Since the introduction of Subaru's WRX, including its STI derivative, and the first consumer-marketed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, many articles have addressed the power and agility of these incredible four-door sedans. From a journalistic perspective, writing anything informational and meaningful about these cars is increasingly difficult. The reason for this is by no means the lack of factory-supplied performance or aftermarket upgrades; quite the contrary, it's the growing popularity and vast amount of performance parts made available from a variety of tuners that makes this subject matter so thorny.

Yet, the easily overlooked fact is that, for an automotive enthusiast, each featured vehicle is as unique as a diamond. No person on this planet is more apt to agree with this statement than one whose vision, persistence and enviably deep pockets are responsible for the brilliance of a finely tuned performance automobile. This is particularly true for Earl Mangune, the owner of a white 2006 Lancer Evolution IX MR.

As an automotive aficionado, Mangune can attest to the irrefutable fact that owning an EVO is more than a simple pleasure; rather it's an expensive addiction. How else could anyone explain the compulsive behavior associated with the attempt to make something essentially perfect even better? After all, the EVO's WRC-spec 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 286 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque straight off the assembly line. However, a true enthusiast's vocabulary doesn't include the word combination "good enough." Better is about more power, faster braking, nimbler handling and distinctive styling. Although the factory EVO IX is a nimble street-legal rally car, much can be done to improve performance in some, if not all of those areas.

Most familiar with automotive performance fundamentals understand the rules of the game; namely that, in terms of tuning, no gain is to be had without certain sacrifices. This is important to keep in mind as the various modifications are considered. This also makes tuning more of an art than a science. Making gains without upsetting the delicate balance that exists between various systems of something as complex as an automobile is always agonizing when striving for perfection.

With that disclaimer out of the way let's identify some of the known issues with the EVO that are worth addressing. The aging 4G63 engine produces an impressive amount of power for a fun-to-drive daily commuter, but the serious go-fast kind of guy like Mangune would find the car slightly underpowered pulling out of corners. This is partly explained by the turbo lag and fuel mapping. Although Mitsubishi has done its part in attempting to address turbo lag with the TD05HR-16G6C-10.5T turbo assembly, which employs a dual-scroll turbine housing, titanium alloy turbine assembly, and increased compressor diffuser cover inlets, the fundamental problem of lag remains.

Arguably, the turbine assembly in the EVO IX is cutting edge; however, Mitsubishi remained conservative with the boost pressure to maintain reliability. After all, one overlooked component of the aforementioned fragile balance is the manufacturer's warranty and potential liability suits that often accompany the performance-oriented EVO IX. Of course, once Mangune committed to sacrificing several warranty items, the door was blown wide open for modifications that made throttle response livelier. Earl opted for one of HKS' fifth generation, race-proven electronic valve controller units to control boost pressure and increase boost pressure stability. In addition, he installed a larger, mandrel-bent HKS downpipe, one of Road Race Engineering's large-body catalytic converters, and ARC's full titanium exhaust to maximize gas flow for a quicker turbo spool. But, in the process of modifying the induction and exhaust systems he upset the balance established by the ECU's programmed fuel maps. Fortunately, XS Engineering's software allowed them to reprogram all of the necessary parameters in the ECU to compensate for the changes. Still, the increased boost pressure resulted in higher intake air temperatures, which needed to be dealt with in order to deliver cool air into the engine. The solution was a more efficient front-mounted ARC intercooler kit. Although measurable engine performance gains weren't immediately available, the observable improvements were evident during the road test. The perkier engine and lightweight flywheel provided more power out of the turns reducing the understeer that's characteristic of the EVO and its Active Yaw Control (AYC) system.

The added power pointed out the need for improving braking and mechanical grip. Although the front wheels of the EVO IX MR are factory equipped with four-piston Brembo brake calipers, the relatively small and heavy rotors are detrimental to the vehicle's late-braking ability. Although the AYC, which is responsible for controlling the EVO's center differential, allows for higher corner entry speeds, the combination of late braking and faster cornering would without a doubt be advantageous. That's precisely why Mangune chose Disc Brakes Australia's (DBA) two-piece hat-and-rotor ultra high-performance brakes with Hawk Performance brake pads. Using the factory-supplied Brembo calipers, this setup is up to 20 percent more effective. They also have Thermo-Graphic paint markings for valuable heat monitoring. Replacing the OEM brake hoses with stainless steel braided and Teflon-lined high-performance brake lines from Goodridge completed the upgrade and also offered a firmer brake pedal. To further improve mechanical grip, which has the advantage of not slowing down the car at high speeds as a bigger wing would, the factory supplied Bilstein struts were replaced by adjustable Bilstein coilover strut assemblies and TEIN adjustable pillow ball mounts for easy camber adjustment. This arrangement allowed Mangune to fine-tune the ride height for maximum asphalt grip and that perfect wheel fitment resulting in interference-free steering and suspension operation. It's worthwhile to note that the sacrifices here are ride quality, driveability and, in the case of the brake pads, longevity. The Toyo Proxes tires mounted on the 18-inch bronze Volk Racing Wheels finish this job perfectly by improving handling and looks simultaneously.

In his MR, Mangune accomplished a subtle but distinct look with the use of a Ralliart carbon-fiber front lip and a Mitsubishi JDM OEM rear bumper. He tastefully complemented the vehicle's existing lines with carbon-fiber mirrors and Mitsubishi window visors. The wheels and tires fill up the wheelwells flawlessly providing that tight look that's every enthusiast's dream.

Mangune envisioned a remarkable sports car and fulfilled his prerogative by starting with the solid base that the Lancer Evolution IX is, and sticking to the fundamentals that define racers and car lovers around the world. Now, he has the keys to a piece of art that even yours truly is envious of.

Specs: 2006 Mitsubishi EVO IX MR
350HP

Engine
ARC Front Mount Intercooler
ARC Aluminum Radiator
ARC Full Titanium exhaust
ARC Titanium Heat Shield
ARC Titanium Cam Cover
ARC Oil Cap
ARC Oil Catch Can
ARC Titanium Hood Panel
HKS GT downpipe
Samco Limited Red Radiator Hoses
Samco Limited Red Intercooler Hoses
ACT Heavy-Duty Clutch Kit
ACT Street Lite Flywheel
RRE High Flow Cat

Suspension
Bilstein PSS9 Coilovers
ARC Titanium Strut Bar (Front)
ARC Titanium Strut Bar (Rear)
Custom Adjustable Pillowball Mounts
Disc Brakes Australia Two Piece Rotors
Hawk Performance Brake Pads
Goodrich Brakelines

Exterior
Star shield Armor Paint Protection Film
Ralliart Carbon-Fiber Front Lip
Ralliart Carbon-Fiber Mirrors
Ralliart Alluminum Door Sill Plates
Mitsubishi JDM OEM Rear Bumper
Mitsubishi Window Visors

Interior
XS Engineering ECU Reflash
HKS EVC VI
HKS Turbo Timer Type 1
Pioneer Avic N2 DVD Head Unit
Pioneer Six-Disc DVD Changer
Boston Acoustics Speakers
Boston Acoustics GT Amplifiers
Magden M1 Performance interactive display system

Wheels/Tires
Volk Racing Wheels, RE30's 18x9.5 Bronze Toyo Tires Proxes T1R, 265/35/18

SOURCE
Toyo Tires USA
800-442-8696
http://www.toyotires.com
Mackin Industries
9921 Jordan Circle
Santa Fe Springs
CA  90670
562-946-6820
http://www.mackinindustries.com
Goodridge
529 Van Ness Ave.
Torrance
CA  90501
310-533-1924
http://www.goodridge.net
HKS USA
13401 S. Main Street
Los Angeles
CA  90061
310-491-3300
www.hksusa.com
Hawk Performance
6180 Cochran Rd.
Solon
OH  44139
800-542-0972
www.hawkperformance.com
Advanced Clutch Technology
206 East Avenue K-4
Lancaster
CA  93535
661-940-7555
www.advancedclutch.com
Pioneer Electronics
2265 E 220th St
Long Beach
CA  90810
310-952-2000
http://www.pioneerelectronics.co
m
Star Shield Armor
4981 Irwindale Ave
Suite 500
Irwindale
CA  91706
626-813-0299
www.starshieldarmor.com
Bilstein
14102 Stowe Drive
Poway
CA  92064
858-386-5900
http://www.bilsteinus.com
Boston Acoustics
300 Jubilee Drive
Peabody
MA  01960
978-538-5000
www.bostonacoustics.com
XS Engineering
13841 West Street
Garden Grove
CA  92843
714-881-3401
www.xs-engineering.com
Road Race Engineering
13022 La Dana Ct.
Santa Fe Springs
CA  90670
562-777-1522
www.roadraceengineering.com
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