If this were a popularity contest, the Mitsubishi Eclipse would no doubt be a front-runner right now. Since it’s launch, the Eclipse has, well, eclipsed many of its competitors to attain a high-ranking place in the car food chain. And I can sort of understand why, especially after my GS model rolled up with gleaming, silver exterior lines and enough black leather inside to make a girl go weak at the knees.
Indeed, jumping right in and going for a spin was not even a question as the sexy interior invited me in to join the party. The team at Mitsubishi have done a very, nice job with the Eclipse - although I feel sure there must have been someone with SM (and I don’t mean Santa Monica) tendencies on the design team to allow for that amount of cow hide in such a confined space. The extremely firm and comfy black seats - which are just what I needed to hold me in place on some of the more adventurous corners attempted - were accompanied by black facia, gear knob and steering wheel, and one of the nicest dashes I have come across. Orange illumination of white figures on black background, which made for sexy, yet easy to read dials. 2 thumbs up.
Black leather aside, the GS comes equipped with a 16-valve, 2.0 litre DOHC fuel-injected engine which boasts 140 horses at 6,000rpm and 130 lbs-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. However, reaching silly speeds in ridiculously fast time was not quite as I would have liked to imagine. Thoughts of blasting off in this sexy rocket were sadly dashed by lacklustre acceleration. Indeed nightmarish images of my first driving lesson and lurching away from a static position came flooding back. Alas, the problem is that under 3,000 revs, the Eclipse might as well have rubber band under the bonnet. Now, over 3,000 revs, we’ve got a whole other story: nippy acceleration at its best. But who wants to sound like a boy racer at the lights, revving the engine so as to assure a safe getaway before the resident roller-bladers whizz past?
But, bladers aside, once the Eclipse comes into its own in the revs department it really is a fun, responsive drive. It handles extremely nicely, more so at speed actually, when the power assisted rack & pinion steering system is subtly aided by an engine-speed-sensitive steering boost. This means that the power assist is subtly decreased as engine speed increases, to combine low-speed maneuvering with improved road feel at higher speeds.
The gearbox was short shift, with a gear-stick which was superbly placed, and a nice, light clutch. Its cornering capabilities were not as firm as I would have liked, the four-wheel independent multi-link suspension, with coil springs front and rear, failing me slightly. The GS comes equipped with 16" Oz racing wheels and a rather large ‘Turbo’ rear spoiler, which although I am assured by all the bumpf is added "for even sharper reflexes and a flatter cornering attitude", only managed to interfere with my rear visibility, and which, combined with the extremely high-sloping angle of the rear-side-window line, meant that I was continually checking over each shoulder before attempting any sort of side-ways maneuver. This need for double-checking was not aided by the fact that my make-up mirror is probably bigger than those of the Eclipse. I mean, aerodynamics and all that aside, if you’re going to have mirrors, at least make them big enough to fulfill their basic function, or else, what point?
The cabin is extremely comfortable, if you’re sitting in the front seats. However, one would be pushed to make use of the rear seats too. We managed 3-up fairly comfortably, but 4 would be a squeeze. Cabin features included a huge moonroof - which interestingly enough lacked an ‘auto’ button, something already found on the Mirage. Explanations on a postcard, please - CD/AM/FM stereo, and very good speakers all over the shop. A lack of space was also true of the trunk, where fitting in a couple of suitcases would require a true, packing master!
"Wake up and Drive" , the delectable Noah Wyle (Dr. Carter on ER) tells us on the sporty Eclipse ads. Considering that the Eclipse GS, at a base price, comes in at a smile-inducing $17,910, one would be rather silly to stay in bed. Indeed, considering what one gets on the loaded GS model, the asking price of $21,255 seems like a joke one would definitely like to be in on. Yes, the Eclipse GS has faults, but for what you’re paying, just sit back, enjoy the ride and luxuriate in all that black leather!
FACTS AND FIGURES
1999 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE GS 3-DOOR SPORT COUPE
Engine 2.0L DOHC 16-valve, 4 cyl w/ fuel injection
HP 140 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 130 @ 4,800 rpm
Transm.n 5-speed manual w/ overdrive
Suspension Independent multi-link w/ coil springs, stabilizer bar (front)
Independent multi-link w/ coil springs, stabilizer bar, trailing arm (rear)
Steering Power rack-&-pinion, RPM sensitive
Brakes Front vent disc, Rear solid disc
Wheels 16" steel wheels
Fuel econ. 21 city/30 hwy
Base Price: $17,910
Model Price: $21,255 (incl. Destination/handling, $435)
Sports Value Package on model tested $ 2,840
A/C, CD player, Leather front seats, Power sunroof, power windows & locks, cruise control, keyless entry, Oz racing 16" wheels, white-faced gauges, ‘Turbo’ rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tip.