The Lancer platform was completely changed in 1996, and along with it the Evolution, which had become extremely popular throughout the world. The engine and transaxle was rotated 180° to better balance the weight and eliminate torque steer. There were two versions available, The RS and GSR.
The RS version was produced as a competition car with a limited-slip front differential and a friction type LSD at the rear. It also came with GLX seats and 16″ (41 cm) steel wheels as these were items that would be replaced by anyone entering the car into competition events.
The RS also had wind up windows, no air conditioning, and a few extra brace bars to strengthen the chassis, one behind the front grill and the other across the boot floor. The RS also had a factory option of thinner body panels and thinner glass.
The GSR and the RS shared a new twin scroll turbocharger which helped to increase power to 280 PS (276 hp/206 kW) at 6,500 rpm and 260 ft·lbf (352 N·m) of torque at 3,000 rpm. Mitsubishi’s new Active Yaw Control appeared as a factory option on the GSR model, which used steering, throttle input sensors and g sensors to computer-hydraulically controlled torque split individually to the rear wheels and as a result the 10,000 Evolution IVs produced all sold quickly.
The Evolution IV can be distinguished by its two large fog lights in the front bumper (option on RS version), and the newly designed tail lights on the rear, which became a standard design to Evolution VI, which would become yet another trademark of the Evolution series.
This new generation was slightly heavier than previous Evos—the GSR in particular due to the added technology systems—but to counter this the car produced even more power—the weight of the RS being 1260 kg (2778 lb) and the GSR being 1345 kg (2965 lb).
In 1997, the WRC created a new “World Rally Car” class, and while these cars still had to abide by Group A standards, they did not have to meet homologation rules. Mitsubishi redesigned the Evolution IV with this in mind and introduced the Evolution V in January 1998.
Many aspects of the car were changed such as:
The interior was upgraded in the GSR version with a better class of Recaro seat.
The body kit had flared arches at the front and rear and a new aluminium rear spoiler replaced the IV FRP version and gave an adjustable angle of attack to alter rear down force.
The track was widened by 10 mm (0.4 in), the wheel offset changed from ET45 to ET38 along with the wheel diameter which rose from 16″ to 17″ to accommodate Brembo brakes which were added to enhance braking.
In addition the brake master cylinder bore increased by 0.3 millimetres (0.01 in).
The engine was strengthened in a few areas and the cam duration was increased. The pistons were lighter with a smaller skirt area. 510 cc injectors were replaced with 560 cc injectors for better engine reliability due to more electrical “headroom” and the ecu was changed to include a flash ROM.
Furthermore, the turbocharger was again improved. Torque was increased to 275 ft·lbf (373 N·m) at 3000 rpm. Power officially stayed the same, at 280 PS (276 hp/206 kW) as agreed by Japan’s automotive gentlemen’s agreement that all cars would have 276 or less hp, but some claim horsepower was actually somewhat higher.
The Evolution VI’s changes mainly focused on cooling and engine durability. It received a larger intercooler, larger oil cooler, and new pistons, along with a titanium-aluminide turbine wheel for the RS model, which was a first in a production car.
Also, the Evolution VI received new bodywork yet again, with the most easily spotted change in the front bumper where the huge fog lights were reduced in size and moved to the corners for better airflow.
A new model was added to the GSR and RS lineup; known as the RS2, it was an RS with a few of the GSR’s options. Another limited-edition RS was known as the RS Sprint, an RS tuned by Ralliart in the UK to be lighter and more powerful with 330 hp (246 kW).
Yet another special edition Evolution VI was also released in 1999: the Tommi Makinen Edition, named after Finnish rally driver Tommi Makinen that had won Mitsubishi four WRC drivers championships.
It featured a different front bumper, Red/Black Recaro seats (with embossed T. Makinen logo), 17″ ENKEI white wheels, a leather MOMO steering wheel and shift knob, a titanium turbine that spooled up quicker, front upper strut brace, lowered ride height (with tarmac stages in mind), and a quicker steering ratio.
Amongst other colours, the Evo VI came in an exclusive shade of red with special decals, replicating Tommi Makinen’s rally car’s colour scheme. This car is also sometimes referred to as an Evolution 6½, Evolution 6.5, or TME for short.