Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 Wagon GT-A CT9W & 2022 Skoda Octavia Combi RS 2.0 TSI : Load Runners
Singapore - If you grew up in the 80s like we did, you should be familiar with the Lode Runner game, where your character progresses through levels by picking-up and lugging around ‘loads’ of gold while evading the ‘enemy’.
Now think of how much easier it would have been with a stationwagon… and a fast one at that!
Estate, Touring, Stationwagon, Wagon, Avant and Combi: the ‘humble’ beast of burden is known by many names, but when you throw in the incongruity of a rorting, snorting power-packed engine at the heart of one of these load-lugging critters, it really shivers the timbers of dyed-in-wool petrolheads like us.
What is it about a fast wagon that gets me in a tizzy? Part of the appeal is probably the nudge-wink IYKYK element.
However, there’s also something effortlessly cool about it precisely because it is anti-cool, with oodles of street cred thrown-in to, erm, boot – no pun intended!
If a fast sedan does something well, we know the estate version will do the same, but be indisputably cooler.
It’s never about mere utility either, because deciding to go with an estate is a lifestyle choice, as opposed to thinking about how many litres the boot will accommodate.
Due to its eminently utilitarian shape, very few are prepared to make that leap of faith into fast wagon ownership, so for those who do, we salute you!
Don’t forget, after dropping a load on a car in Singapore, the last thing the Average Joe/Jo wants is to be mistaken for anything other than the ‘success story’ he/she thinks he/she is, which is why crossovers and sedans remain the mainstay for the masses.
Ironically, this is a lot of emotional baggage to unpack for the folks that disavow the very cars capable of carrying actual baggage!
With crossovers of all shapes and sizes spreading like wildfire, the compact fast wagon has become even more of a niche segment, in both popularity and price.
The B3 Touring, RS 4 and C-Class AMG wagon models from Alpina, Audi and Mercedes-Benz operate in the upper-middle price-band, with even BMW now muscling into the scene with the recently launched first-ever M3 Touring.
Ultimately, this nudges such eclectic estates into unobtanium territory for most fans, because many of the big names with even bigger power span S$400+k and up into the half-a-buck-plus range, especially at prevailing S$100+k COE prices.
This is exactly what makes a car like the Skoda Octavia Combi RS so special as a ‘load runner’, because this frisky, fashionable, anti-fashion ‘freight-forwarder’ is a compelling novelty in the S$230+k price bracket.
It’s a bold move by Skoda Singapore in offering the even bolder, full-flavoured Octavia Combi RS, a brisk wagon targeted at the cognoscenti happy to pooh-pooh mass market mores.
We couldn’t think of a current car in the same price/performance category with the same effortless cool as the Skoda, which is why we dug deep into our network to pull-out this 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon GT-A.
Naturally, the ‘normies’ will wonder why we’re staging a shoot with two ostensibly utilitarian vehicles, but those in-the-know will appreciate our pair to literally be the living, breathing embodiment of ‘sport’ and ‘utility’.
Great White - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon GT-A (CT9W)
This one-owner ‘LanEvo’ Wagon is a daily-driver and may be halfway through its second COE Tour of Duty, but it has attained an enviable cult appeal thanks to relatively low production numbers (<3000 units across 2006 and 2007), JDM pedigree and limited export availability, as well as the fact it was the first and only time there was a wagon version of the iconic Lancer Evolution.
A mixed bag of manual and auto Evo Wagons (GT and GT-A respectively) was officially brought into Singapore in limited units by Singapore’s Mitsubishi distributor Cycle & Carriage in 2006/2007, with this particular example kept mostly stock.
The 6spd manual Evo Wagon GT runs the full-fat MIVEC (Mitsubishi’s variable valve timing system) turbo’d 2.0-litre 4G63 engine from the Evo IX for 280hp/392Nm.
However, this automatic GT-A sibling shares the same powertrain as the earlier Evo VII GT-A sedan: 5spd auto, non-MIVEC with 272hp/343Nm and in the case of the wagon, no AYC – close enough to the Octavia RS’s 245hp/370Nm.
In a nutshell, the GT-A offers petrolheads the raging performance of a rally-bred Lancer Evolution with the convenience of a solid-shifting automatic transmission that works in tandem with a trick ACD (Active Centre Differential) system.
We reckon the Evo IX wagon is the perfect Evo to complement the 5spd auto. Before the manual pundits start frothing in apoplexy, let’s qualify our statement.
Our dream two-car JDM garage circ. 2006/07 would consist of our fave pair of rally rice-rockets, a STI S204 and the Evo Wagon GT-A. Why? The manual Subie for fun, the auto Evo for function, now you know why we said what we did!
The Evo IX Wagon boasts the same aggressive front-end as the sedan (with the rear adapted from the regular Lancer Wagon) and its gaping maw is an intimidating sight to behold in your rear-view mirror as it bears down on you from behind.
Likewise, the aluminium bonnet and front fender flares are inherited from the Evo IX sedan but the wagon features dramatic phat flares in the rear, with supporting design 'garnish' elements in keeping with the Lancer Evolution theme.
The personality of the 272hp/343Nm engine in the GT-A is tuned for the 5spd INVECS-II automatic, as well as for better low- and mid-range urge (as opposed to peak red-mist raging racing revs that the rally-ready Evo IX sedan is better known for).
Compared to the urgent, frenetic pace of the Evo IX sedan, there’s a slow-burn ferocity to the GT-A wagon’s performance that is all the more deceptive because of its power delivery, with the beefy torque allowing you to bully the Evo Wagon through traffic with impunity.
It isn’t a dragonball of fast and furious energy like the Evo sedan attacking a special stage, because the wagon plays the part of effortless grand tourer, albeit with the soul of a thoroughbred sporting machine that excels on both the straights, as well as devilishly winding roads.
Steering, brakes and even the throttle/brake pedals feature proper motorsports heavy-duty weighting and it’s plenty urgent for daily drives and B-road breakfast blasts.
The razor-keen steering is as sharp as its front design, with the Evo Wagon boasting lively, high-alert reflexes and responses to helm inputs that let it carve into the corners with breathtaking composure and a surefootedness thanks to the all-wheel-driven powertrain.
There’s a sense of austere sobriety to the minimalist cabin, with a stealthy Momo steering wheel, charcoal leather / Alcantara Recaro seats and black everything else – all the better for preserving one’s concentration while driving then!
Fire up the 4G63 and the cockpit comes alive with the orange glow of the instruments and the dancing needle of the Defi gauge, but these are a taste of the fireworks to come.
Compared to the sedan, the wagon’s front Recaro seats feature lower thigh support bolsters for easy ingress/egress, but they hold you snug as a bug when the going gets winding.
Like the regular Lancer Wagon, the five-step reclining rear seats feature 60/40 split-fold ability, with the Evo Wagon featuring a boot capacity of 530-litres without the rear seats folded down.
It’s easy to see why the Evo IX Wagon is one of the JDM world’s legendary ‘It’ cars. There’s that quirky wagon silhouette, it’s spacious, reasonably supple, boasts stupendously feelsome grip and raises a rowdy ruckus like only a car spawned from an illustrious rally heritage is able to!
Tour of Duty - Skoda Octavia Combi RS 2.0 TSI
Regular readers will know it was a few short months ago that I drew the short straw and ended up with the Kodiaq RS – the biggest Skoda RS model available in Singapore – for a road trip to Kuantan.
By the time I got back to Singapore, not only had I become a big fan of the big Skoda RS SUV, but more importantly, I’d also swapped keys with Clif for the Octavia Combi RS for part of the winding road drive back from Kuantan – a fast wagon I’d been itching to try since it arrived.
Skoda vRS (for Victory Rally Sport, but even Skoda omits the ‘v’ and simply calls it ‘RS’) models refer to the brand’s performance all-rounders and despite what some mistakenly believe, aren’t intended to be hardcore, all-out sportscars like the RS models in the Audi and Porsche line-ups.
Compared to Seat’s Formentor, Cupra or what-have-you counterparts, we like the quiet sophistication of Skoda’s design cues because they aren’t overly look-at-me, but exude a subtle refinement that should enjoy a timeless appeal.
In contrast to the brutalist styling of the Evo IX Wagon, the Octavia Combi RS is sleekly proportioned, with refined musculature and a ‘stanced’ stance to clue one in to its sporting credentials.
It gets the familiar ‘RS’ trappings too: aggressive front bumper topped off with a menacing black grille, RS-specific alloy rims, integrated tailpipes and a tailgate spoiler, just like the Evo Wagon.
The Skoda’s cockpit is a leap ahead of the Evo’s spartan simplicity, with an all-digital ensemble encompassing instruments, ten-inch touchscreen interface and even shift-by-wire DSG via the stubby control module ‘gearshifter’, as it transitions to digitalisation to bring it in line with the latest VW Golf 8.
The Octavia Combi RS features all the posh bells and whistles too, with electronic mod-cons/entertainment/assistance, diamond-quilted RS-badged sports bucket seats, reams of Alcantara and tactile, soft-touch surfaces, all of which let it punch above its weight in the value and bang-for-buck stakes.
The venerable turbo’d 2.0-litre EA888 is as familiar to the VW fanboys as the 4G63 is to the Evo crowd. The Skoda’s 245hp/370Nm makes for some engaging performance on the fly, but what’s more impressive is having the 370Nm on tap from just 1600rpm, which translates to near-instant shove from just over idle.
With little lethargy from standstill, this imbues the Octavia Combi RS with a lightness and lithesome agility to its front-drive dynamics, especially since the electronic LSD works to grant the front tyres more purchase when you’re attacking the winding roads.
Driven sedately, the Skoda distinguishes itself with the same pliant composure as the Evo Wagon, especially with its electronic damping pre-set to three-quarters of the way to the maximum.
The Octavia RS may not have the same razor-sharp steering as the Mitsubishi, but there’s a fluid feel to the Skoda that lends itself well to a refined and progressive style of fast driving.
The Skoda’s power delivery is brisk rather than the Evo Wagon’s intensely ballistic, which makes for a balanced, predictable and measured motoring experience.
In both wagons, you’re attacking the winding roads with similar speed and focus, but the Skoda proves to be the Yin to the Evo Wagon’s Yang, with the pair serving up two opposing studies in performance estate philosophy.
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals
2007 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon GT-A (CT9W)
Engine 1997cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 5spd INVECS-II Sport-Mode automatic
0-100km/h est. 5+secs
Top Speed 180km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption est. 12l/100km
2022 Skoda Octavia Combi RS 2.0 TSI
Engine 1984cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch DSG
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.6l/100km (combined)