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SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T

by John Heilig


ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 210@6000 rpm/214@3000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual 
FUEL ECONOMY: 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, mpg test 
WHEELBASE: 98.8 in. 
OVERALL LENGTH: 172.2 in. 
OVERALL WIDTH: 68.7 in. 
CURB WEIGHT: 2899 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY: 16.9 gal. 
LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 16.6 cu. ft. 
TIRES: 205/55HR16 
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, oil pressure, 
             battery voltage, digital clock. 
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control,
           air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD,
           anti-lock braking, dual air bags. 

I have to tell you something about the Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T. The morning of the day it was delivered, the sun was shining. The afternoon of the day it was delivered, it was snowing. We picked up about three inches of snow that day, so I had to drive the Eclipse home in the snow.

I "assumed" the Eclipse was four-wheel drive when I ordered it. It wasn't. I also didn't realize that the engine was turbocharged. So driving the Eclipse GS-T in the snow was a challenge. There were icy and snow-covered patches on the roads for at least half of the week I had the car, which made for interesting driving. Under those conditions, the Eclipse GS-T was a handful to drive.

I always had the feeling, for example, that I was on the edge of disaster with the Eclipse.

The turbocharger does not come on too quickly or too strong, as it does with some models. As a matter of fact, the power came on smoothly and was not bad from that standpoint. The accelerator pedal is very responsive to your wishes. Give it a kick and suddenly you're spinning the wheels and revving the engine up to the red line.

On dry roads and in clear sunny weather, the Eclipse GS-T is a pleasure to drive. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is mated to a nice five-speed manual gearbox and drives the front wheels, as it does in most modern sport coupes. You can almost drive the Eclipse like a rear-wheel drive car. There were times when I was able to get the rear end to slide a bit when I was going around corners.

But we still had the advantages of front-wheel drive. In the winter, one of those advantages is better adhesion. This could have been better than it was, but was limited by the quality of the road surface. If I had been driving the car as normally as possible and was not carried away by the thrill of excellent acceleration pressing the back of the seat into my back, the Eclipse would have handled the poor conditions better. But there was that thrill, and I won't deny that I enjoyed the good parts and put up with the bad because of the thrill.

Creature comforts in the Eclipse were surprisingly good. The heating system, for example, did a good job of heating the car when it was frigid outside, yet also cooled us quickly when it warmed up toward the end of the week.

The front bucket seats offered excellent side support, so they would hold us in whenever we tried to corner on the edge. We found that fourth gear, for example, was a great gear for normal driving. We had excellent on-the-road acceleration, thanks to the turbocharger, yet weren't overrevving the engine on longer stretches. Yes, fifth would have offered overdrive, but acceleration suffered.

Mitsubishi's Eclipse GS-T had the potential for being a disastrous road-test vehicle. With a powerful engine and a turbocharger that wanted to make the front wheels spin constantly, there was always the potential for trouble. But we stayed out of trouble and had a lot of fun. We did feel we were on the hairy edge several times, but never felt we were out of control. Even with the turbocharged engine, the Eclipse is a docile sport coupe and a comfortable car to drive. It seemed to want to protect me, even when I was making mistakes.

You may enjoy the Eclipse. With the turbo it's hairy. Without the turbo it's calmer, but probably just as much fun.

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