It is rare that the Twin Cities Auto Show gets a special product debut.
Last year, the revised 2013 Lexus RX quietly appeared on the floor of the Minneapolis Convention Center. This was just after its debut at PALEXPO in Geneva earlier in the week. This year, a special vehicle showed up that was only a figment of a website.
Yet, this vehicle looks familiar. One might say that we have seen this kind of thing before – a well-executed tuning special of a sports sedan icon.
Amid millions of dollars of vehicles in several halls at the Convention Center, the story of the Twin Cities Auto Show was a 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X taken to another level – the Gates 311RS.
The story came about after learning that almost all of the superstars from Detroit and Chicago would not make the trip to Minnesota. The 2014 Corvette Stingray was on the floor at PALEXPO, while most of the SRTs were on Amelia Island for the Concours d'Elegance. The Infiniti Q50 was absent – possibly at another auto show in a larger market. A shame, since I was excited to show that car off to friends and acquaintances that joined in the first day of the show.
Then, a message came via Facebook from my friend Richard Herod III, the general manager of White Bear Mitsubishi. He told me about the 311RS and its impending debut at the Twin Cities Auto Show. A bit if research turned up a Minnesota connection on the story as the modification job was done not far from the dealership.
The brains behind the modified Evo is a young gentleman named Ryan Gates. His goal is to create a track-bred Evo for the road. Gates considered everything inside and out to find the balance between hardcore race-level performance and handling with on-road comfort and accessibility. He used a track-ready Evo as the development vehicle for the 311RS. What Gates learned on the track went into the final product.
If you look at the exterior, you would probably dismiss it as a standard fare Evo with blue Volk Racing CE28N rims and Nitto NT05 tires. The three-diamond badges were removed from the white car, replaced with blue striping and specific 311RS badging. The entire kit is quite bespoke right down to the detailing on the brakes – 311RS badges on the calipers and hub of the rotors.
Inside the 311RS continues the theme of the track-car-for-the-road. Gates said that the cushion and seatback inserts of the race-formed Recaro seats came from his favorite car of all time – the 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS. The blue-green tartan plaid stood out within the hardcore frame of the Recaros. It felt soft to the touch, though appropriate considering the grippy Etnies E-Suede material on the steering wheel, instrument panel and seat bolsters.
The gear lever was modified from the standard Evo fare to the 311RS. The shifter is more upright and short. The throws were shortened dramatically, giving the driver track-level control when rowing the gears. There is an optional roll bar for 311RS owners who prefer to take it to the track. You can also collapse the unit after the race before driving home.
However, the business end of the 311RS comes from the shiny blue-finished version of Mitsubishi's esteemed 2.0litre MIVEC turbocharged powerplant. On a normal Evo X, you get 291HP on tap. The 311RS moves the bar further. With help from AMS, the 2.0litre turbo lashes out 420HP at the wheels. Meanwhile, the 300lb-ft of torque was elevated to 420. The trick is a suite of AMS intercoolers, exhaust components and an intake system that increases engine performance while being tuned for balanced driving.
If you were one of those enthusiasts who shook your first at Mitsubishi Motors for not importing the FQ version of the Evo X, you may have been redeemed.
To further accomplish the balance between track and street/highway/byway, Gates went to JRZ to find the right suspension set-up for the task. The main suspension components are adjustable to a driver's wants and needs depending on the kind of dampening necessary for a given situation. The finishing touch is an alignment job by a firm called Evasive, known for ensuring a tuned car is set off on the right course. At the end of each wheel is the selection of Girodisc rotors, the aforementioned Volk Racing rims and Nitto tires.
What is the price for all of this? Just $49,000. Certainly, this is a refreshing thing given the debates over the multi-million Euro hypercars that were trotted out at PALEXPO last week. The 311RS is by no means on the level of the Lamborghini Veneno, the McLaren P1 or the daftly named LaFerrari. It is just as exclusive – only eleven examples will be crafted by Gates and his team.
One more fact that would shock you the most about the 311RS: Mitsubishi's factory warranty is completely in tact. Somehow, the good folks at the Cypress, California headquarters loved the 311RS so much to give it the coverage it deserves. After all, the modifications made on the Evo X truly compliment the stock model it is built off of.
Can you get one? Not exactly. It is pretty much assumed that all eleven examples have been spoken for. The first owner will be in Minneapolis to take delivery during the auto show. Others will soon follow. Herod is on the waiting list himself – number 13. The only way he would get one is if two people ahead of him would back out. Considering the end product, I kind of doubt that would happen.
As for the rest of the show, not much happened really. Except on the first day when a Scion FR-S accidentally met a Ford F-Series pickup outside of the Convention Center during the Ride and Drive. The result was an auto show PR nightmare. Part of the bumper skin was dislodged from the FR-S sampler, a secondary consequence of wet, above freezing conditions in downtown Minneapolis.
For my local show, I was grateful to have seen a fresh new product on the floor. It would give the Twin Cities media corps a chance to experience a taste of what Geneva went through the week before. Would anyone else bite? A few, yes. It is a true Minnesota story of a local guy who created a dream Evo X for eleven special owners. We have not had that much good news in the automotive sector of this state in a long time.
Believe me, the 311RS has quite the story to tell.