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2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse review

September 5, 2005 12:00 PM EST | Coupes , Mitsubishi | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThe new Eclipse offers an appealing blend of touring car and sport coupe, all wrapped up in a sexy package. Worth a look if you want something more relaxed than the RSX or RX-8, more refined than the Mustang and more fun than the Accord coupe.

Torquey V6 with great exhaust note, outstanding seat comfort, nimble handling for a front-driver, stylish interior with simple controls and ample cargo space, exceptional Rockford Fosgate stereo.

Heavy for a sport coupe, sluggish four-cylinder engine, excessive torque-steer on GT, big turning radius, cramped backseat, no stability control.

What's New for 2006
The Eclipse returns for 2006 with a dramatic redesign.

When it debuted back in 1990, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was a feisty little sport coupe with a nimble chassis that could be had with a powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. The second generation, introduced in 1995, brought a bulbous yet eye-catching body while preserving the scrappy character. Another redesign in 2000 returned a more refined, though much softer sportster. While this Eclipse was a comfortable and fairly swift coupe, the entertainment quotient wasn't nearly as high as in the previous versions. The 2006 Eclipse looks a little like the second-generation car, a return to its roots. But the company hasn't come back to turbos or AWD. Instead, there's an even bigger V6 under the hood of GT models. It displaces 3.8 liters, same as in the Galant. Variable valve timing and lift results in considerably more horsepower, now rated at 263 at 5,750 rpm. Torque is up to 260 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm. The base GS model keeps last year's 2.4-liter inline four but picks up variable valve timing, which helps it to 162 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse moves to the Project America platform used for the Galant and Endeavor. It's a stiffer foundation, but the GT now tips the scales at about 3,500 pounds -- heavy for a sport coupe. The new chassis has a 0.8-inch-longer wheelbase and a 2.4-inch-wider track. A widened track is almost always good for handling, and inside the Eclipse, it opens up a couple extra inches of shoulder and hiproom. The old Eclipse had a mishmash interior loaded down with cheap plastics. In the new car, you can tell some thought went into the design. The cockpit has an attractive flowing dash, simple controls and better-than-expected materials. All in all, it's a stylish design and certainly the best interior of any Mitsubishi to date. The Eclipse is not a model athlete like the 350Z or RX-8, but turn onto a twisty road, and it's ready to run. However, with 62 percent of its weight up front, the coupe never turns in with the eagerness of most competitors. A mostly smooth ride makes the Eclipse an excellent candidate for a road trip, not something we can say of the RX-8 or Z. In low-adrenaline moments, the Eclipse rides more comfortably than the 350Z or RX-8, but its 40-foot turning radius wins it no fans in tight parking lots. The 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT is a huge improvement over its predecessor. It may not be as hard-core as Acura's RSX, Nissan's Z or Mazda's RX-8, or as fast as a Mustang GT, but it's way more fun than a Honda Accord Coupe and just as comfortable.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Eclipse is offered in two trim levels: GS and GT. Standard equipment on the GS includes power windows, mirrors and locks; keyless entry; cruise control; air conditioning; a height-adjustable driver seat; a CD player; alloy wheels; a spoiler and a split-folding rear seat. Next up is the GT, which in addition to more power, adds a compass display, a front strut tower bar and foglights. The GS can be upgraded with a power moonroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and steering wheel audio controls. Additional GT options include leather seating, automatic climate control and a power driver seat. Both models can upgrade to a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer.

Powertrains and Performance:
The GS model comes with a four-cylinder engine that displaces 2.4 liters and produces 162 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The GT model is equipped with a 3.8-liter V6 engine making 263 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The GS can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission with a sequential-shift Sportronic mode. The GT comes with a six-speed manual, with a five-speed Sportronic automatic optional.

Four-wheel disc antilock brakes, and side-impact and head curtain airbags are standard across the board. The GT also includes traction control, but stability control is not available on either model.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The stylish cockpit features a dash that flows in a soft wave. Although there are still some hard plastics here and there, materials quality is generally high with attractive metallic detailing and good-looking cloth upholstery. The gauges live in their own pods, and although the markings are smaller than we'd like, ice-blue backlighting makes everything crystal clear at night. For storage, you're limited to a center console container and a glovebox, but a sizable rear hatch gives the Eclipse edge over most coupes in its class. Huge C-pillars are an obstacle to rear visibility, and backseat passengers will find precious little space. The Rockford Fosgate audio system is buried in a pricey option package, but its sound quality is easily best-in-class. If you like deep, clean bass, it's a must-have.

Driving Impressions:
The new Eclipse's well-tuned suspension keeps it buttoned down in the turns despite its hefty curb weight and front-drive layout. It's not as athletic as the RSX, 350Z or RX-8, but it's still a lot of fun on a twisty back road. Like the Galant, it feels smaller the harder you push it. Plus, nimble handling doesn't come at the expense of smooth ride quality. The Eclipse curb weight taxes the base four-cylinder during passing maneuvers, but the gutsy V6 boasts plenty of power for most any situation.

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