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By Jim Flammang
April 9, 2002
Vehicle Overview Except for new colors and a restyled emblem, little is new in 2002 for Mitsubishis sporty Eclipse coupe and convertible. Lighted vanity mirrors and a glove box lamp are now standard on the GS and GT editions.
After a decade on the market and a 1995 restyling, Mitsubishi redesigned its Eclipse hatchback sport coupe for 2000, making a V-6 engine available for the first time. A similarly styled Eclipse Spyder convertible became available a few months later as an early 2001 model. The Eclipse is 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-wheel-drive platform, but no styling details are shared.
The Eclipse convertible is offered in either the midrange GS or the top-of-the-line GT trim level. The Eclipse coupe also is available in GS or GT form, as well as a value-priced RS trim. The GT packs a V-6 engine, while a four-cylinder powers the RS and GS. Mitsubishi sold 53,217 coupes and 17,134 Spyders in the United States in 2001, according to Automotive News.
At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, Mitsubishi revealed redesigned 2003 models that will go on sale later in the year. Restyling is moderate in scope. Lead Designer Dan Sims says the new front fascia has borrowed heavily from the SST concept vehicle.
Exterior Bodyside and front-fascia gills, or strakes, are among the notable styling cues of the Eclipse series, which flaunts what Mitsubishi calls a geo-mechanical look that features arched lines for the hood, roof and rear end. Mitsubishi promotes the cars aggressive front end, muscular fender bulges and techno side strakes. By 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. A rear spoiler is standard on GS and GT models.
All Eclipses are 175.4 inches long on a 100.8-inch wheelbase. The coupe stands 51.6 inches tall, vs. the 52.8-inch height of the Spyder convertible, which has a power-operated fabric top with a glass back window and a defogger. Alloy wheels hold 15-inch tires on the RS, 16-inchers on GS models and 17-inch tires 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.
Interior The coupe and Spyder convertible seat four occupants, but the backseat is tight for adults. The coupes backseat folds to yield additional cargo space, while the convertible uses that volume for stowage of the fabric top. Cargo space in the coupe totals 16.9 cubic feet, and the convertible can hold only 7.2 cubic feet of luggage.
All models have standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a CD stereo system 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 GT models and the GS Spyder convertible. An optional GT Premium Package adds leather front seating surfaces, a 210-watt CD stereo, a security alarm, compass and other extras.
Under the Hood The RS and GS models pack a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is carried over from the prior Eclipse generation. The GTs power plant 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 with adaptive shift control is optional. The Sportronic Sequential-Shift automatic unit in GS and GT Eclipses has a separate gate to permit manual gear changes by tipping the shift lever. This permits the driver to either keep the transmission in a lower gear through a turn or make quick downshifts when approaching a corner.
Safety 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 when it is installed in cars with the Sportronic automatic transmission.
Driving Impressions Few moderately priced cars look sportier than the current Eclipse, which holds the road very well and eases through quick curves with confidence. Performance is fairly spirited and pleasantly eager, even with the four-cylinder engine and five-speed gearbox. Naturally, acceleration improves with a V-6 beneath the hood, but 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. The Eclipse doest have much suspension commotion down near the pavement, and engine sounds are subdued.
Headroom is somewhat limited in the coupe if a sunroof is installed. High windowsills make it difficult for the driver to hang one elbow out the window. Getting in and out of the Eclipse isnt easy. One oddity is that the clock/radio display is mounted on top of the dashboard, which is convenient for quick glances, but the 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 it hits the next bump. In fact, it delivers a highly enjoyable open-air driving experience.