The article first appeared on LimitedSlipBlog
Continue Reading Below
Dr. Jekyll: a respectable and well-established man known for his good intentions. Mr. Hyde: a repugnant and secluded man with violent tendencies. Simultaneously the same being, Jekyll and Hyde differ in appearance, action, and character. This might not appear to be an equitable comparison. Just as it was in the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the BMW doesn’t occupy the same space as the Mitsubishi Evo. But your old Literature professor found merit in comparing and contrasting the two fictional characters. We, too, found merit in comparing the two cars. The BMW is everything that the Mitsubishi can’t be, just as the Mitsubishi is everything that the BMW can’t be. One look at the spec sheet, however, and there is far too much in common to be a coincidence.
The BMW’s 3.0L turbocharged I6 produces an even 300hp and 300lb-ft torque. The Mitsubishi’s smaller, 2.0L turbocharged I4 peaks out at 291hp and 300lb-ft. Those are impressive numbers from an engine down on displacement. Both cars have advanced all-wheel-drive systems and arrived on 18″ winter tires. BMW’s xDrive is optional on the 335i, but Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system is standard on the Evo. There was no discernible difference between the Pirelli Sottozero Serie II runflats on the BMW and the Michelin Pilot Alpin P4s of the Mitsubishi. Even in weight and dimension, the two cars are closely matched. Only 124lbs separate the Evo MR from the heftier 335i. Those pounds can be attributed to the extra 6 inches in wheelbase and just over an inch in rear track. That size differential carries over inside to give the BMW slightly more space for its rear occupants. But the BMW and the Mitsubishi distinguish themselves on one major point: transmission. The Evo MR is only available with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic whereas the BMW can be optioned with either an 8-speed automatic or, like the one we have here, a 6-speed manual.
The BMW 335i xDrive, much like the good Doctor himself, has an air of sophistication in its outward appearance. We’ve written extensively about the F30 3 Series and compared it to the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, and even the new 4 Series, so we feel somewhat confident in describing it as such. Its shape, though new, has clear ties to its lineage. The lack of swollen wheel arches, gaping hood scoops, or in-your-face aero packages gives it a more mature appearance. It looks very sure of itself without showing off. That is, of course, ignoring the combination of Estoril Blue II paint and Coral Red interior. This particular 335i is easily spotted from a distance with this flamboyant color combination. Some will love it, some will hate it. There’s no doubting its uniqueness or desire to be seen. With a roundel on the hood, however, the design will always maintain a level of composure and restraint. But there is a darker streak. Look closely at how the M Sport package changes the car. Fog lights are foregone to supply extra air for the oil cooler and brakes. The aero packages widens and lowers the front grille, flares out the side skirts, and adds a faux rear diffuser. There’s even an optional rear lip spoiler that changes the whole look of the rear of the car.
Mr. Hyde is described as ugly and deformed. We won’t go that far when describing the Mitsubishi Evo, which we’ve also written about previously. It might look like a Mitsubishi Lancer from afar, but the Evo MR shares very little with its namesake. It’s much darker and more sinister in appearance, but it has nothing to do with its Mercury Gray paint. The Evo appears to be tearing out of its own skin. Vents in the hood pull heat away from the massive turbocharger, while the NACA duct gulps cold air for the intake. The front grille is wider and more open, providing extra air to the front-mounted intercooler and brakes. The wheel arches are boxed out to make room for a wider track. Behind the front wheels, lightweight gunmetal BBS alloys, more vents channel air out of the wells. The side skirts are wide enough to catch your heel each time you get in or out of the car. In a rare moment of restraint, the MR is fitted with a rear spoiler more akin to the one found on the BMW instead of the massive wing of the Evo GSR. The Mitsubishi is unabashedly aggressive.
Inside, the Jekyll & Hyde dichotomy continues. You can tell quite a bit about a car from siting in the driver’s seat. The BMW’s sport seats are 8-way power adjustable – not including the ability to adjust the side bolsters. The three-spoke M Sport steering wheel is slightly too large in diameter, but it tilts and telescopes into just the right position. Comfort is priority, with performance cues added; the shorter gear lever, red-accented gauges, and aluminum trim. In the Mitsubishi, there are only 4 manual seat adjustments. The seats are hard, highly contoured and heavily bolstered, about as close to a fixed racing seat as you could legally put in a road car. The steering wheel is small and only tilts, adding to the race car feel. The touchscreen infotainment system, upgraded for 2014, and optional Rockford Fosgate sound system add in some creature comforts. The BMW and Mitsuibishi do share a few luxury hallmarks; heated seats, sunroof, and Bluetooth. From the only seat that matters, much is the same yet everything is still different.
Driving the Mitsubishi Evo is not a calming experience. It’s an unforgiving and ruthless machine, personifying the intimidating Mr. Hyde. Dial the transmission up to S-Sport and the MR is in maximum attack mode. Floor the throttle and there’s a slight hesitation as the turbocharger takes a breath. Chaos erupts between that moment and when peak torque arrives at 4,000rpm. The noise, vibrations, and speed continue to build until the horsepower peaks at 6,500rpm. The engineers know that boost fades between that mark and the 7,000rpm redline. Faster than any mere mortal can comprehend, 2nd gear slams into place, bringing more speed, more noise, and more fury. This car, it changes you. You can feel it corrupting your polite driving habits. Shoot that gap, get by that car before the lane ends, overtake that truck – you’re suddenly invincible. Velocity is addicting and the Evo MR is one of the street’s best dealers. Outside of normal traffic patterns, there isn’t a corner the Mitsubishi can’t conquer. Just when you expect the car to give up grip, the S-AWC system reroutes the power and gives you more. You can feel the change through the steering. That’s the kind of driving communication every enthusiast dreams about. There is no roll, no uncertainty, and no cushioning. The only thing capable of holding the Mitsubishi Evo back is the massive 13.8″ Brembo front brakes. It might not be comfortable, but you’ll be left with a menacing grin.
Dr. Jekyll is smoother, more level headed, and far more socially acceptable. So too is the BMW 335i. Even with the car in Sport +, the suspension allows for some body movement to diminish road imperfections. Matching the Evo’s launch or gear change is impossible with an old-fashioned human operating the clutch pedal. But the BMW’s torque arrives at only 1,200rpms and sticks around for quite some time. Peak power comes earlier as well, at 5,800rpm. There is no lag and less of an impact of dropping off the boost as the 7,000rpm redline approaches. Gear shifts are short and a bit rubbery, but the perfectly calibrated clutch uptake makes the job easy. The BMW’s weight distribution is slightly more balanced than the Mitsubishi, which is only noticeable if you drive both cars back-to-back. The steering is far lighter and less communicative than the Evo, but you can still feel the xDrive system working. There’s a pleasant level of sound and vibration to accompany the increasing velocity. The velvety purr of the inline six is accented with a slight turbo whine; you’re sampling a finely-aged distillation of speed. Piloting the BMW is just more civilized. You could equally enjoy a back road or be seen commuting in a suit and tie.
Obviously, somewhere along the way you stopped to consider that this really isn’t a fair comparison. Even after you read how similar the two cars are, you argue that the $7,000 difference in base price and over $9,000 difference in as-tested price means that the BMW and the Mitsuibshi are incomparable. Take your seats, everyone, because class is in session. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde are the same person. It’s not too much a stretch of the imagination to posit that the book is more than science fiction. Perhaps Robert Louis Stevenson intended some level of social commentary on the dangers of releasing your inhibitions. Let’s face it, there are some days when you wish, with the help of some magical concoction, you could transform into another person and cause a little chaos. That’s the Mitsubishi Evolution MR. On the other hand, sometimes its nice to be an upstanding and well-respected citizen. That’s the BMW 335i xDrive. Both cars share the similar performance characteristics and technical abilities. They, at their core, are the same car. That’s why we compared them.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR is a brutal and visceral experience. That’s what it set out to be and that’s why we enjoy it so much. It’s simply amazing at what it does and nobody can fault it for trying to be anything else. It is 100% solely focused on performance, something that the BMW can’t be. The BMW 335i xDrive is more comfortable and refined. It isn’t solely focused on performance. Time and cost were spent to add civility, which meant that concessions were made in performance. It explains the cost and performance differential between the two cars. But we don’t enjoy the BMW any less because of it. Just as the book highlighted the dangers of repeatedly unleashing Mr. Hyde, we admit that it would be difficult living with the Mitsubishi every day. It wears on you, which is why it was so nice to spend a few days in the BMW. We couldn’t realistically pick a winner. Both cars are so different and yet so similar, we can’t imagine them together. It’s the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.