1989 Eagle Summit

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chicagotribune.com
When Lee Iacocca kneels tonight to say his prayers, there should be a hosanna or two for Mitsubishi, the outfit that brought him the Eagle Summit.

One of the best cars in the Chrysler stable arrived compliments of its ties with the Japanese automaker. Chrysler imports the Summit from Mitsubishi.

The pair were to begin building the Summit and the Mitsubishi Mirage, the car from which it sprang, at the joint-venture Diamond-Star plant in Normal for the 1990 model year.

That program has been delayed until the 1991 model year because the Plymouth Laser, Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eagle Talon subcompact sport coupes built at Diamond-Star are in too high demand and too short supply to allow adding another model to the assembly line.

Diamond-Star has capacity for 240,000 cars annually, 300,000 with some minor modification and expansion, and that doesn`t allow for a Summit or Mirage right now.

Summit was to offer a four-wheel-drive version when it was added to Diamond-Star production. Those plans are on temporary hold. For now, Chrysler will continue to import the Summit from Mitsubishi.

The subcompact four-door Summit sedan is an offshoot of the four-door Mirage sedan. Basically, Summit and Mirage are the same car with different names.

Small cars typically are compromise vehicles, providing great mileage at a cost of sluggish performance and the inability to climb over a tar mark in the road without downshifting and ramming the accelerator into the firewall. Small also typically means cramped, allowing for munchkin-size occupants.

With the Summit you get attractive styling, above average mileage, roomy interior plus more than ample trunk capacity and a rather peppy engine. The compromise is in principle-to get a truly good small car, Chrysler had to go to Japan. Summit puts Omni/Horizon to shame.

Summit is offered in DL and luxury LX versions. We drove the latter. Built on a 96.7-inch wheelbase and 170.1 inches long, the stylish four-door sedan looks bigger than it is and feels bigger inside. Rear seat room is especially spacious.

The subcompact is powered by a 1.5-liter, 81 horsepower, four-cylinder, fuel-injected engine. A 16-valve 1.6-liter 4 is optional. A 5-speed transmission is standard, automatic a $682 option. Our car was equipped with a smooth shifting 5-speed, though the lever sometimes clattered between gears. Perhaps a loose cable, perhaps a cheap shift lever.

The 1.5 was surprisingly spirited for being able to develop only 81 horses. The 5-speed helped. We can only wonder what the pep would be with automatic. Chrysler will modify the engine for `90 to boost horsepower. The chief reason is to better accommodate automatic.

For top performance in the Summit line, an ES model with the 1.6-liter 16-valve engine and sports suspension will be added for 1990.

Standard equipment on the LX includes power brakes and steering, stainless steel exhaust, rear defroster, tinted glass, intermittent wipers, steel belted all-season radial tires (13-inch standard, 14-inch optional), digital clock, visor vanity mirror, bodyside moldings, wheel covers, velour seats and tilt wheel.

Among popular options, air runs $748, dual remote mirrors $49, AM/FM stereo radio with cassette $471, cruise control $211 and power windows/door locks $440.

Some other note worthy items on the Summit LX are automatic belts that fasten around the upper torso when the ignition key is turned on, a flip-down metal cupholder in the center console, a tiny coin holder built into the center console and individually folding rear seat backs to provide added stowage area.

The LX starts at a decent $10,639.

>> 1989 Eagle Summit Wheelbase: 96.7 inches Length: 170.1 inches Engine: 1.5 liter, 81 h.p., fourc ylinder Fuel economy: 29/35 m.p.g. Base price: $10,639 Strong point: Styling, roominess, peppiness, mileage Weak point: Little promotion, delayed U.S. manufacture >>


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