Register now for free access to autonews.com - this week only.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse: GT Comfort Trumps Sportiness

At a glance:
LIKES
Attractive inside and out
Engine power and sound
Comfortable ride

DISLIKES
It's too heavy
Torque steer
Blind spot in back

OTHERS CONSIDERED
Nissan 350Z
Toyota Solara
Ford Mustang

The 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse
The latest-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse is still not a sports car, but is sporty due mainly to a torquey 263-hp, 260-lb-ft 3.8-liter V6. (The Eclipse's other engine is a 2.4-liter, 162-hp 162-lb-ft four-cylinder.) Unfortunately, for spirited driving the car is too heavy and the suspension can't control all that torque. It's more suited for comfort than tight handling, and the Eclipse is at its best while cruising.

Every tester on staff had similar opinions. "A V6 of nearly four liters is usually about torque more than hp," one senior staffer wrote. "Why have six speeds when the torque peaks at 4500 rpm? To prove it could be done without working at it, I drove 40 miles without topping 2500 rpm. You can shift it 1-3-6 and skip half the gears."

One tester at the track agreed: "Sixth gear, and to an extent even fifth, are almost useless even on the freeway. I use fourth gear to pass. This car does not need six speeds. I can cruise comfortably in fifth gear on the freeway."

Owners and one of our art staffers praised the car's shapely exterior, hailing the departure of the "ribs" that rippled across the flanks of the previous model. "The exterior is stunning," our artist said. "I don't think people will get sick of its styling for quite a while. The car drew lots of twisted-neck looks from other drivers. Mitsubishi will get some of its previous customers back, and they'll be satisfied." The stylish, comfortable interior impressed most of us. The snug-fitting, wraparound seats felt cozy and secure.

We did note elements of quality plastic and rubber, but also some cheap-feeling plastic. A huge subwoofer mounted in the trunk ate a significant portion of the already tiny space. And from the driver's seat, we found rearview visibility seriously limited. Most owners we heard from said as much but admitted they adjusted to it.

For its sticker, the Eclipse we tested came decently equipped. The $270 accessory package included an alloy fuel door and some trinkets. The $3,270 GT package added 18-inch wheels, leather seating surfaces (rather than full leather seats), a power sunroof, audio upgrades, auto air conditioning and alloy pedals. Traction control is standard, but stability and brake assist are not offered.

The V6 feels like it has a light flywheel, revving readily and with instant throttle response off idle. The car does produce a fair amount of wind noise on freeways, though, most of it apparently from the rear hatch. The suspension, for its part, provided decent road isolation on rougher surfaces.

We found the car produced a significant tendency to torque steer during straight-line acceleration, with one tester commenting, "It wandered (gently) all over the drag strip on acceleration; not straight-line stable with this torque steer. I can steer this car with the throttleŚin a straight line! Even in fourth gear I noticed torque steer on the drag strip if I looked for it. Throttle on/throttle off, the nose weaved around."

That straight line, however, delivered a fine 0-to-60-mph dash of 6.59 seconds. Previously tested, Volkswagen's 3.6-liter Passat posted 6.60 seconds, Audi's A6 scored a 6.56, and the Mustang GT did a 6.53. Through the slalom, in third gear with traction control off, the Eclipse didn't much like weaving around the cones under power; it understeered like mad. We had to turn the steering wheel quite a ways to get any response from the front end. On the skidpad, in third gear, we found a lot more of that understeer. Even holding the wheel steady and steering with the throttle, the front tires would still judder and grind; the car could seriously use a more aggressive tire.

The Eclipse is unique and good-looking, and overall it's a pleasant ride. But as one editor put it, "To get me interested again, either the car needs to go on a diet and pick up a high-revving engine (or a turbo again), or it needs to incorporate all-wheel-drive without gaining more weight."

OWNERS SAY...

When I first laid eyes on this vehicle, I knew I had to have one. The body style is beautiful, and this car gets a lot of stares. I like the 263-hp engine the most, but the Rockford Fosgate system sounds great and the terra-cotta-style interior makes it stand out even more. The only real complaint that I have is with the blind spots. The backseat is nonexistent, but that is expected. Overall I'm extremely satisfied. Anyone who wants a powerful, great-looking sports car should check out the Eclipse. Crystal Monroe, Westville, N.J.

I like the Eclipse for the styling, its fun-to-drive factor, and the comfortable interior. After 40 years of driving utilitarian cars, I decided to get something sporty, powerful and sexy, and the Eclipse has proven to be everything I wanted. I ruled out the Nissan 350Z because it wouldn't carry two sets of golf clubs; the Infiniti G35 cost a lot more; and the Toyota Solara wasn't wild and crazy enough for my second childhood. This car is responsive and powerful and the automatic is very smooth. The turning radius could be smaller, and its blind spots force you to depend on the rearview. Craig Lehman, Fresno, Calif.

There's no mistaking this car for anything but an Eclipse. The car handles really well, and the seats are comfortable, something I can attest to as I commute 80 miles every day. This car even goes well in the snow, which was surprising. I previously owned first- and second-generation Eclipses, but this fourth-gen is by far the best one yet. I don't dislike much with this Eclipse, but my wife says it should have better cupholders. Overall I say hats off to Mitsubishi for getting it right this time. Mark Healy, Newton, N.H.

The powerful drivetrain, great styling and value are the major attributes of the Eclipse. But pay attention when shifting. I have decades of manual shifting experience, and I still miss shifts in this car too often. It's easy to snag fourth when looking for sixth and, worse yet, second when you want fourth. Torque steer is very apparent, and there's quite a noticeable blind spot. Ken Stroup, Double Oak, Texas

VEHICLE SPECS AND ROAD-TEST DATA

MANUFACTURER info
Mitsubishi Motor North America Inc.
6400 W. Katella Ave.
Cypress CA 90630
Customer assistance: (800) 222-0037
Internet address: www.mitsubishicars.com
Country of origin: United States
Number of dealers: 540 (est.)
STICKER
Base (includes $595 delivery): $24,294
As tested: $27,964
Owners paid; average: $24,500 to $27,800; $26,266

OPTIONS AS TESTED
GT premium sport package, with leather seats, 18-inch wheels, sunroof, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio, auto a/c, auto-dim rearview mirror, power driver's seat, alloy pedals, heated front seats and mirrors ($3,270); accessory package, with alloy fuel door, wheel locks, cargo net and floor mat, sport floor mats ($270); premium paint ($130)

OTHER MAJOR OPTIONS
None

CHASSIS
Unibody two-door coupe

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase (in): 101.4
Track (in): 61.8 front, 61.8 rear
Length/width/height (in): 179.7/72.2/53.8
Curb weight/GVWR (lbs): 3545/4288

CAPACITIES
Fuel (gal): 17.7
Cargo (cu-ft): 15.7

ENGINE
Front-transverse 3.8-liter/233.6-cid sohc V6
Horsepower: 263 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 260 @ 4500 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel requirement: 91 octane

DRIVETRAIN
Front-wheel drive
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Final drive ratio: 3.238:1

SUSPENSION
Front: MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar
Rear: Multilink with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

BRAKES/WHEELS/TIRES
Discs front and rear, ABS
Aluminum 235/45R-18
Goodyear Eagle RS-A

STANDING-START ACCELERATION
0-60 mph: 6.59 sec
0-100 km/h (62.1 mph): 6.98 sec
0-quarter-mile: 14.96 sec @ 95.7 mph

ROLLING ACCELERATION
20-40 mph (first gear): 1.9 sec
40-60 mph (third gear): 3.7 sec
60-80 mph (third gear): 3.9 sec

BRAKING
60 mph-0: 130 ft

HANDLING
490-foot slalom: 42.5 mph
Lateral acceleration (200-foot skidpad): 0.80 g

INTERIOR NOISE (dBA)
Idle: 44
Full throttle: 82
Steady 60 mph: 66

FUEL MILEAGE
EPA combined: 21.17 mpg
AW overall: 21.23 mpg

TRUE COST TO OWN
Total: $53,214
Average cost per mile: $0.71

DEPRECIATION
After one year: $8,724
Five year total: $16,986

0

Shares

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Over the last few months, Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Newsletters