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Mitsubishi Eclipse GT (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Mitsubishi Eclipse GT 
ENGINE:  3.0-liter SOHC V6 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 200 hp @ 5500 rpm/205 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic with Sportronic 
WHEELBASE: 100.8 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 175.4 x 68.9 x 51.6 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $25,517 

The Mitsubishi Eclipse was one of the first serious sport coupes to hit the American market. It was joined by its then-brother cars, the Plymouth Laser and the Eagle Talon, and competed against other small sport coupes like the Ford Probe. Well, the Probe, Talon and Laser are no longer with us, but the Eclipse is still being produced in Normal, Illinois, and is still one of the better small sport coupes available.

Our tester this week is the GT version of the Eclipse coupe. Mitsubishi also makes an excellent Spyder version with a convertible top. The GT is powered by the larger 3.0-liter V6 engine that pumps out 200 horsepower. A smaller 2.4-liter inline four is the base engine and it is good for 147 horsepower. The turbocharged engine is no longer available in the Eclipse, and it's a good thing. This family of cars exhibited more torque steer than any others I've driven and it won't be missed.

The V6, though, is a sweetheart of an engine. It has plenty of power for a car that only weighs a touch over 3100 pounds. It is hooked to a four-speed automatic with Sportronic sequential shift control. This means that you can drive the Eclipse in fully automatic mode or you can play with the shifter and upshift and downshift to your heart's content. By moving the shifter to the right into the Sportronic gate and moving it forward or backward, the transmission will up or downshift at the driver's command. As we have said before, this type of gearbox will get you into a lower gear a second or so quicker than leaving it in full automatic, and for maximum performance this can be important.

All good sport coupes need a decent suspension system, or the "sport" side of the coupe equation fails. The Eclipse had large-diameter MacPherson struts up front with an offset placement of the front springs relative to the shock absorbers to reduce friction in the suspension and diffuse road shock from rough pavement. The lower A-arms are attached to a die-cast aluminum cross member. In the rear, the Eclipse uses an independent multi-link suspension with rigid crossmember points to improve stability. Needless to say, handling is excellent in the Eclipse, whether you're simply out for an afternoon ride or pretending to be Michael Schumacher on some winding back country road.

To stop the Eclipse GT, there are four-wheel disc brakes with ABS as part of the GT premium package. This package also includes an Infinity premium sound system, leather front seat surfaces, a power driver's seat, front seat side air bags, power glass sunroof, rear wiper, security system, traction control, and a compass and outside temperature display. Prices at $3,050, this is an option package that moves the GT from being a nice sport coupe into the realm of being a very nice sport coupe. However, it does boost the $21,947 base price to over $25,000 bottom line.

The Eclipse was redesigned last year with a crisp edge styling that is most evident on the side sculpting. While I'm not a big fan of side fluting, it does look good on the Eclipse.

But when you're driving the Eclipse, it really doesn't matter what it looks like on the outside. Inside, you're dealing with a powerful sport coupe that is willing to do almost anything you ask of it. The Eclipse has plenty of power and the ability to use that power sensibly, with a good gearbox, excellent suspension and the brakes to stop you if necessary.

My only complaint with the Eclipse comes with the styling, to some effect. Our tester had a huge rear spoiler that impressed the high school kids walking by the house. But I have always questioned the practicality of a rear spoiler on a front-drive car. Doesn't that defeat the purpose? In the case of the Eclipse, too, the spoiler blocks the middle of the rear window, so rearward visibility is compromised. Granted, I'm turning into a crotchety old man, but it seems to me that the driver would be better served if the spoiler was smaller.

Other than the minor complaint about the spoiler, I was pleased with the Eclipse GT. It performed well and was a blast to drive. Car prices have escalated so much in recent years that I really can't complain about the bottom line on the Eclipse, either. It's probably a bargain. Especially when you compare it with other luxury coupes that don't perform as well.