Mashing the accelerator pedal of the 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T is like taking a ride on Space Mountain at Walt Disney World. In creating the Eclipse GS-T, it is as if Mitsubishi engineers setout to build a sports coupe that emulated the
exhilarating feeling you get on the roller-coaster ride, that sends cars down and around the undulating track at breakneck speeds. I can't recall testing a sports coupe recently that held the road better and delivered such a solid blast of
performance. Now that Toyota's MR2 Turbo has been retired, the leader of the pack of high-performance sports coupes is the Mitsubishi Eclipse (and its clone, the Eagle Talon). The Eclipse GS-T stands head and shoulders above every rival in the small
sports coupe class. PERFORMANCE, HANDLING Mitsubishi offers four versions of the Eclipse. The least expensive, the RS and GS models, are outfitted with a Chrysler-built, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower. Mitsubishi and
Chrysler share technology and parts. Next up are the GS-T and all-wheel drive GSX models. They also are powered by a 2.0-liter engine, but it's a turbocharged unit made by Mitsubishi. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 16-valve, double-overhead cam
engine in the Eclipse GS-T makes 210 horsepower when it is bolted to a five-speed manual transmission. On models with an automatic transmission, horsepower is rated at 205. Motor Trend tested a five-speed GS-T and clocked a 0-to-60 time of 6.4 seconds. By
comparison, a Ford Probe GT, which has a V-6 but sells for less, makes the zero-to-60 mph run in 7.5 seconds. A Toyota Celica GT takes 8.4-seconds to reach 60 mph. Our white test car came with a smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox. Power is
delivered to the front wheels almost instantaneously, which is somewhat unusual for a turbocharged car. On some cars, it can take a second or two for the turbocharger - a pump driven by exhaust gasses leaving the engine - to wind up and begin pumping more
air and fuel into the engine. The Eclipse remains easy to control under hard acceleration. The four-wheel independent suspension system does an exemplary job of managing the engine's power as well as snuffing out road noise and the harshness of small
bumps. The GS-T comes with a strong set of four-wheel disc brakes; an anti-lock system is optional. The brakes grab hard and stop the car quickly. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is standard. The responsive steering system has a nicely
weighted feel, and it provides crisp, sharp cornering. FIT AND FINISH Even though our test GS-T sported an expensive admission price, you won't be able to fault it for lack of equipment or the way it was assembled. The GS-T comes standard with
nearly everything you could want. And our test car worked perfectly - there weren't any squeaks or rattles. The long list of standard features includes tilt wheel; power door
locks, seats, windows and mirrors; cruise control; alloy wheels; fog lights; and an eardrum-piercing, eight-speaker AM/FM cassette/CD player. You'll find it easy to get comfortable in the Eclipse's cloth-covered bucket seats, which are firm but offer
good support. You can drive the Eclipse on long trips and not feel fatigued. The driver's seat is adjustable in six directions. Most switches and buttons are easy to reach and use. But when the shifter is in third or fifth gear, it blocks access to
the radio. As with most other sport coupes in the Eclipse's class, room for rear passengers is very limited. However, the Eclipse offers generous cargo room when you fold the split rear seats forward. It's best to think of the Eclipse as a two-seater.
The Eclipse GS-T is a fast, fun-to-drive sports car. Its aggressive appearance isn't just for looks. The turbocharged model offers serious performance, and perhaps, the most fun you can have outside an amusement park.
Specifications: 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T Base price: $20,940. Safety: Dual air bags, side-impact protection, and front and rear crumple zones. Price as tested: $22,178. Incentives: $800 dealer rebate.
EPA rating: 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway. Truett's tip: The Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T is a remarkably quick, agile and well-made sports coupe.