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This is neither the time nor the place to belabor Mitsubishi's struggles in the U.S. new car market. Suffice to say, if the discussion focuses on product, the company's problems seem overblown and surmountable.
The all-new 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse illustrates well this apparent conundrum. New all the way through, from the ground up and from front to rear, it's a strong statement of the company's commitment to its loyal owner base and its investment in the vital U.S. market.
The car's a worthy entry, too. New engines are more powerful yet efficient and are paired with new transmissions. The new body rides on a new platform. Altogether, it's a promising package. Driver and front passenger get more room.
Stylistically, it's a pleasant improvement over the previous-generation (pre-2006) models. Fewer straight lines and sharp angles, more curves and better proportions combine to turn heads more with a smile than with a frown.
The window sticker leaves a positive impression, too. The base 2006 Eclipse GS boasts a manufacturer's suggested retail price that's $300 less than the '05's MSRP. And the '06 boasts more standard equipment, in creature comfort, performance and safety features than the '05. Moreover, the new Eclipse GT starts at $450 less than the '05 GTS, the model with which it most directly compares, and which it easily outpaces in terms of power and features.
Clearly, Mitsubishi intends to stay around. And the new Eclipse will certainly help.
The all-new 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse boasts a wider stance and the engines are more powerful than before, but it's also a heavier car so it doesn't stretch the performance envelope much beyond its predecessor. The Eclipse is built on the Galant sedan platform and its expanded footprint brings added mass, making the Eclipse more of a touring coupe than a sports car.
Power has been increased for both of the Eclipse's engines. The V6 in the new 2006 Eclipse makes 53 more horsepower and 55 more pound-feet of torque than the '05 GTS did. The four-cylinder in the standard '06 model generates 15 more horsepower and 20 pound-feet more torque than last year's model, although the heavier '06 exacts a relatively bigger penalty in reduced agility.
In its quest for mass management, if not weight reduction, Mitsubishi tried something new with its six-speed manual transmission. By re-routing the power flow through the transmission's gears and shafts, effectively giving the incorporated center differential two final drive ratios (one for gears 1 - 4, the other for gears 5, 6 and reverse), it shrunk the unit's size, making for a more compact installation and lessening the new GT's front-weight bias. Special treatment was given the GT's suspension with a larger rear stabilizer bar countering stiffer front springs to maintain a more desirable roll center and the strut tower cross bar, although the latter snakes through the engine compartment with enough bends and twists to invite doubt as to the extent of its contribution in the handling department.
Most of this is invisible to the driver. There's a barely perceptible surge around 4000-4300 rpm in both engines as the respective variable-valve systems shift modes, but to the degree this is felt it's a small price to pay. The Sportronic automatic delivers smooth shifts and kicks down to pass with only slight hesitation. It delivers in manual mode, too, shifting neither up nor down at either extreme of the power band, but rather holding the selected gear per the driver's preference.
We didn't sample the manual transmissions, but Mitsubishi's track record leaves us confident they will not disappoint. Curiously, however, the GT's six-speed manual registers a lower EPA-estimated fuel economy than the Sportronic; Mitsubishi officials believe this is due to quirks in the government's fuel economy rating methodology and pledge to survey owners to obtain real-world data.
Ride is smooth, about as expected in a car of this weight and dimensions. The GT's suspension is a smidgen more communicative than the GS of the tires' interactions with the road. Directional stability is good. Handling is typical for a front-wheel-drive coupe: Under hard acceleration the steering wheel tugs to the right, albeit gently, and the harder the car is pushed in corners, the more it understeers. The GT's firmer suspension and the larger footprint from the optional tires do tend to reduce this latter trait somewhat. Wind noise is well managed, even at extra-legal interstate speeds. Brakes are solid and mostly linear, with little of the annoying interference increasingly felt with the growing use of poorly coded, electronic management applications.
The frameless door windows drop fractionally to clear their seals when the door is opened and then re-seat when the door is closed. To allow them to retract fully, however, necessitated designing a quarter window so the window's track would clear the door's forward perimeter. This pushed the outside mirrors a ways rearward, to the point drivers must consciously turn their head to the side to scan overtaking traffic and the like. The outside door handles are also an awkward design that's likely to cost unwary drivers and passengers more than a few fingernails.
The Rockford Fosgate sound system is ticket fodder in jurisdictions where cops enforce vehicle-related noise ordina
The 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse is truly new. It's roomier and should appeal to a wider audience, but it still delivers sporty transport and good looks.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Northern California.
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2012 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE$12,995 | 18,569 mi
2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse$10,995 | 43,106 mi
2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse$11,788 | 70,245 mi
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse$10,495 | 50,354 mi
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse$10,995 | 63,858 mi
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse$10,998 | 72,442 mi
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse$11,250 | 52,123 mi
2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse$13,987 | 63,921 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$5,970 | 100,640 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$7,798 | 77,562 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$7,990 | 86,295 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$8,495 | 120,248 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$8,500 | 62,751 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$8,690 | 96,320 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$9,049 | 74,520 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$9,995 | 87,208 mi
2008 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE$10,000 | 86,051 mi
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse$15,595 | 12,354 mi
2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse$6,995 | 105,667 mi
2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse$8,998 | 98,311 mi
2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse$10,999 | 58,426 mi
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2005 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE$7,900 | 67,256 mi
2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse$9,987 | 65,241 mi
2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse$5,990 | 82,100 mi
2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse$6,299 | 62,398 mi
2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse$7,995 | 72,312 mi