2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS Sport: Riding Home in a Winner
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Named for a legendary championship Thoroughbred, the Mitsubishi Eclipse has the horses to run with the sporty crowd and the looks to attract sporting car buyers.
The Eclipse was launched in 1989 for the 1990 model year and was named after the undefeated 18th-century racehorse (26 victories in 26 starts) remembered in the phrase "Eclipse first and the rest nowhere.” A phenomenal sire, some 95% of living Thoroughbreds can trace their direct tail-male line back to Eclipse. That first generation Eclipse (the car, not the horse) was also sold as the Eagle Talon and the Plymouth Laser, and in the ensuing years has gained a reputation for being a sporty, low-priced high-performance ride.
Nearing the end of its fourth generation, The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse now features an eye-catching "blackout" roof that is sandwiched between body-colored sheet metal and stretches from the sweeping A- to C-pillars, similar to its 1990 version. This year’s edition also has a lowered suspension of about half-an-inch, which creates a lower center of gravity and better road stickiness. Mitsubishi has also added a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free calling and the inclusion of a 12-volt accessory power outlet. In the GS Sport trim I tested, they improved the standard package to incorporate leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and side view mirrors, power driver seat, aluminum pedals, a strut tower brace, aluminum entrance sill and a cool chrome and clear lip spoiler.
In addition to those items, this year’s Eclipse Sport package includes 18-inch wheels, a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate® audio system and power sunroof.
Eclipse’s sculpted body fluidly forms the curvaceous athletic demeanor of this 3-door coupe, which is essentially a 2-door with a hatchback. Measuring 180.4 inches long, 72.2 inches wide and 53.2 inches high on a 101.4-inch wheelbase, the Eclipse has a curb weight of 3305 lbs. for the GS trims and 3609 lbs. for the GT model.
My test Sport was bathed in Rave Red paint, matched to a Dark Charcoal leather interior, and the exotic architecture is enhanced by that striking, sloping black roof with a boldly arcing roofline, flared fenders at all four corners, a shapely and pronounced rounded rear and blacked-out upper and lower grille sections. The exterior look is topped off by the integrated chrome and clear rear spoiler, dual exhaust outlets with polished exhaust tips, new Outlander HID projector-type headlamps and alloy wheels.
Power choices depend on the trim selected. GS and GS Sport models get the 2.4-liter MIVEC engine that provides 162hp and 162 lbs-ft of torque, while the GT model is powered by a 3.8-liter engine that pops 265 horses and 262 lbs-ft of torque. The smaller system uses unleaded regular and is EPA estimated at 20mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway, while the larger plant needs unleaded Premium fuel and is EPA rated at 17/25. My test Sport and its 2.4-liter powerplant earned an average of 25.6mpg in a week of mixed-use testing.
Showing excellent low-end torque, my test ride completed a zero-to-60mph dash in 9.1 seconds and navigated a quarter-mile in 16.8, while its more powerful brother, the GT, could make the sprint in 6.5 and complete the quarter in a shade over 15 seconds.
On the road, acceleration is attentive in all gears, but while it is a sporty car, it does not qualify as a sports car. A stiff chassis improves handling over the previous incarnation, but bumps and road imperfections are felt in the cabin – great for driver attentiveness, but not so much for comfort. There is some exciting torque steer exhibited and some choppiness is apparent, but the vehicle grips well with minimal yaw. The power assist rack-and-pinion steering is confident and the stopping power provided by 16-inch ventilated disc brakes with 4-channel, 4-sensor ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution is assertive. The cockpit was relatively noisy during acceleration, but quiet while cruising, while some tire whine can be heard.
Inside, there is a blend of tech and sportiness, enriched by leather, automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt steering wheel, lumbar support adjuster for the driver, aluminum scuff plates and a 9-speaker audio system with 10-inch subwoofer.
However, the cabin is more cozy than spacious with 38.5 inches of front headroom and a tight 34.6 inches in the rear seats; legroom goes 42.8 inches in row one and a cramped 29.2 in row two and shoulder room is 54.2 and 51.2.
Attending to safety, the 2011 Eclipse is endowed with such safety equipment as Active Stability Control and Traction Control Logic, an advanced dual front air bag supplemental restraint system, front seat mounted side-impact air bags and side curtain air bags. The coupe is also outfitted with an engine immobilizer anti-theft system and tire pressure monitoring system.
The Eclipse GS (2.4-liter engine) starts at $18,999 and the GT with the 3.8-liter engine is base priced at $29,089. My test GS-Sport was base priced at $24,928. The Sport Aero Kit added $999 and Destination and Handling was $795, for a sticker price of $26,722.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years. \
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Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
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