2006 Eclipse GT leaves the competition in the dark
I had been looking forward to driving this car for long time; I had been following its progress since the concept car showed itself at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.
Then, last December, Mitsubishi Canada was kind enough to invite me to have a sneak peak at the production version of the Eclipse. To my delight, the design was very true to the concept car, and it looked fantastic, the only thing left was to drive one.
In the past, I have not had the best of experiences with Mitsubishi. The old Eclipse was too expensive for what it gave the customer and the competition had far better cars. The Diamante was ugly, expensive and didn't have enough power, and oh yes, the gap for a cassette player in the dashboard was just sad to see in a near-luxury car. And then there was the Galant, which, above all the things I disliked about it, it decided to break down on me.
The only decent Mitsubishi I had driven was the Lancer RalliArt. It was great; I was left dumb-founded as to how an affordable car from Mitsubishi can be this good. I liked the Lancer RalliArt so much, I am happy to call it the best car in its category; in fact it is better than cars costing a whole lot more.
So, now back to the new Eclipse, will it be like the Galant, or more like the Lancer?
That question got answered as soon as I headed down Matheson Blvd. towards the first set of lights. My instant reaction was, “Oh wow!” and I had a huge smile on my face, because this car is fast, really, really fast.
The Eclipse I drove was the GT model, with its 3.8 litre, V6 engine, which thanks to its intelligent valve timing system called MIVEC, produces a hefty 263 hp and 260 lb/ft of torque. Just as delightful is the six-speed gearbox that is not only nice to use, but also has such wonderful gear ratios that no matter what gear you are going for, the transition will be smooth, and the engine will have the appropriate grunt to fly you down the road.
This really came as a huge surprise, since I didn't think it would be as quick as it turned out to be. There is so much power available at all times, that no matter what speed you're doing, you put your foot down and it will just pick up and go. On top of all the speed, the sound is fantastic too. The only thing I loved about the old Eclipse was its junior Ferrari exhaust note. This time around, Mitsubishi has gone for a junior Aston Martin exhaust note, and it is fabulous. This car is so much fun to drive fast, you have to wonder not if, but when you'll get a speeding ticket, because you will. If you do get pulled over, just offer the officer a test drive and he'll understand.
So, what will she do? Just for the record, 0-100km/h comes in under six seconds, and top speed is limited to 220km/h. Trust me, it can head butt its way up there. Thankfully, the brakes are good enough to get you back down to sane speeds in a hurry.
So, the new Eclipse gets an A+ for power and performance, but what about the handling?
On that scorecard, it gets a very decent B. The chassis is good, but not great. It is not as stiff as that of a Mazda RX8. Plus the suspension set-up gives the car a hopped up stance, therefore leaving too much room in the wheel wells. On top of all that, Mitsubishi in its cash-stricken times has equipped the car with the cheapest rubber that can fit those wonderful 18” rims. Thus, the car likes to under-steer a lot. Since the Eclipse is the tuners favourite car, they'll sort it out in no time, at a considerable cost.
The tuners better leave the stereo alone though, ‘cause it is fantastic. The Rockford Fosgate sound system pumps out 650 watts with a 10-inch sub-woofer. That is plenty powerful enough, thanks.
The rest of the interior is pretty good too. It is comfortable, quiet when it needs to be, and well equipped. It looks good too. The only gripe I have is regarding some panel fittings and the cheapness of some materials used. However, I can forgive Mitsubishi on these very minor foibles, because they have put the money where it mattered — the driving ability.
This car is a joy to drive and in my mind, worth every penny. How many pennies, you ask?
A base Eclipse with the 2.4 litre, in-line four cylinder engine starts at $25,500. The Eclipse GT like the one I drove, with a manual gearbox is still a reasonable $33,000, and adding an automatic to that would bring the price up by $1,200. Trust me, its all money well spent, and if you don't believe me go for a test drive. You'll know soon enough.