Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX (1999)

  Mitsubishi GSX

When the Mitsubishi Eclipse debuted in 1990, it was an impressive little sports car. It was quick, smooth, lightweight, highly stylish and relatively cheap--priced in the mid- to high teens.

But times change--particularly in the fickle and very fashion conscious sports car market. As new cars, like when the updated Ford Probe (may it rest in peace), the updated Honda Prelude and the Mercury Cougar came out, the Eclipse got passed by. And that's exactly where the Eclipse remains today--a magnificent sports car...for 1992. It's not a bad sports car for 1999, it's just no longer the stand out it was when it first appeared. And now, with all-wheel drive, it lists at over $26,000--so it's no longer a bargain either.

The 1999 Eclipse has changed little in the previous few years. It's still a pretty good car to drive. The four-cylinder, five-speed turbo-charged engine has plenty of power and acceleration. The Eclipse GSX also includes all-wheel drive, which gives the car additional grip, especially in bad weather. That's probably its most significant advantage over other, similar sporty coupes.

Of course, with a ground clearance of just five inches, it's not a car you ever want to take off road or through major snow banks. The Eclipse is still a low-slung sports car.

Driving Experience

The Eclipse has a sporty handling package, including a very firm suspension. It grips the road well, but we found the ride to be harsh at times--about what you would expect for a low-slung sports car but not our preference for daily driving. The braking is passable, with no significant lurching or diving.

Our model came with a few rattles. For example, in cold weather, the sunroof creaked a bit until it warmed up. Without having driven another Eclipse, we can't say for sure if our car had been brutally abused at the annual auto-writers' rally, or if it's typical of the Eclipses coming off the assembly line. Knowing our wacko colleagues, however, we'd have to give Mitsubishi the benefit of the doubt here and assume that it was driven hard in its early mileage.

Interior

Comfort is the short suit for the Eclipse. Nobody has ever found this car especially comfortable, and, unless you're a practicing contortionist, it's not very easy to enter and exit the Eclipse. You literally need to fold yourself in half, at the waist, and fall down inside the car. (Ray had to get his wife to compact him into the GSX with both legs. Fortunately, when he came home at night, Monique was thoughtful enough to be standing by with a grappling hook and forklift to assist in the extrication. As Ray noted, "Getting into a Gemini capsule would have been easier.") Although, to be fair, the same can be said of most similarly sized and styled cars.

Should you successfully make it into the GSX, you'll notice that there's still not a whole lot of room. Our producer Doug Berman's head touched the ceiling--and he's 5' 10" when standing over a heating vent.

Ergonomics

We found the ergonomics to be acceptable in the Eclipse. Once you're in,everything is pretty much within reach. Our tuchuses would like to take this opportunity to note that they were not particularly awed by the front seats. There are only a few adjustments possible, and the relative position is low, without much room to maneuver. This is a young person's car.

One minor ergonomic comment: you'll go nuts trying to reach the radio. Mitsubishi located it right in front of the shifter, so there's no way on earth to change stations when you're in first gear, and it's hard to see the radio most of the time. We'd vote for making the shifter about three inches shorter; we tried shifting from that position--there's still plenty of mechanical advantage, and it solves the ergonomic radio hassles.

Leg room is adequate for average-sized drivers like us, though we noticed that the steering wheel has limited adjustments. The back seats are those annoying "watermelon holders"--strictly space for in-laws, little kids, grocery bags and small pets. There's simply no room for an adult to sit comfortably in the back for more than a five-minute ride to the store. The rear seats do fold down, however, creating some storage space--but not a lot.

We noticed that the Eclipse has a fairly high noise level--both road noise and wind noise. It's a car for people who like the feel and sound of the road. And you'll feel and hear it, all right.

Visibility is not so great in this car. Because of the angle, or "front rake," of the roof and windshield, the driver is occasionally forced to duck down to see traffic lights when stopped at an intersection. In the back, visibility is even worse, due to the combination of the rake of the rear window, a high rear end, a spoiler and thick C pillars between the rear window and the passenger windows. Styling came first in designing this car, visibility second.

Reliability

The Eclipse comes with a turbo-powered four-cylinder engine, which we liked. There's no shortage of power, and the Eclipse should be okay to service...but there's a catch: you have to get the parts. In Ray's experience at the garage, it's been difficult to get parts for Mitsubishis,and they tend to be expensive, if only because there's not a huge aftermarket for Mitsubishi parts. Take a radiator, for example. For most cars, you could buy a radiator at a reasonable price at any number of locations. In the case of the Eclipse, however, you're going to have to go to the dealer for the part--which means you'll probably be paying off your credit card bill for a couple of months.

Maintenance

This is not a car we'd recommend for the do-it-yourselfer. The engine compartment leaves very little room in which to work. Save yourself the hassle and take this car to a garage or dealer when it comes time for maintenance and repairs. On the other hand, servicing looks pretty straightforward and uncomplicated on the Eclipse. We would expect reliability to be close to, or perhaps a bit below, average.

By the way, if you opt for the GSX all-wheel-drive model, you should expect to spend more money for repairs in general. Why? Because there are a bunch of additional parts, including a center differential and a set of drive axles in the back with constant velocity joints and boots. So, this car has--get this--eight CV joints, which could run into serious money if you had to replace any number of them at one time. Plus, like all four-wheel-drive vehicles, expect to cash in your stash of Cuban cigars if the transmission goes while you're still holding the title.

styling

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that's certainly true with the Eclipse. If you're a 25-year-old man, you'll probably find the Eclipse to be an awesome car. If you're a 33-year-old woman...it looks really dorky. To us, the Eclipse looks a little garish, a little over stylized--for example, there's that bulge on the hood that suggests there's too much power to be contained by the engine's metal covering. Is that designed to appeal to a 25-year-old boy, or what?

Then there's that enormous spoiler on the back. Whose idea was that? Didn't those go out with the Gremlin?

Overall comments

Overall, the Mitsubishi Eclipse is a pretty good performance car at a pretty good price. And the all-wheel drive still makes it unique in its class and gives it impressive road-holding abilities. But now that it's long in the tooth and high in the price range it has less appeal.We liked the smooth engine, the good handling and the fact that it's an all-wheel-drive sports car. The fact is, however, we've outgrown this car. It used to appeal to us when we were younger. These days, if were looking for an exciting, turbo-charged, good-handling, four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive car, we'd buy an Audi A4 1.8t for about the same money. But that may say more about us than it does about the Eclipse. If you're still a testosterone-crazed youth, you own at least one gold chain and you work at an auto parts store, well, then congratulations. Your car has just arrived.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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