into unseen road imperfections. If that doesn't wear you out, the drone of the exhaust might. But it's honest. Honest enough to feel like an old dog at times, with the six-speed twin-clutch automatic (the hunt for performance in the FQ-440 meant the quicker-shifting SST was the only option) hesitant and clunky at low speed, adding to that butch aura but also hammering home the point that this Evo would rather be let off the leash.
Do that, and the FQ-440 comes into its own. The motor, which has a still remarkable 220hp-per-litre, comes alive at 3,000rpm and sending its 1.6-tonne burden hurtling forward. There's no questioning the claimed output here, and the SST gearbox suddenly feels fit for purpose when asked to do its job at 7,000rpm. The same is true for the exhaust, which makes brilliantly authentic race car sounds. Miss an upshift and the motor chatters into its redline; lift the throttle after a few seconds of pressing it into the carpet and there are crackles of unburnt fuel. The powertrain alone gives the Evo X an exciting USP.
Its party piece, of course, is Mitsubishi's Super-All Wheel Control four-wheel drive system. It practically forces you to turn your driving style on its head, with the front-mounted limited-slip differential complaining when you opt for closed throttle corner entry because it wants for an always-on-the-power approach. You can genuinely feel the effects of the car's active centre differential forcing more torque rearwards, so yaw angles are increased with your right foot, not palms. The steering is numb, yes, but you become so focussed on squeezing more and more throttle on during corners that it's easily forgiven. A delicate B-road machine the Evo X FQ-440 is not. It's as angry and antisocial as you'd like.
It's just a shame that the car's firm ride doesn't equate to the sort of body control that would these days become apparent at speed. While it feels sharp on the nose, the FQ-440's damping quickly runs out of answers when you really load it up, the mass of its large body seemingly too hard to control without second grabs from the shock absorbers. The Evo X pitches and dives on the power and brakes, so in comparison to the hunkered stance of younger performance machines, it's much less athletic. It even scuffs the front splitter over bumps when you're hard on the anchors, meaning you're somewhat encouraged to wind things back a notch or two.
It might not be the on-the-limit hooligan those earlier WRC-influenced cars were, but the FQ-440's comparable youth does at least lend it a smartly laid out cabin that still manages to just about offer enough present-day functionality to feel modern. There's an infotainment system, USB port and Bluetooth, while the FQ-440-specific Recaro bucket seats lose no ground to the best of today's alternatives and the eight-speaker sound system adds exactly the right amount of Max Power to proceedings. All of that helps its cause as a car you might use regularly, even if the on-road performance - and scary intervals between services - suggest that it is better left to weekend duties.
If, in the unlikely case you can find one of the 40 FQ-440s for sale (the last one we Spotted was snapped up quickly in September), you'd need to be an Evo anorak to feel comfortable with its price. The cheapest we've seen on the classifieds is Β£35,000, but low mileage cars have gone for so much more that we reckon Mitsubishi's UK press car, number 40 of 40 and with only 7,000 miles on the clock, is easily worth more than Β£50k. That resistance to depreciation makes a high-quality FQ-440 about the same value as a new AMG A45 S, a car that has near identical performance credentials, better body control and the very latest tech fitted - not to mention a manufacturer warranty.
Viewed from another angle though (the one any likely Evo buyer would adopt) it has no real current-day rival in terms of history or character. Rather its rival are from the same manufacturer - where lower numbers in the generational pecking order far outweigh the FQ-440 in terms of handling charm. But it remains the quickest, silliest Evo - and for all its flaws, that's a designation well worth celebrating. And let's face it, If you're seriously and single-mindedly in the market for something like an Evo X FQ-440, then absolutely nothing else will do.
SPECIFICATION - MITSUBISHI EVO X FQ-440 MR
Engine: 1,998cc, inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 446@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 412@3,100rpm
0-62mph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 157mph
Price new: Β£50,000
Price now: c. Β£35,000-Β£50,000