New Car/Review

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Eclipse GT Convertible (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,237
     Price As Tested                                    $ 28,102
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 181 cid/2972 cc
     Horsepower                                   200 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               205 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  100.8"/68.9"/175.4"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3263 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                              215/50R17 H-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 61 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/27/23          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 88.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           135 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(The Mitsubishi Eclipse has done an about-face, says Bob Hagin, and has become a mainstream touring car. Matt Hagin likes the change, stating that he's past the "boy-racer" stage.)

MATT - Now that Mitsubishi has had a considerable infusion of outside money and business acumen, it's done a pretty spectacular turn-around on some of its products. It's new Eclipse sports model is a prime example of corporate re-thinking. When it was first introduced a decade ago, it became a darling of the cafe-racer crowd that liked to think of themselves as real-life Speed Racers. They'd dashed around town with their turbocharged four-bangers screaming and their all-wheel drive systems tearing up the pavement. But the new Eclipse models are more mainstream and are going to appeal to a much broader segment of the population.

BOB - The Eclipse GT convertible that we're evaluating this week is a prime example, Matt. It's new this year and came out as a 2000 model. It's a couple of inches longer that the older version and a little bit wider as well. The Mitsubishi press kit that came with it likens it to the exotic sports car that emanate from Europe but to my mind, its more on the order of the rag-top, reasonably-powered "pony car" convertibles that American manufacturers have had so much success with. It has the same low nose-high tail profile as its contemporaries and it's just as docile to drive. The company has gone to great lengths to make sure that the fit-and-finish is as close to perfect as possible and the convertible top is a prime example. It fits like it was hand-made and that's exactly how Mitsubishi says it was done at its plant in Normal, Ill. The only item that the Mitsubishi designers didn't work out very well is how to cover the top when it's in its lowered position. While lowering the top itself is a simple task and only takes a couple of seconds, wrestling the cover over it requires a certain amount of dexterity and strength. I suspect that it will be left at home in the garage most of the time.

MATT - And since the car seems to have considerably more interior space due to its new larger dimensions, it's more appealing to people like me who find it necessary to carry a couple of little ones around in rear-mounted child seats. The dashboard is a little "busy" with lots of buttons, switches and gadgets but it doesn't take much tine to get used to them. But driving a car is what it's all about and this Eclipse GT convertible is as easy to pilot as the old one was "edgy." Although there's a high-tech twin-cam 2.4-liter engine available, I'd bet that most buyers of a car of this type will go for the 3.0-liter V6. It's a single-cammer that puts out 200 horses and 205 pound-feet of torque so the pulling power is pretty good. The four-cylinder version is a bit short on both although the car isn't exceptionally heavy. The transmission choices are a five-speed stick-shift and a four-speed automatic. The "buff" magazine guys always enthuse over manual transmissions and proclaim better "control," but the fact is that most people who buy cars like this do it to enjoy the cruise and relish the fresh air. They want to look "cool" and don't care about the limits of adhesion or elapsed quarter-mile acceleration times.

BOB - Performance driving hasn't been totally ignored in the new Eclipse GT models, Matt. For instance, the "reviled" automatic transmission has the ability to be manually shifted up and down so drivers can whip through the twists and turns of country roads without feeling that they're just going along for the ride. And the chassis has been stiffened by reinforcing the front suspension strut supports and the rear suspension links are boxed in for more rigidity. The popular pass-through feature from the trunk to the cabin area through the back seat had to be forgone because a reinforcing "X" brace is in the way.

MATT - With this new Eclipse line, Mitsubishi has gone away from the role of a maker of sportsters for very narrow hot-rod niche market to one that's vying for a piece of the more lucrative and popular "image" segment. I guess that even car companies have to grow up eventually.

 

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