After a decade on the U.S. market and a 1995 restyling, Mitsubishi redesigned its Eclipse sport coupe for 2000, making a V-6 engine available for the first time. Changes are few in the models second season in its new form, but a similarly styled Spyder convertible became available as an early 2001 model. As before, Eclipses are built at a plant in Normal, Ill., which also has turned out the Galant sedan. In fact, the sporty Eclipse is based on the Galants front-drive platform, but no styling details are shared.
Rear child-seat anchors have been installed in all coupes. Both the GS and GT gain a standard rear spoiler for 2001. A new Sun and Sound Package includes a power sunroof and premium stereo system. For the GT coupe, a Premium Package also adds leather-trimmed upholstery, an eight-way power drivers seat, in-dash four-CD changer, antilock brakes and side-impact airbags.
The Eclipse comes as a hatchback coupe and Spyder convertible. Both are offered in midrange GS or top-of-the-line GT trim, along with a value-priced RS coupe. GT models have a V-6 engine vs. four-cylinder power for the RS and GS. Mitsubishi sold 57,349 coupes and 13,958 Spyders in the United States during 2000, according to Automotive News.
Bodyside and front-fascia gills, or strakes, are among the notable styling cues of the Eclipse series, which displays what Mitsubishi calls a geo-mechanical look and features arched lines for the hood, roof and rear end. By their definition, an Eclipse emphatically evokes the human/mechanical interaction between the driver and the car. A folded crease is prominent at the bodys hip line, and flat surfaces surround the wheel wells in an attempt to make the Eclipse look unlike any other car.
Spyder convertibles have a power-operated fabric top with a glass back window and a defogger. Alloy wheels holds 15-inch tires on the RS, 16-inchers on GS models and 17-inch rubbers on the GT coupe and convertible. Lower-body skirts help identify the GT models, which are equipped with all-disc brakes rather than front discs and rear drums like on other Eclipses. RS models have a front stabilizer bar, while the GS and GT include a rear stabilizer bar.
Both the coupe and Spyder convertible seat four, though the backseat is tight for adults. The coupes backseat folds to yield additional cargo space, but the convertible needs that volume for stowage of the fabric top.
All models have air conditioning, a CD stereo system, power windows and locks, and an engine immobilizer anti-theft system. The GS has cruise control, remote keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and split, folding rear seats. Extra features on the GT include a cargo area light, Premium Sport fabric upholstery and integrated fog lights. Leather upholstery is optional for both the GT models and the GS Spyder convertible.
Under the Hood
The RS and GS models come with a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, carried over from the prior Eclipse generation. The GTs powerplant is a 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 200 hp. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard on all models, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The Sportronic Sequential Shift automatic unit on GS and GT Eclipses has a separate gate to permit manual gear changes. This permits the driver to keep the transmission in a lower gear through a turn or to make quick downshifts when approaching a corner.
Side-impact airbags are available only as part of the optional Premium Package and only for the Eclipse GT coupe and convertible. This package also includes antilock brakes and traction control for cars with the automatic transmission.
Few cars look sportier than the current Eclipse, which holds the road very well and eases through quick curves with confidence. Performance is fairly spirited or to some, pleasantly eager if not truly potent even with the four-cylinder engine and five-speed gearbox. Naturally, acceleration improves with a V-6 beneath the hood, though the front end of that model seems a trifle heavy. Even so, it yields some smooth reactions on the road with taut and accurate steering and a natural feel.
Though its not gentle, the ride is excellent. Devoid of much suspension commotion down near the pavement, the engine sounds are subdued.
Headroom is somewhat limited if a sunroof is installed. High window sills make it difficult for the driver to hang one elbow out the window. Getting in and out of an Eclipse isnt easy, either. One oddity is that the radio/clock display is mounted atop the dashboard better for quick glances though controls are positioned farther down.
This generations Spyder convertible is substantially more solid and tighter than its predecessor. Built originally as a convertible rather than a transformed steel-roofed coupe, the Spyder no longer feels as if its about to lose some parts when hitting the next bump. In fact, it delivers a highly enjoyable open-air driving experience.