2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
A stylish, capable sport coupe.Sporty new roadster drops top in style.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse delivers just about everything we'd expect in a sub-$30,000 coupe: racy good looks, sporty handling, comfortable, feature-laden accommodations for driver and front passenger and a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines. Even the base engine can provide brisk acceleration, and both deliver good fuel economy.
The Eclipse coupe was all-new in 2006. Changes for 2007, beyond the introduction of the Eclipse Spyder (reviewed separately), are minimal. Yet the Eclipse is still new enough to be fresh. The front seats are roomier than in the pre-2006 models, and this latest-generation Eclipse represents an improvement stylistically. With more curves and better proportions, it turns heads more with a smile than with a frown.
The Eclipse coupe has four seat belts, but it's a classic 2+2. The back seat is only used as a last resort. But the same applies to sport coupes that cost three times as much, and this is a true coupe, rather than a sedan with its rear doors sealed shut and painted over.
As such, the Eclipse offers something increasingly rare in the new-car market: a reasonably priced, sporty alternative to the bevy of small sedans. Prices start under $20,000, and even the base model is well equipped. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder returns to the Mitsubishi lineup after a one-year hiatus as a 2007 model, with a full-power, convertible top that folds completely into a fully covered, self-closing bin. All with the driver doing nothing more than releasing a couple of latches and pushing a button.
The Spyder comes with a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines, each available with manual or automatic.
The Spyder offers all the pleasures of open-air motoring with few of the displeasures. The top, especially, is a quality structure. It's finished inside, with all the struts, pivots and bows hidden behind sound-deadening fabric. With it up, the interior feels and sounds much like the coupe, although perhaps a little claustrophobic. With it down, the steeply raked windshield pushes most of the air up and over the open cockpit, allowing almost-normal conversation; hats are just as essential for avoiding sunburn as for controlling wind-blown tresses.
Despite weighing about 200 pounds more than the coupe, due to bracing added in the conversion to a convertible, the Spyder gives up only one mile per gallon to the coupe in fuel economy in all but the top-level V6 with automatic, and that drops only two mpg and only in the highway estimate.
In pricing, the '07 Spyder actually costs less than its predecessor. The base GS model lists at $355 below the '05, the GT more than $2000 below the top '05 model, and both with more content.
Measured fun per dollar, the Eclipse Spyder is well worth a look for anyone shopping for a sporty convertible.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe comes with a 162-hp four-cylinder or a 263-hp V6, and both engines are offered with a manual or automatic transmission.
The GS ($19,699) is the entry-level model, powered by the four-cylinder with a standard five-speed manual. A four-speed Sportronic automatic is optional ($900). The GS comes with cloth upholstery and an impressive list of standard features, including air conditioning, cruise control, a 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, auto-off halogen headlamps, power windows, cruise control and a unique dash-top audio display with clock. The GS offers one major option grouping. The Sun & Sound Package ($1600) adds a power sunroof and 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo with six CD changer, a 10-inch, cargo area-mounted subwoofer and control switches on the steering wheel. GS buyers can also get a port-installed Accessory Package ($270), which adds an unpainted alloy fuel-filler door, wheel locks, cargo net, and cargo floor mat. Sunset Pearlescent paint is an option, too ($130).
The GT ($23,399) features the 263-hp V6 engine with six-speed manual transmission and standard fog lamps. A five-speed Sportronic automatic is optional ($900). New for 2007 is the GT Sun & Sound Package ($1600), identical in content to the GS Sun & Sound. The Premium Sport Package ($3270) includes the sunroof, Rockford Fosgate stereo, heated front seats with leather upholstery, automatic climate control and a power drivers seat.
Eclipse comes standard with front airbags, front side-impact airbags (for torso protection) and front-seat side curtain airbags (for head protection). The standard antilock brakes feature Electronic Brake-force Distribution, which balances front-rear brake application in emergency stops. The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is a two-door, four-seat roadster based on the latest Eclipse coupe.
The GS ($25,389) comes with a 162-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission ($900). Standard features include cloth upholstery; air conditioning; cruise control; the usual power accessories and fitments; tilt steering column; a premium, Rockford Fosgate, 650-watt stereo with AM/FM/MP3 capability connected to nine speakers and subwoofer; and 17-inch, flat-flanged, five-spoke, alloy wheels wearing all-season tires. The Leather Package ($980) adds leather-surfaced, heated front seats; heated outside mirrors; and a center-top dash display with ambient temperature and compass.
The GT ($28,269) comes with a 260-hp V6 with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic ($900). Standard upgrades on the GT are confined to the center-top dash display, an oversized exhaust tip and a red rocker cover on the engine. A Premium Package ($1730) adds leather-trimmed, heated front seats, automatic climate control, heated mirrors, six-way power driver's seat, rubber-nibbed, aluminum pedals, and flat-flanged, 18-inch, seven-spoke, alloy wheels with all-season tires. A wind deflector is also available.
Also offered on both GS and GT are two premium paint colors, Satin Mesei (visualize metallic green) and Sunset Pearlescent ($130), over and above the more traditional red, white, silver and black (blue is slated for late availability). Mitsubishi has signed off on three dealer-installed equipment packages (i.e., installation not included), as well. These are an aero kit, with front corner airdams, sport side sills and rear wake modifier ($1820); an accessory package, with alloy fuel door, wheel locks and floor mats ($179); and an appearance package comprising the aero kit and appearance package ($1999).
Safety features standard on both models include dual-stage front airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters, child safety seat anchors (LATCH) and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse has been popular with 20-something buyers for years, and the styling reflects this. Every piece of external metal is different than that used on the pre-2006 Eclipse, but there's no mistaking the current model for anything but an Eclipse.
The lines on this latest-generation Eclipse are softer than those of the previous-generation. Everything looks a little rounder. Headlight housings are not so angular, as if they'd been chopped out of the corner of the car. The lights are more eye-like, with the outer corner tugged gracefully back into the fender. The front end has been relaxed with the opening of a split grille, filled with recessed black honeycomb mesh, above the bumper. Fog lamps have been moved to the sides, into the bumper's bend beneath the headlights. Wheels are farther apart than in the previous-generation Eclipse, by more than two inches. It creates a more planted look, promising better stability when cornering.
The softer look continues in side profile. The A-pillar and C-pillar flow into the hood and trunk. Door panels tuck inward as they approach the B-pillar, giving the Eclipse what the stylists call a wasp-waist look. We'd call it corseted. The rocker panel bulge fills the lower portion of the doors, tying together the robustly blistered fenders. The rear wheel wells beg for larger tires, even on the GT.
As for the rear view, the word bulbous comes to mind. A minimalist, translucent-cum-three-dimensional plastic spoiler arcs across the liftgate between the clear-lensed taillights. The rear license plate fits in a recess in the fulsome rear fascia. A faux underbody airflow extractor panel fills the bottom quarter of the body-color fascia. From the rear, the GT is distinguished by a special exhaust tip.
The outside door handles are an awkward design that's likely to cost unwary drivers and passengers fingernails. If you loved the coupe, you'll like the convertible.
The front end of the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is identical to the 2006 Eclipse coupe. The split grille wears the Mitsubishi three-diamond emblem on its divider. Compound, projector-look, faux-HID (i.e., fronted by a blue-tint lens) headlights rest in notches cut into the leading curves of the fenders. A large air intake fills the lower half of the front bumper. Round fog lamps tuck into the corners beneath the headlights. The barest hint of a spoiler forms the bottom edge of the fascia between the air intake and the fog lamps.
Not surprisingly, the transformation of the coupe into a convertible alters the Spyder's side view most significantly, but not all that dramatically. The change is, in fact, less disruptive of the Eclipse's sleek lines than the chop job done to the Nissan 350Z in birthing that sports car's roadster. Most noticeable is the loss of the rear quarter window to an expanse of either black or gray fabric, depending on the body color ordered. The tires still look undersized for the wheel wells, especially in the rear, but the rocker panel-like swell across the lower portion of the door panel lightens the mid-body mass.
Lowering the top emphasizes the Spyder's wedge shape, with the fast windshield arching back over the front seat and the bulbous rear quarters seeming to rise up to fill in for the dropped top. The powered top disappears completely, collapsing into a well under a flush-fitting tonneau cover behind the rear seat. The process takes almost 20 seconds, but it's an easy process, with only a couple latches to release and a button to press. And once it's done, there's no cumbersome plastic cover that has to be wrestled into place to cover the folded top. Putting it up is just as slick, and again, without leaving behind a plastic cover that'll consume precious trunk space.
Out back, a translucent spoiler incorporating the high-mount stoplight arcs across the high rear decklid between clear-lens taillights. The license plate sits inside a cutout in the rear bumper beneath an embossed 'ECLIPSE.' A tiny red reflector is embedded in the lower corner at each end of a cutline running the width of the bumper above an extractor-like indent, through the right-hand end of which the exhaust exits.
The Eclipse cabin is austere by design, but hardly minimalist. Indeed, with the optional leather on the GT, the interior is warm and upscale. While a few small elements seem misplaced, the overall effect is attractive and functional.
The dash spans across the cabin in a single piece of pleasantly finished plastic. Visually, it moves away from the front passenger as it nears the door, adding a perception of roominess. Yet the lower portion of the right side of the dash subtly incorporates an anti-submarining knee bolster. The front airbag supplemental restraint is masked by a seamless surface.
Stereo and climate control knobs are finger friendly and easy to operate. The 650-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system is ticket fodder in jurisdictions where cops enforce vehicle-related noise ordinances. The 140-watt, six-speaker system that comes standard is no slouch, either, and saves a cubic foot or so that the premium system's 10-inch subwoofer occupies in the cargo area.
Atop the dash, above the center stack, sits Mitsubishi's trademark hooded panel with digital readouts for audio, time and compass. A matching, but larger hood shades the instruments. A simple, easily scanned analog cluster with speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and engine coolant temperature gauges sits directly in front of the driver. The Eclipse employs a unique approach to providing both miles per hour and kilometers per hour data, with mph on the speedometer's face and kph displayed digitally in a window along with the odometer and trip meter. Night-time instrument and dash lighting is tinted blue, which clashes with the dash-top LCD panel's opaque beige.
The center console differs between the manual transmissions and the Sportronic automatics. The manual setup sports a traditional look, with a leather-like boot around the shifter capped with a leather-wrapped knob rising out of a flush, bright-metallic surround.
The Sportronic goes techno, with a shift lever that appears to slide along and pivot on a shaft deep within a less-traditional, raised, tubular-like base. From the Drive position, pushing the lever to the right puts it into the Sportronic gate. From there, semi-manual shifting is intuitive: pushing it forward selects a higher gear, pulling it back, a lower gear. In terms of function, the arrangement works, but in form, it's less than satisfying.
The handbrake is correctly positioned, on the driver's side of the center console next to the shift lever. To its right is a pair of cup holders with a cover that folds down into the console toward the passenger side. Aft of this is a covered, reasonably deep storage bin, with an auxiliary power outlet and slots for toll change.
Front seats are comfortable, sufficiently bolstered for mildly spirited driving and adequately cushioned for a day-long, interstate drive from California's southern-most region up through its lush Central Valley to the state capital without numbing occupants' posteriors. The 2007 Eclipse provides more room, too, than the pre-'06 model for front-seat occupants. It's a combination of slight increases in key dimensions and design tricks that increase the feeling of spaciousness, and it's welcome.
Eclipse's frameless door windows drop fractionally to clear their seals when the door is opened and then re-seat when the door is closed. Their shape, however, necessitates a fixed quarter window toward the front to allow the main windows to retract fully into the door. This design moves the outside mirrors rearward, so the driver must consciously turn his or her head to the side to scan for overtaking traffic.
Rear-seat comfort does not exist here and there are no head restraints. The back seats are to be used almost never and then only for very short drives.
Interior door panels are swoopy, but mostly functional, with a good-sized handle and convenient, child-safe power window buttons. If only the latch lever were mor. Again, if the interior of the coupe worked for you, so will the interior of the convertible, as the two are identical, save for the switches at the base of the center stack that operate the top. Oh, yeah, and for the sad excuse for a back seat sized less for people than to make room for a space to store the folding top.
Front seats provide good support for lower back and thighs, as well as decent bolstering for keeping driver and passenger in their place during quick runs down winding roads. As mentioned, the less said about the rear seats the better, although we should in interest of thoroughness report the seat bottoms are deeply dished, while the seat backs are almost vertical, making for an included angle between the two planes of something less than 90 degrees. And then there's the subwoofer between the two seat forms that should deliver a good back massage when the stereo's cranked up.
Monitoring what's happening under the hood and beneath the tires is relatively easy, with large, round speedometer and tachometer framed by the top half of the steering wheel. The engine coolant and fuel level gauges, however, are buried down in the shadows in the lower, outboard corners of the instrument panel, forcing the driver consciously to look at and focus on them, instead of merely intuitively scanning them every few minutes.
Prizing function over flash, the center stack is nicely organized, topped by a hooded information display. Below in order are two of the dashboard's four, symmetrical vent registers; the CD/stereo control head; and the air conditioning panel, the latter two with mostly ergonomic buttons and knobs. We'd like larger radio station preset/CD selector buttons, but that's our only complaint in this area.
Storage is about par for what's effectively a two-plus-two sporty car. The glove box deceives, with a wide cover but a more limited inside. Door-mounted map pockets don't deserve the name, as they're barely adequate for a small notebook and so shallow it often falls out when you shut the door. A pair of basic cup holders fill the center console between the shift lever and a decently deep storage bin. The trunk space probably has enough room to hold not much more than Tiger Woods' very first set of golf clubs.
Visibility out the front is the best of all angles. Side windows are more chopped-top height than full size, with mirrors positioned back a ways from the front of the doors, to the point a driver has to turn the head to check neighboring lanes. The expanse of top material and the small rear window pretty well wipe out rear quarter vision, leaving sizable blind spots the speed cops will no doubt find to be perfect hiding places while they pace you.
The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse is more a touring coupe than a sports car, but it's more than happy to participate in some spirited driving. This coupe boasts a wider stance and more powerful engines than the pre-2006 Eclipse, but the size brings more weight, so it doesn't stretch the performance envelope much beyond its predecessor.
Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines are strong, though the four works best with the manual transmission, allowing the driver to more readily extract maximum acceleration. The V6 delivers more horsepower, but it also puts more weight over the Eclipse's front wheels.
In its quest for mass management, if not weight reduction, Mitsubishi tried something new with its six-speed manual transmission. By re-routing the power flow through the transmission's gears and shafts, effectively giving the incorporated center differential two final drive ratios (one for gears 1 - 4, the other for gears 5, 6 and reverse), it shrunk the unit's size. This makes for a more compact installation and lessens the GT's front-weight bias. Special treatment was given the GT's suspension, with a larger rear stabilizer bar countering stiffer front springs to maintain a more desirable roll center. There is also a cross bar that connects the front suspension towers, although the brace snakes through the engine compartment with enough bends and twists to invite doubt as to the extent of its contribution in the handling department.
In any case, Mitsubishi's variable valve timing system infuses both engines with a nice, even power band, meaning that acceleration-producing torque flows in steady fashion rather than peaky chunks. The Sportronic automatics work well, and we're particularly impressed with the five-speed automatic mated to the V6. It delivers smooth shifts and kicks down to pass with only slight hesitation. It delivers in manual mode, too, shifting neither up nor down at either extreme of the power band, but rather holding the selected gear per the driver's preference.
The manual shifter is precise enough to really work the lever and shift frequently, sports-car style. Curiously, however, the GT's six-speed manual registers a lower EPA-estimated fuel economy than the Sportronic.
The ride is smooth, about as expected in a car of this weight and dimensions. The GT's suspension is a smidgen better at keeping the driver informed as to how the tires are gripping. Directional stability is good, and handling is typical for a front-wheel-drive coupe: Under hard acceleration the steering wheel tugs to the right, albeit gently, and the harder the car is pushed in corners, the more it understeers. The GT's firmer suspension and the larger footprint from the optional 18-inch tires do tend to reduce this latter trait somewhat.
Wind noise is well managed, even at extra-legal interstate speeds.
Brakes are solid and mostly linear, with little of the annoying interference increasingly felt with the growing use of poorly coded electronic management software. Ah, a sunny day and a convertible. Wind in the hair. Mr. Sol scorching the forehead. Where's that hat when you need it, eh? All of which pretty much covers the pleasures that come with driving the 2007 Eclipse Spyder. Because like most convertible conversions, whether done in-house by the original manufacturer or by an aftermarket modifier, the Spyder trades a good measure of its ride and handling potential for the joys of open-air motoring.
Power-wise, the four-cylinder is competent, but sounds buzzy and low rent at idle and under hard acceleration. Cruising at highway speeds, however, it's more comfortable and relaxed, quieter, too. The V6 is the better choice in all regards, except, no surprise, price and mileage; it adds almost $3000 to the Spyder's window sticker and lops off as much as five miles per gallon in city driving and three mpg in highway driving from the four cylinder, according to the U.S. EPA's estimates. But it's significantly smoother under way and silky silent at idle, and its 98 horsepower and 96 pound-feet of torque over the four cylinder are a major step up in a car weighing close to two tons by the time a driver and passenger's mass is considered.
The shift lever, essential for managing the delivery of that power to the road, falls readily to hand, whether for the automatics or the manuals. Gear selection is more precise in the V6's close-gated six-speed manual than in the four-cylinder's five-speed, but both work well, with little of the rubbery feel so common with a front-wheel-drive layout. The automatics transmissions on both models offer a Sportronic mode that lets the driver shift manually. The slot for the manual mode is on the passenger's side of the shift gate, however, making for awkward up and down taps. Gear changes are quite properly more defined in Sportronic mode than in full automatic, but even then, they're well managed, with engine speed momentarily slowed by the electronics to soften the shifts. Mitsubishi's Sportronic holds the selected gear for as long as you want, a strategy enthusiasts prefer over manual modes that override the driver.
The brakes, vented discs in front and solid discs in back, do their job without fanfare or fuss, neither overwhelming in stopping power nor causing concern about fade. We wouldn't expect them to hold up to lap after high-speed lap of a race track, but for the style of motoring for which the Spyder is intended, they're more than up to the task.
The top is fully lined, which reduces traffic noise around town, and suffers only minor drumming at speed on the interstate. Top down, there's some buffeting that logically intensifies with speed, and conversation is more difficult, but not a strain; the wind blocker included in the Premium option package for the GT helps some, but not much. Even the stereo compensates, triggered to jack up the volume when the top is down. It's not as sophisticated as the system used in the 2006 Mazda Miata MX-5, which uses an equalizer actually to re-mix the stereo's output to overcome ambient noises unique to open convertibles, but we noticed a difference.
On smooth pavement, whether straight or winding, the Spyder is loads of fun. Yes, as a front-engine, front-drive car, it'll plow, or understeer (wants to go straight instead of turning), when carrying too much speed into a corner, but the wide track (the distance between the left and right tires) and large footprint from the low-profile tires keep this at a minimum. It has good directional stability and responds promptly to steering inputs, although the turning circle truly caught us unawares, forcing us to do a back-and-fill to manage a U-turn at more than one intersection after missing a turn. There's virtually no body lean in corners. And with the top down, you're sitting out there in the open, with nothing between you and the roadside vistas and scents and sounds.
Fresh from a complete redesign for 2006, the Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe delivers good looks and sporty transport with decent fuel mileage. It offers a bit more room for front passengers. Starting below $20,000 well equipped, the Eclipse offers an interesting alternative to the wide-array of front-drive sedans that crowd the market.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Northern California. The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is a fun car. If, that is, you accept it for what it is: a sporty, top-down tourer. But it's not a sports car, in the truest sense of the term. Accept that, and you can't go wrong.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from La Jolla, California.
Mitsubishi Eclipse GS ($19,699); Eclipse GT ($23,399). 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS (25,389); Eclipse Spyder GT ($28,289).
Normal, Illinois. Normal, Illinois.
Options As Tested
5-speed Sportronic Automatic ($900); Premium Sport Package ($3270) includes heated leather front seats, automatic air conditioning, sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat, heated outside mirrors, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo with subwoofer and steering wheel controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 18-inch alloy wheels and alloy pedals. four-speed automatic ($900); Leather Package ($980) includes leather front seating surfaces, heated seats, heated outside mirrors, center display with ambient temperature and compass.
Mitsubishi Eclipse GT ($23,399). 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS ($25,389).
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