Yesterday during some down-time at work, I ran into this website www.invoicedealers.com
that sets you up for a test drive with your car of choice at a local dealer. To my surprise the EVO was listed. To my greater surprise, I had a message on my answering machine when I got home from a local dealer asking me to come in for a test drive.
Since, I've been meaning to test drive the S2000 for a long time I decided to look at it as well. Unfortunately, the Honda dealer was horrible and left me waiting for a half-hour so I left and headed off to the Mitsubishi dealer.
As I got into the car, I stressed that handling was going to be the key factor in my decison. The salesman then directed me to some side roads, with some quick, sharp turns. He told me to "accelerate through them". The handling was phenomenal. The small steering wheel, with the quick ratio..is RAZOR-SHARP, not like anything I have ever driven before. There is no body roll and the car feels light on its feet and does not seem like it weighs 3200 + pounds. He then took me to a culdesac where it seems a lot of people do spin outs, and said "take it as fast as you can". I took it at a speed I've never thought possible and only slightly exceeded the tires grip, but was still in total control after. The car didn't feel overly stable through these areas, but not twitchy either, it just seemed right and well-balanced.
The gearbox throws were very short, though the gearbox was not quite as easy as some of the Hondas. However, the guys at evolutionm.net say it loosens a bit up after awhile. Still, it was a pleasure to use along with a nice clutch.
The nice gearbox and clutch were extrmely fun to use when the turbo kicked in at 3,000 rpm or so. Some might consider it turbo lag, but I consider it a great driving experience keeping the turbo spooled while working through the gears. The turbo was strong and pinned you in your seat. :D
As for other things, the dashboard was weak and the interior was quite boring, with the exception of the recaro seats, which hold u in perfectly in the curves. The ride was stiff, but not terrible and rear visibility wasn't bad with the wing. The back seats have plenty of room and the car looks pretty good in person, especially from the front.
Next up: S2000:
Going to my 3rd Honda dealer during the day (the 1st had horrible service and the 2nd had none in stock), I got to take out their only model in stock. Pulling out on the highway, the salesman stopped me as I got close to 6,000 RPM (VTEC) so I never got to get into the powerband
, but I understand and wouldn't want some poor sap to buy the car after. The gearbox had very short throws (even shorter than the EVO), but the close gates were not that easy to manuever through and the safety mechanism for sixth gear is a real pain. I assume those problems would go away after u get used to it. The clutch was nice and light. The steering felt decent, but was not as sharp and did not have as much road feel as the EVO's. The ride felt a bit softer than the EVO, but the car felt smaller. I could just sense that the car was quick, even though I never got into the powerband. The interior was very nice and the convertible is a breeze to operate. I still think I need to get a better feel of the car in its powerband to conclude on it.
Next UP: 350Z:
I took a Performance Model (No Track Models there) out and again stressed the need for handling. The salesman took me through some decent backroads. The steering felt numb and rubbery and seemed to require too much input on curves. The car felt very heavy (though stable too). The gearbox's throws were shorter than most, but it felt notchy and not in the same league as the other 2 cars. The car was powerful, the powerband came on early and linearly, but lacked the excitement of the EVO's burst and didn't feel as fast and probobly wasn't either! The hydraulic clutch required a lot of input and would take some getting used to it. I liked the interior, but not as much as the S2000's. I liked the low slung seats, but the rear visibility sucked.
Then EVO AGAIN:
It just happenned this was a Nissan and a Mitsubishi Dealer (the salesman are seperate for each) and since I was cross-shopping the EVO, the salesman went next door and got me a test-drive. Supposedly he was a Nissan guy and didnt show Mitsubishis. However, they let him show it. The EVOs and Zs were in the same garage next to each other. The Z does look better next to it, but I will stress the EVO is not bad-looking.
Test-driving the EVO a 2nd time proved it was not a fluke the 1st time I drove it. This car handled the same roads (and curves) so well that the Nissan sales guy couldn't claim with a straight face that the Z was a better performance car. He was ~ 40 years old, fairly new on the job and was a "traditonal" sports car guy. He previously thought the EVO was basically a civic-type car with a wing! The sales pitch shifted to looks after the test drive
All in all a fun day. :D