A long fast fade into the sunset
Julia LaPalmephotographerMatt Stonewriter
The sporty-coupe market is fickle and suffers from what we call the 1-2-Out Syndrome: A new two-door 2+2 shows up, sells well for two years, then fades fast. Mitsubishi has had better than average luck with its Eclipse. It's enjoyed relatively solid sales over more than a decade and a half and a starring role with the "Fast and Furious" crowd. A new Eclipse is important to the brand, a notion that helped earn this fourth-gen model a year in the MT garage.
Praise was near universal for the look of our Sunset Pearlescent example, although one staffer didn't care for it, labeling it "too organic and bulbous-looking." The design blends cues from the second- and third-generation Eclipses, plus the Mitsu's current face and modern proportions. The freestanding "monocle" lens that floats in the headlight cluster was always a topic of conversation.
Enthusiasts are all about engines, and this one drew high marks. This 3.8-liter, SOHC V-6 is smooth, lusty, and great-sounding. Thanks to MIVEC variable valve timing, it spreads its power and torque nicely across the tach. While it doesn't pack quite the punch as the latest versions of Nissan's vaunted 3.5-liter V-6 do, it feels and runs as good in every other way. Third gear is great for mountain roads, fourth a superb passing gear, and sixth perfect for high-speed cruising. Our only complaint is an overly aggressive throttle tip in. This, combined with marginal traction from the GT's all-weather tires, made for many impromptu, tire-squealing burnouts away from stoplights until everyone mastered the throttle curve. The six-speed transmission's ratios feel right for most conditions, and the shifter is good for a remote transaxle type, although not as crisp as some of the best rear drivers, where the shifter pokes straight into the tranny.
Given that the Eclipse is a "sporty" car (its platform architecture is shared with sedans and crossovers) and not a pure sports car, it isn't expected to have the same handling characteristics as the latter. And it doesn't. But that makes it easy to live with on an everyday basis, without the ride penalty of an edgier, more committed machine. We'd opt for more heft and feel for the steering, brakes, and clutch, but most drivers will be fine with the current calibrations. There's some torque steer during hard throttle, low gear, but it's not otherwise much of a problem. If you want a more serious performer, Mitsu will sell you a rally-bred Evolution (one wonders what the Eclipse would drive like were it equipped with the Evo's 286 horsepower turbo-four and all-wheel drive. Hmmm...that's something we'd like to try). Replacing the squealy, all-weather rubber with summer performance tires would improve grip and reduce noise.
The cabin's design, detailing, and materials also drew compliments. It's anything but bland, and the front seats proved comfortable for a wide variety of drivers. Not so the rears: The sculpting of the bottom cushion isn't comfortable, and the fast rear roofline limits headroom. Rear-seat access isn't so good, either, but people-hauling isn't the mission of 2+2 coupes. If you need that, buy a minivan.
Several editors mentioned the Rockford-Fosgate audio system as one of the Eclipse's high points. It sounds great, with plenty of strong bass, clear highs, and crisp channel separation (although an iPod jack would be a nice addition). That's good, because we needed to crank it up to cover up the noise that permeated the cabin at anything above about 70 mph. Most of it seemed to be a boom emanating from the rear cargo/hatch area, which is large, holds lots of cargo, and the rear deck opens wide to swallow it.
Our Eclipse GT proved not just reliable, but faultless. Although mileage didn't accumulate as much as some of our other long-term testers, this one caused us no problems whatsoever. Its service history was limited to two mandated dealer visits (at the 7500- and 15,000-mile points). Oil and filter changes, inspections, tire rotation, the usual. And that was that. All interior surfaces wore well, the tires had life left in them, and nothing broke, rattled, or fell off. You can't ask for more than that.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse, based on this experience, is a "buy it if you like it" kind of car. Some folks need more room. Others will want a harder-edged performer. But if this package works for you, if you like the style, and want a car that's fast and fun without being a high-buck sports car, the Eclipse appeals. A few details could be better synthesized (like that throttle tip-in), but, overall, we had a good year with our GT, and one with nary a mechanical issue.
|From the Logbook|
|A top-five bang-for-buck finalist for me. The response and power are invigorating. I've driven the automatic version, this one's personality is completely different. A good alternative if a 350Z isn't in your budget. -Mark WilliamsFor all intents and purposes, this is a two-seater. Even my youngest and skinniest child was cramped sitting in back while I drove, although the front seats were pretty darn comfortable for this lanky guy.-Thomas Voehringer A blast to drive. I love the power this thing has. Really eye-catching, too. A great sports car for the 21-26-year-old age group. -Melissa SpieringThe engine is quick to build revs, and the tossable quick shifter is a good match. Booming noise from the rear is annoying, however.-Brian VanceI'm betwixt and between on this one. Like the style, details-and who wouldn't love this big-hearted motor? Nice stereo, too. But the Eclipse feels heavy while the driver inputs feel light. And I'm so done with torque steer and front-end lift under accel. For the same money, I'd want rear drive and 300 horsepower-in the form of a Mustang GT. -Matt StoneLuv this baby!-Jackie Manfredi|
|2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, FWD|
|Engine type||60 V-6, alum block/heads|
|Valvetrain||SOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||233.6 cu in/3828cc|
|Power (SAE net)||263 hp @ 5750 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||260 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm|
|Weight to power||13.1 lb/hp|
|Axle/final drive ratios||3.78:1 (1-4), 3.24 (5,6,R)/2.56:1|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes, f;r||11.6-in vented disc, 11.2-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels||18x8.0 in, cast alum|
|Tires||235/45ZR18 94V M+S Goodyear Eagle RSA|
|Track, f/r||61.8/61.8 in|
|Length x width x height||179.7 x 72.2 x 53.8 in|
|Turning circle||40.0 ft|
|Curb weight||3453 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||62/38%|
|Headroom, f/r||37.5/34.6 in|
|Legroom, f/r||42.8/29.2 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r||54.2/51.2 in|
|Cargo volume||15.7 cu ft|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Quarter mile||14.6 sec @ 97.1 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||125 ft|
|600-ft slalom||63.6 mph avg|
|Lateral acceleration||0.81 g avg|
|MT figure eight||27.0 sec @ 0.64 g avg|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side, front curtain|
|Basic warranty||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||10 yrs/100,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||5 yrs/unlimited miles|
|Fuel capacity||17.7 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ||18/27 mpg|
|MT fuel economy||18.8 mpg|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded regular|
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