1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse

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chicagotribune.com
The Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser deserve better.

There`s been so much attention given to such cars as Mazda`s Miata,Acura`s NSX and Dodge`s Stealth and Viper that this trio of sport coupes builtat the Diamond-Star plant in Normal haven`t received the kudos they deservesince first appearing in January 1989 as `90 models.

Eclipse, the Mitsubishi version of the Diamond-Star front-wheel-drivecoupes, is offered in five versions-base, GS, GS 16-valve, GS 16-valve turboand GSX 16-valve turbo with all-wheel drive.

Perhaps one reason the Eclipse doesn`t get attention is that there aretoo many models confusing potential buyers. We would suggest the base and GSmodels be dropped, to simplify the lineup in the mind of the consumer and tomake for easier and lower-cost assembly at the plant in Normal.

The Eclipse offers a single overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine in the baseand GS versions and the 16-valve with or without turbo in the other three.Offering just the 16-valve engine would make it easier for dealers andindependent mechanics to repair the cars and stock replacement parts.

The drawback to dropping cars or engines, of course, is that byeliminating the base and GS models and the cheaper engine, Mitsubishi alsowould be doing away with the lowest-price versions of Eclipse.

We test-drove the Eclipse GS 16-valve turbo, powered by a 2-liter, dualoverhead-cam 4-cylinder that develops 190 horsepower when teamed with thestandard 5-speed manual (or 180-h.p. with 4-speed automatic, available for thefirst time as a $780 option for 1991). The test car came with automatic.

We`ve long been impressed with the 2-liter 16-valve in the Diamond-Starcars, even without the turbo boost. The 135 h.p. in the non-turbo engineprovided more-than-adequate performance. Perhaps the engine won`t nudge youback in your bucket when you kick the pedal, but it won`t leave you standingat the line twiddling your thumbs while you inhale others` exhaust fumes,either.

The turbo-assisted version does have a kick to it. Get cloth seats andnot leather so you have an easier time prying yourself from the upholsteredchair once you`ve reached cruising speed. The 2-liter 4 is powerful yet quiet.There`s no noticeable turbo whine or whistle when the boost kicks in.

A welcome addition for `91 is the availability of optional antilock ABSbrakes ($924) to help bring the power under control when braking on slipperysurfaces.

The EPA rating for the 2-liter is 21 miles per gallon city/28 m.p.g.highway with five-speed, 19/23 with automatic.

Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering; sport-tunedsuspension with MacPherson struts, coil springs and front and rear stabilizer bars, plus 16-inch performance-rated steel-belted radials for exceptionalroad-holding ability; AM-FM stereo with cassette and clock; rear-windowdefroster/wiper/washer; dual power mirrors; tinted glass; cruise control;body-colored side moldings; popup headlamps; fog lamps; alloy wheels;intermittent wipers; floor mats; leather-wrapped and adjustable steeringwheel; rear spoiler; front-air dam; and remote hood/hatch/fuel door openers.

Base price is $15,099, but add $780 for automatic, $924 for antilockbrakes, $811 for air conditioning, $704 for a radio upgrade that includes discplayer, $444 for power windows and door locks, $163 for a security alarm and$343 for freight. Our test car stickered at $19,268. A popup and removablesunroof is a $366 option not on our test car.

There are a few annoyances. Eclipse is a hatchback coupe built on a 97.2- inch wheelbase and 170.5 inches long. Those small dimensions and the slantof the roof and hatch means back-seat room is abominable. You would be better off putting the rear-seat backs down and simply carrying cargo rather thantrying to squeeze in humans.

The safety-belt system is one of those automatic jobs that wraps around you when the key is turned on and then retracts when the key is turned off.An air bag would be preferred but isn`t offered.

The low-slung front air-dam with integrated fog lamps looks sporty. Those looks last only until you point the nose up an inclined driveway and listen asplastic scrapes against concrete or blacktop. (An Amazon Blue air dam losessome of its appeal when it looks like it fought a Veg-O-Matic and lost.)

As for the turbo, remember it requires a little TLC and demands youchange the engine oil and filter religiously to avoid problems.

In calendar 1990 Mitsubishi sold 49,500 Eclipses. It could have sold more under the agreed-to 50-50 split of production at the joint-venture Diamond-Star plant, if that split had been followed. (Chrysler gets more productionthan Mitsubishi). Still, Mitsubishi expects to sell 60,000 Eclipses in 1991.

Last week word got out that Chrysler and Mitsubishi may reach anagreement for the Japanese automaker to buy a larger stake, if not all, ofDiamond-Star. The sale would benefit cost-conscious Chrysler while givingMitsubishi a larger presence in the U.S. and increased capacity for its owncars. Mitsubishi still could build cars for Chrysler at the Diamond-Starplant.

Chrysler will hold its annual stockholders meeting in its Belvidereassembly plant May 16. With the speculation about Mitsubishi and hints that anannouncement could be made there that Chrysler`s new subcompact will be built at Belvidere, it should be lively.



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