Mitsubishi Eclipse grew up for 2006, losing some of its adolescent styling excess, gaining a little weight and sacrificing some sporty agility in favor of touring finesse.

Fortunately, age hasn't slowed the sports coupe, nor has time diminished its form. The growling V-6 engine still sparkles with power, fed through a six-speed manual transmission that snaps through the gears.

And Eclipse is more handsome than ever. All new for 2006, it boasts a sculpted shape that rolls gracefully from its low snout through its muscular haunches. The look is aggressive enough to appeal to young drivers yet refined enough that adults can feel age-appropriate behind the wheel.

This might seem like a retreat from the image that produced a 2001 starring role in The Fast and the Furious, a film that focused on the youthful world of sport-compact street racing. But Mitsubishi now has another car for those drivers, the frenetic Lancer Evolution, leaving Eclipse to move up in the food chain.

Broadening the audience for Eclipse, which was introduced in May, seems like a good plan for a troubled Mitsubishi, whose U.S. sales have sagged during the past few years despite a decent run of cars and SUVs. While Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru have been roaring with success, Mitsubishi has struggled with an unfocused image and some bad marketing decisions that continue to haunt the sales chart.

So there's a lot riding on Eclipse, the automaker's best-known product. There are some issues, but the appealing coupe's good looks and moderate price seem right on target.

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The lowdown

PERFORMANCE: For plenty of drivers, Eclipse's styling will be the main attraction, and the four-cylinder, 162-horsepower GS should fill the bill. But for those who want some muscle, the GT is the way to go.

The variable-cam V-6 pulls with authority, though the coupe's extra pounds blunt some of the power delivery. Acceleration is good, but a hard poke at the throttle also yanks the steering of this front-drive coupe.

Highway cruising is where Eclipse shines, relaxed at high speeds and with the power for passing and hills.

DRIVABILITY: That big V-6 is also a heavy unit, a cast-iron engine that makes Eclipse feel nose heavy in handling maneuvers. The steering is vague, and there's a strong tendency to understeer in turns, the car plowing ahead ponderously rather than nimbly responding to steering and throttle inputs.

The suspension provides a comfortable ride, though it can feel harsh on rough surfaces. There also is too much road and tire noise, even on rubberized asphalt.

STYLING: A beautiful rendition of the classic coupe form, with the sloping roofline and broad rear aspect looking sporty and purposeful. It still looks like an Eclipse but, thankfully, without the plastic side strakes or loopy contours of the previous model.

One clinker: The back is marred by a huge, ugly rear-window wiper. I'd rather have a dirty rear window.

INTERIOR: Although stylists toned down the exterior, the interior remains strikingly modern and sporty. Gauges are clear and the front seats are supportive, though the low roofline and scant legroom make the back seat about worthless.

BOTTOM LINE: The handsome, sporty coupe's moderate price makes it a good value, though Mitsubishi should tighten up the handling to make Eclipse perform as good as it looks.

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Vehicle type: Four-passenger, two-door coupe, front-wheel drive.

Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 263 horsepower at 5,750 rpm, 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Wheelbase: 101.4 inches.

Overall length: 179.7 inches.

Curb weight: 3,545 pounds.

EPA rating: 18 city, 27 highway.

Highs: Attractive styling, sharp interior, moderate price.

Lows: Ponderous handling, torque steer, road noise.


Base price: $23,699.

Price as tested: $27,834.


* Premium sport package, including leather seating, 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control, moon roof, 650-watt audio upgrade with 10-inch subwoofer and steering-wheel controls, power driver's seat and alloy pedals, $3,270.

* Accessory package, including alloy fuel door, wheel locks, cargo net, floor and cargo mats, $270.

* Shipping, $595.

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