FRANKFURT – Lessons learned from the World Rally Championship L.C. Racing circuit have translated into improved performance for Mitsubishi's '06 Lancer Evolution IX, which arrives in European showrooms later this year.

Feedback from Mitsubishi's WRC rally-racing program inspired the brand's engineers to lengthen the diffuser on the Evo's turbocharger. As a result, the Evo IX trims 4/10ths of a second off the 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time recorded by its predecessor.

The new car turns the trick in 5.7 seconds, compared with the Evo VIII's time of 6.1 seconds, the auto maker says.

Mitsubishi uses the Frankfurt auto show here to take the wraps off the Evo IX. Already on sale in Japan, it debuts in Europe during the fourth quarter and in the U.S. early next year.

'06 Lancer Evolution IX

Weight reduction achieved by increasing the new Evo's aluminum content, another common rally-racing practice that also boosts the car's performance. Mitsubishi went with an all-aluminum roof and aluminum side-door impact bars, which contribute to a lower center of gravity, a key to improved handling.

Responding to the performance-savvy European market, Mitsubishi also will offer a 6-speed manual transmission. Bilstein shocks, Recaro seats and a Momo steering wheel round out the race-inspired design.

Mitsubishi also uses the show to debut a sportback concept, based on a new global platform that will shoulder several new products, including a redesigned Outlander cross/utility vehicle. (See related story: Mitsubishi to World Premiere Concept Sportback in Frankfurt)

The new platform was conceived along with DaimlerChrysler AG, which will use it as the basis for a Neon replacement, the Caliber, due out before year's end.

Mitsubishi has seen its European sales soar 21.8%, to 137,088 units, through the first six months, compared with 112,579 for like-2004.

Mitsubishi says its sales have risen in 12 of the top 15 European markets it serves, and realized double-digit hikes in eight of those 12 markets. Sales have declined in Spain, Greece and Sweden.

emayne@primediabusiness.com