Mitsubishi Eclipses Itself
By Steve Siler
Since its 1990 launch, Mitsubishi’s Eclipse has become as close to an icon as anything the Mitsubishi Motors has ever built, as iconic as any car from any Asian automaker, save, of course, Nissan’s untouchable Z. But the last-generation model, introduced to us in 1999, lost a bit of something, make that a LOT of something in terms of the edgy charm that we loved so much before. And consequently, it lost our respect.
Well, like a former boyfriend that’s pumped up at the gym, bought you roses and chocolates to regain your affections and bought you a week of beauty at a Kauai wellness resort, Mitsubishi has brought us a brand-new Eclipse, bigger, faster and hotter than ever.
Gone are the chunky, cheese-grater contours of the old Eclipse, replaced by billowing curves and teardrop-shaped side windows that evoke the much-loved second-generation Eclipse (think The Fast and the Furious). The headlights and taillights are exquisitely detailed, with iridescent-coated signal bulbs and glitzy chrome surrounds. The upswept “waistline” accentuates what Mitsu designers call a “crossbow effect,” adding tension to the appearance. Whatever. It looks cool.
The Eclipse is attractive from pretty much any angle, but it’s that J. Lo booty that you can’t stop staring at. Too bad it’s so hard to get things into, due in large part to its waist-high liftover. At least the Eclipse is a hatchback, which aids access into the broad, flat cargo area. Too bad the hatchback doesn’t make the split folding rear seat any more accommodating of people…it’s actually smaller than last year’s Eclipse, in spite of the exterior dimensions growing considerably. Consider it a shelf for your brief case or a nesting area for your Pekinese.
The dashboard is just as swoopy as the body. The instruments were fashioned after those of a motorcycle, and look pretty awesome, particularly at night when the blue illumination reflecting upon various metallic finishes create a very James-Bond-ice-hotel feeling. For you showy types, there’s a clay-and-white themed interior combo called Terra Cotta that is available only with the searing-orange (“Sunset Pearlescent” in Mitsu-speak) metallic paint. Not surprisingly, that’s my favorite combo, but I will tell you from experience, it’s as polarizing as Hillary Clinton in Missouri.
And then there’s the stereo. While the standard unit is fine (160 watts), but really, well worth the upgrade is the astounding 650-watt (!) Rockford/Fosgate sound system that comes as part of the $1500 Sun and Sound Package on the GS, or the $3270 Premium Sport Package for the GT. The subwoofer eats up some valuable cargo space, but payoff comes in the form of genuine butt-thumping power that does not sacrifice fidelity as the volume rises. Madonna has never sounded so good.
Incidentally, those option packages also come with a power sunroof, trip computers, 6-disc CD changers and those handy auto-dimming mirrors. The GT’s option package also adds heated seats (d’ya hear that, snow-belters?), automatic climate controls, a power driver’s seat, aluminum pedals and 18” wheels.
Speaking of wheels, you’ll get ‘em spinning much easier thanks to more powerful engines, which far eclipse—pardon the pun—those of the outgoing model. The four-cylinder in the GS is up about 15% in horsepower to 162, while the GT’s V-6 is up about 25% to a whopping 263. Both come with manual or automatic transmissions (the latter with manual shift control when you want it). Now while those are both notable improvements, one must remember that with the increases in length and width come measurable increases in weight, so whatever the four-cylinder gained is pretty much canceled out in terms of acceleration in real-world driving. However, with 260 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 is a slugger no matter how you slice it and far faster than last year’s GT. With all that promised fun, you’re gonna hammer it—often. Even more impressive is that fuel economy remains respectable: ranging from 23/30 for the four-cylinder manual to a still-decent 19/28 for the GT with the V-6/automatic combination.
Handling is stellar for a nose-heavy front-wheel-drive car, and braking is inspiring. I did, however, notice a lot of road noise on grainy roads with the GT’s optional 18-inch wheels and paper-thin, low-profile tires. No surprise there, due to the high-performance intentions of the rubber. (Did I say high-performance rubber?)
And for you ragtop fans (and, really, who isn’t a ragtop fan?), the good news is a new convertible Eclipse based on this model promises to be the fastest and most fun ever, with a rigid, integrated top stack cover (instead of one of those icky plastic shrouds) to make its butt even sexier. Availability: Spring 2006. We’ll let you know when we test it.
Mitsubishi is a gay-friendly company.