A car for all seasons and all reasons.
The 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse, which hit the market last month, comes in a variety of models that offers the choice of high mileage or high performance. And with an all-wheel-drive version you don't have to put it away when the snow flies.And it's the only car in the world that can boast "Imported from Illinois."
The Eclipse, built in Normal, Ill., first went on sale in January of 1989 as a 1990 model and basically has remained unchanged. For '95 it was time to tweak the sheet metal and update the technology.
Eclipse is offered in base RS ($14,000), GS ($16,500), GS-T ($20,000) and GSX ($22,000) versions. All boast of sporty design with decorative and/or functional hood bulges and rear-deck spoilers.
RS and GS are powered by a 2-liter, 140-horsepower, 16-valve, 4-cylinder, the GS-T and GSX by the same engine turbocharged to deliver 210 h.p. And the GSX comes with all-wheel-drive for firm footing at speed or in snow.
You get a smooth shifting, short throw 5-speed as standard, a 4-speed automatic as optional. The automatic tends to be a tad groany in the RS and GS, much quieter in the GS-T or GSX. But we suspect it's not that the 4-speed is more refined in the turbo models but that you don't have all that much time to listen to a groan before you are up to highway speeds once the turbo boost kicks in.
We tested the GS and GS-T. The GS is more softly sprung for everyday driving, the GS-T much firmer for the aggressive racer types. GS is the car for the person who wants the sports-car look without the intimidating sports-car performance, the GS-T for the person who wants both. The GS is for show, the GS-T for go. The GS is for straightaways, the GS-T for roads bearing lots of yellow road signs with bold black arrows pointing sharply left or right.
Dual air bags are standard in both, anti-lock brakes an option to keep the base price down. No firm prices as yet, but you can expect to spend $700 to $900 for ABS. Side-impact beams that meet 1997 standards and 5-mph bumpers that meet insurance company pleadings are standard.
Eclipse pre-'95 could be faulted for cramped quarters. Though attractive, the old version was a shade too tight for comfort. For 1995 the dimensions have changed. Overall length is 0.6 inch shorter, but the wheelbase was extended by 1.6 inches, to 98.8, and, more important, the width was expanded by 1.6 inches, to 68.3. The hood also was lowered to improve visibility, a major improvement because many Eclipse drivers find themselves sitting on their haunches to see over the raised dash and hood.
However, one problem wasn't resolved - pitiful rear seat room. For optimum driver/front seat passenger comfort, the front seats will be pushed back until they rest against the back seat or come within a millimeter of it. The rear seat is a concession to insurance companies, which tend to penalize two-seat sports cars with higher premiums. Those same insurance companies look the other way at 2-plus-2's, though the rear two is an aberration meant as a ledge for a bag or two of groceries or a duffle bag. At least the rear seat backs fold - as one piece in the RS, individually in all other models - to increase cargo room.
Front seats are wide and supportive. They feature a side wing adjustment handle. If that handle is twisted too much, however, the seat will allow only a size petite within its borders. Best you turn the adjuster handle to the wide open position and remove the handle and toss it in the glove box next to the owner's manual, where you are sure never to see it again.
Other nice touches include an expansive rear window to help spot approaching vehicles, and cupholders with cutouts to allow you to hold pop cans/bottles or coffee cups/mugs with handles.
The GS we drove came with 4-speed automatic, the GS-T with 5-speed manual. The turbocharged 2-liter in the GS-T has quicker off-the-line response, but you'll experience the traditional turbo lag, the split second wait after you kick the pedal and the boost kicks in.
The GS-T with its sports-tuned suspension (stiffer shocks and rear sway bar) and standard 16-inch tires sat flat over the serpentine roadway and the GS responded with body lean and sway and less ability to snap out of a turn. But, as we said, these are two different animals. The GS owner looks at the fuel gauge; the GS-T owner the speedometer.
The GS is available in an exterior color called Biscayne green, which looks a bit like split pea soup. The color elicited several wisecracks from members of the media association - perhaps a bit ironic coming from a group traveling under the acronym MAMA.
Mitsubishi says Eclipse will be offered in a convertible version by early 1996. Until the droptop is ready, you'll have to settle for a power sunroof, which probably will run about $750.
Mitsubishi said it can produce about 60,000 Eclipse and 60,000 Galant models at its Diamond-Star plant. When the convertible is ready, we suspect the Eclipse number will grow, the Galant total will shrink.