At the turn of the 21st century, few sports cars captured one’s attention like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. The true middle child of 10 generations of Lancer Evo’s, the 6 is often remembered most fondly by enthusiasts. Flaunting excess in a way that iterations to come never really captured themselves, the 6 will forever go down as one of the greatest cars to wear the tri-diamond badge. It is also one of the last true drivers cars of JDM’s finest era.
The Evolution 6 belonged to the same platform as the Evo 4 and 5, however there’s no confusing it with either of the two. While the exterior saw the beefiest and most aggressive body-kit yet, most of the important modifications came from underneath, courtesy of a new ECU, radiator and intercooler among other things. Power was sent via the 5-speed transmission to all four wheels, making this one of the most corner-friendly cars of the time.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, world rally was one of the most captivating and popular forms of motor-sport. By the late 90s, Mitsubishi and Subaru had become the heavyweights, and a great rivalry reached its climax with the success of Mitsubishi driver Tommi Makinen who took his Evo 6 to the world title in 1999. This only added to the magic of the 6, and when Mitsubishi retired from the rally world a few years later, the Evo suffered without the racing pedigree behind it. While certainly not a bad automobile by any standards, it just didn’t have the spirit of the Evolution 6 and it’s predecessors.
To celebrate the success of the rally team in 1999, Mitsubishi launched the homologated Tommi Makinen edition Evolution 6 the following year. Whie mechanically similar to the standard Evo, a titanium turbine in its turbocharger increased spool speeds and subsequently lowered the torque peak, increasing acceleration at lower rpm. Lower springs and extra body rigidity helped improve handling a fraction, while on the outside a new front bumper, racing stripes and special badging all resulted in a vehicle that is still just as desired 20 years later. The Tommi, or “6.5” as it’s often referred to, is the only Evo to be given its own special edition.
It was a combination of elements which made the Evolution 6 so fantastic to drive. It’s rally heritage truly transferred across into the road-going car, with a suspension setup which Mitsubishi tuned almost to perfection. Just like it’s rally counterpart, the Evolution 6 was an agile car that at the same time felt light on its wheels. Able to soak up bumps in the road easily, it held its own if their driver was ever brave enough to take it off the tarmac. Many automotive journalists at the time described it as feeling like they were “floating above the road”.
Another key to its success was the 2.0 litre turbocharged engine sitting beneath it’s vented bonnet. The current industry is transforming turbocharging into a technology which does its best to go unnoticed from the driver. Reductions in turbo lag are so advanced, modern turbocharged engines feel more like they are naturally-aspirated. The Evo however, went about its business in the opposite way. Significantly more ‘in your face’, you’d know the second your turbo engaged as you’d likely be thrown backwards into your seat. While perhaps not the most efficient method of commuting about town, you’d always be left with a smile on your face.
Craig has owned his Tommi Makinen Evolution 6 for over 10 years and tells me he’ll never sell it. Not dissimilar to myself, he grew up racing the 6 on Gran Turismo where it soon became his dream car. After importing a stock example into Australia and using it as a daily for a little over a year, he decided it was perhaps a better idea to keep driving it for the weekends. Craig has added a few modifications over the years, improving the suspension and taking the engine to 320kw at the wheels which he plans on increasing even more as he looks to take the car into the 10-second range over the quarter-mile. If you want to see more of his Evo, you can check out his Instagram here.
For any other drivers out there like Craig who are lucky enough to own an Evolution 6 (or any other Evo for that matter), check out FitMyCar’s full range of products and accessories for the model here.
Photography by Nick Williams