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Let's face it, a lot of the enjoyment we get from a sporty-looking car is that people look at us driving it. It's as American as apple pie to like to be seen tooling around in a cool new ride.
We won't speculate on why that's so (save that for Psychology Today), but it explains a great deal about the appeal of the 1997 Eagle Talon line-up, as well as its tribe of identical cousins from Mitsubishi, surname Eclipse. People on the sidewalk pick this smart-looking coupe out of traffic as it flies past--and since it's an Eagle-brand car from Chrysler, flying is, naturally, what it likes to do best.
Talons and Eclipses are built in Mitsubishi's factory in Normal, Illinois, sharing major sheetmetal and virtually identical interiors as well as subdural mechanical bits. Ob-servations made concerning the Talon, therefore, also apply to the Eclipse.
The Talon/Eclipse duo comprise a modern range of sporty cars that provide ample driving fun, with engine options from mild to wild--if your definition of mild power in a base model starts at a whacking 140 hp. Turbocharging and all-wheel-drive models add another order of magnitude to the driving excitement. And the Eclipse adds the option of a soft top, new to the lineup last year and available only in the Mitsubishi version.
These cars are way stylish and big fun to drive, even in entry-level form.
A sport coupe worth the name has got to put its power down effectively, and the Talon/Eclipse range proves it has the go-power to back up its aggressive styling statement.
The non-turbocharged 140-hp four-cylinder in the base cars is a terrific little engine that takes maximum advantage of the standard five-speed stick. Closet Andrettis will get an adrenaline rush from the excellent throttle response, especially from a standing start.
If you really want to light the afterburners, though, the turbocharged engine is the way to go, with a capital G. Allied with the all-wheel-drive system, this engine gives the Talon--or Eclipse--serious sports car capabilities, with grip to match.
This is a point-and-shoot kind of sporty car with the terrain-following confidence of a cruise missile. With four drive wheels all scrabbling for grip at the same time, the turbocharged engine making sweet music at full song, well, for the driving enthusiast, it just doesn't get much better. Especially for this kind of money.
Spirited driving, you ask? Positively angelic. Galvanizing handling prowess across the lineup is due to double-wishbone front arms with coil springs and shock absorbers and multi-links, coils, and shocks in the rear. All anchored to a chassis that's rigid enough to make it all work.
The Talon is low to the ground and handles crisply when engaged in high-speed transitions. The speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering is a bit numb of road feel but control authority is still first-class.
There are front-drive coupes that carve their way through corners with a little more authority--the new Honda Prelude comes to mind--but not many.
The Talon--and Eclipse--represent a lot of good times for a reasonable price, and deserve a test-drive if you're shopping in this segment. With assertive styling and superlative capability in a tidy package, the car is a fine alternative in personal sporty transportation that has the added dimension of dynamite good looks.
What we appreciate most is the effort to provide exciting value and performance to a wide spectrum of drivers. From a powerful normally aspirated four-cylinder engine to a turbocharged all-wheel-drive hot-rod, the Eagle Talon/Mitsubishi Eclipse show commendable dexterity.
Even in the base car, you always feel like you're piloting a more powerful, more expensive coupe. And you know you're lookin' good.
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