Like the Exige, it was launched in 2000. Unlike the Exige, it was launched in Japan and was never officially sold in the UK. Despite what you might think, it didn’t actually have to come with those stripes or in red – blue, silver, black and white were also options – but it’s the ones that look like Makinen’s company car that everyone wants today, and they command a premium (so if you’re about to tick the ‘delete decals’ option on something like a new Megane R26.R then you might want to think twice…).
The other distinguishing features were the white Enkei alloys, Recaro seats with ‘T. Makinen Edition’ stitched into them (there was a cheaper RS version that didn’t get these) and a front bumper that lost the VI’s protuberant fog-lamps but gained a bigger intake and a mysterious hole. Underneath the bonnet it’s hard to tell how many horses you’ll find roaming because Evo owners never seem happy to leave well alone. In standard trim, however, the Makinen made a Japanese government-pleasing 276bhp along with 275lb ft of torque, which was enough to get the 1365kg Evo to 60mph in 4.5sec.
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Even when it’s as immaculate as this example and you’re a fan of rally cars, you couldn’t call the Evo VI a beautiful creature. Distinctive, purposeful, mean, aggressive, harder than Ray Winstone, yes. Beautiful, no. Inside it’s just ugly. Start it up and there’s a loud but nondescript exhaust note. Then you start to drive it and you couldn’t care less about the audio-visuals.
Despite its four doors and boot, it feels like it’s woven from the same delicate DNA as the Lotus. It floats across the ground and feels fleet of foot even when you’re not pushing it. The five-speed gearbox is incredibly sweet and the pedals all react just as you want, with the Brembo brakes having strength and depth, and the throttle an incredible response even if you just brush the top of its travel. It’s all so instinctively right.
On the cover of the Japanese brochure for the Tommi Makinen Edition were the words ‘Specially Tuned for Tarmac Stage’ and it certainly feels it. The steering has bundles of feel but is light and seems to twitch the nose of the car into corners almost unnaturally fast at first. But settle with it, expect the initial jink, and the spooky grip it finds just makes you grin.
Before long we’re charging through a tree-lined tunnel and I’ve forgotten that the car’s very kind owner, who is sitting next to me, isn’t called Mannisenmäki. You just can’t help but get on the throttle earlier and earlier, revelling in the way the chassis adjusts its balance under power, making the rear wheels ease round to follow the fronts. We sometimes talk about a car pivoting around a point as though a stake has been driven through its roof – in the Mitsubishi that pivotal stake feels as though it’s permanently shifting fore and aft as you move through a corner.
Even eight years on, the Evo VI Makinen hasn’t been eclipsed by Evos VII to X, and 20 years down the line I think we’ll still be bewitched by the way its Active Yaw Control deals with a turbo spooling up halfway through a tricky third-gear left-hander. If you want a bargain, buy blue, black, white or silver, but if you want an icon make sure it’s red with stripes.
What to look forIt seems that no Mitsubishi Evo is more prized than the Tommi Makinen Edition. An immaculate one is worth as much as an immaculate Evo VIII, according to the excellent Mitsubishi Lancer Register website (www.lancerregister.com). The Evo VI’s few weaknesses include easily warped brake discs and, occasionally, noisy gearbox bearings, but the Lancer Register site covers everything. It also explains how to unearth the history of any car you’re looking at (all TMEs were personal imports) and even lists chassis numbers, indicating whether the Ralliart stripes were factory original (striped TMEs are worth more). It’s an exhaustive, invaluable resource that could save you a fortune.
|Layout||Front engine, four-wheel drive|
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1997cc, turbo|
|Max power||276bhp @ 6500rpm|
|Max torque||275lb ft @ 2750rpm|
|Top speed||150mph (claimed)|