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47k for 47hrs: My 2days with the FQ-400
by Darin Frow
Sometime ago, when the FQ-400 was about to be released I called Gabi at Mitsubishi HQ and asked if it would be possible to have one on trial in the not too distant future. The answer was "yes, of course", but everyone wants to borrow it so I'll be in touch soon' - or words to that effect.
Fast forward a month or two and a quick reminder saw my diary displaying the fact that I'd be the proud owner of Mitsubishi UK's fastest road car production car ever, albeit only for a couple of days from Monday 7th March.
When the MLR got it's paws on the FQ-320 MR we gave it the personal treatment, and asked a selection of previous Evo drivers to jump in and compare it to their own cars . . . a sort of "seat-of-the-pants" test if you like. So our trial with the FQ-400 had to be different, and although everyone had gorged themselves on the spec and overdosed on the literary ramblings of motor journos from all the national mags, it was quite obvious from 'discussions' on the MLR Forum that there was one outstanding question; "how does it compare to other FQ models" - oh, and "is it really worth 47 big ones?"!
So a technical test it was - and with Jeremy Clarkson's review in the forefront of our minds, DaveG and I agreed that we should concentrate on 'real-world' comparisons. By that I mean in-gear acceleration tests; 2, 3, 4 & 5th . Acceleration through the gears from 2nd to 5th up to 120mph, and braking from 90mph to rest. No clutch-killing standing starts, no top speed runs, and definitely no pitting against Fiat estates (!) as not only was it deemed irrelevant, but I wanted to give it back in one piece.
Before I get into that though, some info and a few personal thoughts on the car itself;
The FQ-400's original raison d'etre was to celebrate 30 years of the Mitsubishi Lancer being sold in the UK and coincidentally the Colt Car Company's 30th birthday, with the idea being to build a special limited edition of just 30 cars (1 for each year just in case you didn't pick up on that!) The one big question at the time being would the rumour of a 450bhp engine be correct? I assume the grapevine did it's usual job and with little factual knowledge all the cars were snapped up and the decision made to build "up to" 100 cars - all of which are made to order.
Based on the FQ-320, the cars earmarked for stardom are sent to Rampage who source the components (bespoke Garrett turbo and stainless steel exhaust manifold & elbow from Owen Developments, Omega pistons, HKS rods, head & big end bolts, injectors steel head gasket and Alcon 'competition derived' 6 paddle clutch) and uninstall the engine, which is then handed over to Flow Race Engines before shipping the revitalised engine back to Rampage for reinstalling. Owen Developments are also responsible for the engine management and the standard ECU is swapped in favour of a Motec M800 unit.
The result of all this wizardry are figures of 405bhp @ 6400rpm and a peak torque figure of 355lb/ft @ 5500rpm. Obviously it's not at all fast until you add the driver, but when you include a rather competent one, all this equates to a 0-60mph and 0-100mph figures of 3.5secs* and 9.1secs* respectively, and the capability of hitting 175mph* (but not on UK roads of course!)
This power is complimented by the standard MR Bilsteins, but the standard front brakes are given the distance test and replaced with new Alcon 6-pot calipers with 343mm twin piece discs, whilst the Sport ABS is retained.
That's all very nice, but all limited edition cars should also look special, so to compliment the discreet red FQ-400 badging, the cars receive a carbon lip spoiler, Ralliart Aero mirrors and the most visible additions; a new carbon fibre 'sharks tooth' vortex generator which apparently helps reduce drag and increase downforce and gloss black Team Dynamic alloys. Internally a few carbon adornments and a numbered identification plaque complete the picture (although 'mine' didn't have one! L )
So what's it like?
Walking up to the car, apart from the sharks-teeth lined up across the top of the rear window and black wheels you could be forgiven for not knowing it's status & rarity, so maybe that's a slight disappointment, but that was quickly forgotten once inside and my attention turned to apprehension with Clarkson's words about the Alcon clutch . . . would I stall it?!
The answer was 'No' - but I have to say it's a mighty grabby clutch! Unfortunately our introduction was going to be through Bath in rush hour so the clutch and I were about to become firm friend or sworn enemies. Thirty minutes later with over half of it spent in stop-go 1st gear traffic, World War 3 was on the horizon.
It's not that the clutch is heavy, far from it - it's fine, but it's either on or off and trying to find what revs it needed rapidly became an art form! I consider myself to be a competent driver, but pedestrians may have thought I'd just passed my test and Daddy had bought me a new toy that was beyond me! On the move however and under normal driving the car was superb; tractable, communicative and comfortable - although the suspension always reminded you the car existed to be 'driven'.
As I only had the car until Wednesday time was of the essence and the journey to DaveG's took me via the MLR's printers and SpecR, where everyone wanted to have a look at the £47,000 super saloon, the petrol heads asking all the usual questions; "how quick is it?" being No.1! Unfortunately I couldn't tell them thanks to all the traffic.
Brian Stubbings - fellow MLR member and Rallyday organiser - wanted to experience the beast if I had time, so with several minutes to spare I stopped by and after a cursory glance around the car he jumped aboard and we went on a quest for some suitable traffic-free roads. Minutes later and ambling along in 4th gear, we were faced with a super-long straight with no side roads - perfect, and time to bury the gas pedal!
Oh dear - lag! And some more lag!! From my memory of my time with the FQ-320 the car would have been on it immediately, but not this one. Forward momentum only really started to build at 4000rpm and even then it took until 4500 to get into its stride. Hmmm - not quite what I expected. Mind you, once the 400 had reached the magical 4500 things started to happen quite quickly and the car pulled smoothly towards the red line whilst the scenery alongside started to blur.
Travelling back to Brian's, I started to use the gears more when the opportunities made themselves available and yes, that did the trick - but for me I couldn't help but feel somewhat disappointed with the power delivery. Don't get me wrong, the FQ-400 is a very quick car, but to me Evos (even Lancer Turbos) are all about instant useable power, and to honest I expected (and wanted!) more.
Sixty minutes and a trip up the M4 later I was at DaveG's, and as he also had permission to drive the 400 it wasn't long before I found myself back in the car - albeit the passenger seat this time. As anyone who's seen Dave will know - he ain't small, and unlike his TME the seats in the FQ have high bolsters so it wasn't the most comfortable of driving positions, but he too persevered and we were soon prowling the roads around Reading .
As his car is producing similar power (using Omega pistons, rods, a new ball bearing Evo8 turbo and running 2.1bar via Autronics management), we were both interested in what his initial opinion was going to be. Perhaps predictably, but the dreaded lag was again very noticeable - but this wasn't the comparison we were after for this article, so we'll save that for another day and concentrate on why we're here.
Family Feud; FQ-340 picks a fight with it's new Sibling
Bearing mind we wanted to achieve with this comparison, who better to contact than DATRON (www.datrontechnology.co.uk) who are generally considered to be the leaders in automotive data-logging systems - after all, if you're going to do something, do it properly!
Having spent an informative hour or so going through their "Microsat" system and software, we left Milton Keynes and promptly strapped it onto Dave's Shogun to she what she'd do - (cough) I mean; to get used to operating the software . . . . amazing how inaccurate the standard speedo is!
Back at base we transferred the gear into the 400 and set off to the testing ground, with myself as pilot and Dave doing what he does best; playing with the laptop and setting up all the tests we wanted to achieve for both the FQ-400 and Darren Clark's virtually new '54' plate FQ-340 that we would meet up with later. It's worth pointing out now that Darren's car was standard except for a decat pipe, which although we accept would make a small difference we didn't have the luxury of running both cars on a rolling road to see if they both produced 'factory' figures. I think it's also worth pointing out that this exercise is about performance and value for money and therefore you could argue a £50 decat pipe is a valid exception as virtually all owners will probably make this mod.
As I said earlier, the tests that we had planned were 'real-world' which translates to the following;
- separate acceleration tests in 2nd , 3rd , 4th and 5th gears (20-60, 30-80, 40-100 & 50-120mph), from low revs at approximately 2500rpm through to almost the 7000rpm red-line. This should show the impact of the lag associated with the FQ-400 to its full extent and effect it has on acceleration.
- separate acceleration tests in 2nd , 3rd , 4th and 5th gears (40-60, 50-80, 65-100 & 85-120mph), from higher revs at approximately 4250rpm. This should show how quick the FQ-400 really is if driven harder where the lag will be less of an issue at higher RPM.
- a through the gears acceleration test (2nd gear at 40mph to 5th gear at 120mph),
After a brief check that everything was in order the exam was underway!
Electing to run the in-gear tests first, the automatic speed trigger points for each low and high RPM test were set-up on the Datron timing gear so they were as 'controlled' as possible and not open to human intervention. All the in-gear acceleration runs were done on the same stretch of flat proving ground within an hour or two of each other where climatic conditions remained as consistent as is possible.
After holding the car steady just below each start trigger point for a few seconds, the throttle was planted until the end trigger had been reached and the data recorded. These tests were repeated a number of times to check for consistency and every run was within a tiny fraction of a second of the first run.
The low rpm acceleration tests were chosen to test acceleration from just 2500rpm. The FQ-340's turbo response helped it start accelerating hard almost immediately even in the higher gears and it pulled strongly all the way to the red line in every gear we tested. It was a very different story with the FQ-400, as the lag from the FQ-400's turbo meant that for every in-gear acceleration test the FQ-340 out accelerated the FQ-400 for almost 2/3rds of the acceleration run. It was only in the last third of each run that FQ-400 out accelerated the FQ-340. To be expected really, but the higher rate of acceleration in the last third was never enough in any gear to claw back the advantage the FQ-340 had made in the first 2/3rds. The result was FQ-340 comprehensively out accelerated the FQ-400 in every in-gear acceleration test. It's an example of what a wider, flatter torque curve will mean to a car's acceleration.
The advantage was most clear in the 5th gear test where the FQ-340 went from 50-120mph in 16.60seconds compared to 18.01seconds in the FQ-400. To put that into context, the 1.41second difference means that if the two cars had been side by side at the start, the FQ-340 would have been 64.21metres or over 14 car lengths ahead when it reached 120mph.
Unless you're a very leisurely driver and like the car to do the work, an acceleration test from 2500rpm will not mean much, but it does show the impact that the lag associated with the FQ-400 has off boost and what was also demonstrated with "The Fiat Test" on Top Gear. In fact the FQ-400 took nearly 6 seconds before its acceleration rate started to get going and even then the turbo rush was quite smooth and linear and not as vertical as you may of expected from a car of the FQ-400's mechanical specification. This smooth release of power may well be a mapping characteristic designed to minimise wear and tear on the drive train.
After the low RPM tests, we carried out another set of in-gear acceleration tests that would be much closer to how most people would drive an Evo. This time we went through each of the same gears and started from a much higher speed and RPM point. Now we were starting from around 4000-4500rpm depending on gear, but accelerating to the same speed in each gear as before.
This should show us much more realistically the FQ-400's power and the results were now much closer, but on the whole the FQ-340 still had the edge in these tests. There's only tenths of seconds between the cars in these tests and in the 4th gear test the FQ-400 out accelerated the FQ-340 by 0.30 of a second.
Analysis of the acceleration rates shows that the quicker initial spool up is still making a difference that the FQ-400 struggles to make up before the red-line. We noted that both the cars had similar if not identical rev limits of 7,000rpm so over-revving the FQ-400 into what may be a higher power band was not an option.
40mph-120mph Acceleration Test
So on to the final and most important test of what straight-line performance the FQ-400 gives you compared to a £15,000 cheaper FQ-340; a brute force, through the gears acceleration test from 40mph-120mph. This time both cars will be starting in 2nd gear meaning high RPM and most importantly both should be fully on-boost because the cars would actually start accelerating from much lower than 40mph to make sure we measured pure acceleration without any throttle response or lag issues interfering with the results.
Both cars were tested by accelerating flat-out through each gear and gear changes were made just before the 7,000rpm rev limit. This time the extra top end power of the FQ-400 made a clear difference. Changing at 7,000rpm meant that both cars would only be dropping 1,500-2,000rpm therefore staying in an acceleration zone that should much better suited the FQ-400's turbo. The FQ-340 put in a good performance though and at 70mph was only less than 0.1 of a second behind and by 100mph just 0.4 of a second behind. At the end of the test the FQ-400 had reached 120mph just 0.84seconds quicker than the FQ-340 did. This equates to the FQ-400 hitting 120mph and being 23.08metres or just over 5 car lengths ahead of the FQ-340.
Consistency of gear changes was one problem we faced with this test, as inconsistency in the gear change time would affect the accuracy of the results. However, gear changes for both cars were made smoothly and quickly, but not aggressively and the timing data shows that both cars lost 2.4seconds through gear changes in the test runs.
The brief we set ourselves was to understand how the new FQ-400 compared to the FQ-340 - and also whether it's worth the £47k price tag - and with the help of Datron and several gallons of Optimax, we feel we've been successful. After pouring through reams of data Dave has produced the associated graphs, which we believe, show most accurately how the two cars performed. You can now study them to your leisure and come to your own conclusions.
For what it's worth, my own personal opinion is that there's no doubt that Mitsubishi UK have produced an exceptionally quick car in the FQ-400 that's capable of embarrassing a whole realm of supercars, and the fact that it comes with a 3year/36k mile warranty is outstanding. However, considering the reason for its existence in the first place, and how other 400bhp Evos deliver the power, it's not special enough in either appearance or power delivery to be the commemorative collectors' item it aspires to be.
Darin & Dave
A huge thanks to Gabi & Jodi at Colt Car Company for the loan of the FQ-400, and to John & Mark at Datron without whom this feature wouldn't have been possible.
* Manufacturer figures.
Note: This feature has highlighted the value a data-logging system can bring to the MLR, so you might be interested to know that the MLR will shortly be purchasing its own system. Not only will this will be used for similar features and at events, but we intend to make it available to MLR members who wish to hire it for their own use.