2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT - First Drive & Road Test Review - Motor Trend (2023)

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(Video) Motorweek Video of the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse

The symbolism of a menacing 8000-pound steel wrecking ball suspended above Mitsubishi's latest Eclipse must be obvious to our readers. If not--perhaps it's time to subscribe to a reputable newspaper or visit Todd Lassa's bountiful background information on Mitsubishi's plummeting fortunes (see sidebar).

Lassa claims the market failure of the new Eclipse probably wouldn't shatter Mitsubishi, but it could wind it into a dead-car-company walking. This is an important car for its maker; in the past, it's proven to have longer sales legs in the marketplace than most sporty coupes. It's also developed a following among the sport-compact tuner crowd, which didn't exactly go hog wild over the previous-generation Eclipse. Hence, the suspense mounts: 2006 Eclipse, feted or flattened? Thumbs up or down? Will our trusty crane operator, Robert Stanley, flip the switch and drop that big old dirty ball?

Emphatically in the "don't drop!" column falls the bodywork. There's the rounded stern (evocative of the first-generation car), the winking pinched side glass of the popular second-generation machine, and the raised haunches, bold face, and wheel flares of the third. In fact, the latest design is something of a highlight reel of Eclipsi through the generations--and it's an eye catcher, for sure.

(Video) Mitsubishi Eclipse - Everything You Need To Know | Up to Speed

Almost everybody who's had a chance to walk around the new Eclipse agrees it's optimally viewed from the rear-three-quarter perspective. From that approach, the wide, bulbous tail seems to liquefy into the roofline. The rump (resembling the Audi TT's) is simple and nicely detailed, with the taillight enclosures sporting that au courant mirrored jewelbox appearance (upping the game of visual trickery, the turn signals are colorless until illuminated yellow). Arching between the taillights is a thin-lip spoiler of the same mirror-within-clear-plastic construction. It conducts its aerodynamic business without breaking up the stern's visual continuity.

Up front, the Eclipse's crazed catfish face has a new maturity via what looks to be giant monocles suspended between the headlamps and headlamp covers. What's next? Photogray bifocals? Automotive laser eye surgery? Functionally irrelevant stuff like this is fast becoming the tailfin of our era, but it seems harmless.

A point that falls into the "ball-drop" column is the odd rearward placement of the side mirrors. From the driver's perch, sharp lateral glances are necessary to observe the usual riffraff scuttling along next to you, though the instrument cluster ahead is pure eye candy. Compressed into what Mitsubishi calls a motorcycle-style gauge cluster, the minimalist pod paints the dials in an icy-blue glow at night. Sweet.

That motorcycle connection strengthens when the engine is sparked up and the tach needle pops to attention amid what sounds like a row of Kawasakis. Mitsubishis have an idiosyncratic voice: a 1000-gears-meshing wall of sound. Blip the throttle, and you'd wager a turbo is swimming around down there, too.

Part of the frenzy derives from Mitsubishi's Rube Goldberg-esque MIVEC mechanism, an acronym for Mitsubishi Innovative Variable timing and lift Electronic Control (as if other variable valvetrains aren't innovative?). It has a notable effect on both Eclipse engines, but it affects them in different ways.

The horsepower of the GS's new, bigger-bore SOHC 2.4-liter inline-four rises from 147 to 162 (10.2 percent more power pulled from a teensy 1.2-percent-greater displacement). The opposite's the case with the whopping 3.8-liter V-6 installed in our GT, which gallops 53 more ponies from its 856cc-bigger barn (that's 25.2 percent more power from 28.8-percent-greater displacement).

(Video) EclipseTestDrive.mpg

But the milk in the coconut here is this engine's broadband torque distribution. Run it from a tick over idle to its 6500-rpm redline, and your seatback's squeezed by one uninterrupted compression. The twin intake valves' 4000-rpm MIVEC switch from lower-lift (and swirl-creating asymmetrical) cam profiles to parallel high-lift openings is almost undetectable.

Wound thrice this way down the dragstrip (punctuated by snap gearshifts), the Eclipse GT pegs 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and the quarter 8.3 seconds later as the speedo needle sweeps past 100.9 mph. Comparable with, say, VW's feisty R32. Your results may vary, however, and considerably if you don't defeat the traction control that otherwise tempers the torque curve through the first three gears to subdue torque steer. Test-track maven Chris Walton's only criticism was the shifter's occasional confusion as he was bulleting the lever from second to third. Sometimes it wound up in, say, second and a half. The five- and six-speed manuals of the GT and GS have four- and five-speed automatic alternatives.

Eclipses have never been dragsters--they're animals of the urban maze, darty, shadowy creatures more adept at pinballing through the asphalt grid. Despite its enlarged scale--nearly 2.0 inches taller, 2.8 inches longer, and 3.3 inches wider--the Eclipse's nervous nature remains, witnessed by a slalom pace of 65.7 mph and an occasionally edgy rear end.

The suspension consists of mostly conventional components, but there are a few tweaks. The MacPherson strut's tops and the lower control arms are better isolated from jittering their jolts into the chassis, noticeably benefiting ride; the multilink rear suspension is mounted low, dropping the center of gravity. In the "no good deed goes unpunished" department, the impressive ride frees critical attention to dwell on the tire's pitter-pat and interior cavity boom. But what do you expect when you plunk down a payment on an Eclipse? A Lexus LS 430?

Romping around our tarmac playground at California Speedway, the Eclipse's front-drive personality is on display--but the tail isn't just a comatose dance partner. Power on, the car points its nose away from the target, but lift throttle and light braking walk the stern out a pace or two. There's plenty of acrobatic aptitude to goof with here, and 99 percent of it will paint a smile on your face. Only the middling grip of the Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires will keep the Mitsu from appearing on post-office wanted posters.

(Video) 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse | Retro Review

Mitsubishi seems to be spinning two simultaneous biographies for the new Eclipse: (1) it's now a flag-waving American product (being designed and built here); (2) the guts beneath have all the cachet of being lovingly brained-over by high-caliber Japanese engineers. This is an impressive new coupe, a vibrant alternative on streets thick with Mustangs and Nissan 350Zs, and the best Eclipse yet--by far.

Robert, you can back away the crane now.

Survival Of The Fittestby Todd Lassa Even in good times, coupes are fashion statements. They sell well in the first two years, and then they drop out of sight. If you're considering the 2006 Eclipse, you have to wonder about the chances for the company's survival. Mitsubishi is suffering from the ravages of warranty coverups in Japan and an ill-advised move in the U.S. into cheap cars and easy credit in early 2000.

A new Lancer has been delayed, and the Normal, Illinois, manufacturing plant is down to one shift. DaimlerChrysler has washed its hands of an operating partnership with Mitsubishi, although several of its upcoming small and midsize cars will be built on the GS (next-gen Lancer) platform. Mitsubishi's problems run deep--car sales dropped by one-third in Japan after Mitsu president Katsuhiko Kawasoe admitted that his company didn't come clean after the warranty scandal in 2000. He resigned last year.

Mitsubishi's 2004 U.S. sales were less than half its 2002 sales, and its U.S. arm has resorted to offering 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties. "The Raider pickup will be a Dodge Dakota with a better warranty," one pundit says.

Our advice? Go ahead and buy the new Eclipse--Mitsubishi will survive. Japanese banks and Japanese competitors will make sure of it. If Mitsubishi tanked, it would reinforce the idea that Toyota is an all-conquering monolith dominating the Japanese market as well as ours, and Toyota would lose a potential customer for its hybrid technology.

Analysts agree that its U.S. sales will hover in the 150,000-to-200,000-unit range for the rest of the decade. Mitsubishi will pare down to core models, the new Eclipse and Raider, the Lancer, Galant, Outlander, Endeavor, and the Evolution. Mitsubishi has no plans to import the new Colt subcompact. The Diamante is gone this year, and the Montero disappears next year. New-product intros continue with the next GS-based Outlander scheduled to appear next January at the Detroit show. Mitsu says it's rebuilding residual values with "market-driven, not product-driven sales," but the rebuilding takes time, and every struggling automaker is attempting this strategy, including General Motors. While Mitsu says its future is to stick with core products and not to become a niche maker, Subaru passed it in sales last year, and Mitsubishi won't soon expand beyond two crossover SUVs and four cars.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT V6
Base price incl dest$24,900 (est)
Price as tested$28,000 (est)
Vehicle layoutFront engine, FWD, 2-door, 2+2-pass coupe
Engine3.8L/263 hp/260 lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission6-speed manual
Curb weight, f/r dist3538 lb, 61/39%
Wheelbase101.4 in
Length x Width x Height179.7 x 72.2 x 53.8 in
0-60 mph5.9 sec
1/4 mile14.2 sec @ 100.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph116 ft
Lateral acceleration0.79 g avg
600-foot slalom65.7 mph avg
Lateral acceleration0.84 g avg
MT Figure eight27.1 sec @ 0.64 g avg
EPA city/hwy fuel econ18 / 27 mpg
What's HotMore Comfortably Sized And Smoother Riding; Potent Performer At All Speeds; Pre-Engineered For Spyder Version
What's Not2-3 shift doesn't like rushing; modest tire grip; bigger, but still tiny rear seat
Like This? Try TheseMazda RX-8; Nissan 350Z; Volkswagen R32
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