One of the more talked about vehicles at the rally, besides the Ford GT40, was the Mitsubishi Eclipse. It was orange. Strike that. We were told not to call it orange but Sunset something or other. But man was it orange. In the early going of the morning the Eclipse was out on the track constantly and someone didn't listen to Mitsubishi's plea "not" to trash it on the track. The clutch was certainly feeling the effects of what I called the "yahoo" factor. I was pretty surprised at how some writers totally abused the cars. There was no lack of speed for me and I managed to bring all the cars back in one piece just fine. But you could smell the burning clutches of a number of cars.
The Eclipse definitely had some abuse and when I got it to the start light, first and second gear were a struggle. There was no quick launch that?s for sure. But once into third the Eclipse came to life. This is no muscle car. The 263 hp and 260 ft lb of torque come in a very smooth arc that feels more civil than mean. It was also the first FWD car I took out and the gigantic rubber on the wheels gave off fair amount of squeals in the corners even though I wasn?t pushing it fully (although still far faster than any street driver would ? hopefully). But there was absolutely no loss of control.
The ride was a blast but I wanted more quality time than a lap around the track where you?re focused more on the turns than the car you?re in. On the street the Eclipse delivers more smoothness through a quiet ride and tight turning. The car is positively glued to the pavement through the enormous tire and wheel package (did I mention that already?). The seating position slings you back into a cocoon like posture. But I?ll admit that I got used to it and it became very natural.
My route on the Wisconsin roads went slightly beyond the recommended one as I headed to the nearby highway where I could test out a ramp. By the time I merged with traffic the speed was already at highway levels and the acceleration was effortless. Without gauging the take-off ability because of the clutch, at least the rest of the range delivered.
But no write-up on the new Eclipse would be complete without commenting on the outrageous design. Those folks that say it doesn?t look like the concept are daft. The reason they?re called concepts is because they haven?t been taken on the road where the wild contours could cause driving problems. The Eclipse is still darn close to the concept?s looks and the interior is one of the coolest I?ve seen.
Suede two-tone seats scream sport and luxury and even the terra cotta color scheme looks good (I?d still go with black). The instruments look really tiny in pictures but with their blue-lit numbers they?re very easy to read. An insane Rockford Fosgate stereo system with 650 watts was in this GT model and it was loud, but had about 100 different settings for every music fan. I still think Mitsubishi missed the boat by not following Scion?s lead and letting customers do what they wanted with the stereo. But the system is integrated into the dash so customizing will not be easy.
I?ve always liked a hatch layout with coupes and my favorite car was the 1995 Ford Probe GT I had in college. The Eclipse?s cargo area had a large subwoofer integrated into it that wasn?t too obtrusive. But there was also a huge rise running across the cargo floor. It was there to accommodate the rear axle. I swear. So there won?t be a truly fold flat floor. But it probably wouldn?t prevent most daily uses. I was still shocked to see it there though.
The price point is going to hurt if it stays at $20K for the base 4 cylinder and $25K for the GT. But if you could get the loaded GT I was driving at the rally for $25K it would be worth it. Keep in mind these prices are right in line with the current, less intriguing Eclipse. I just don?t think anyone has priced one recently. They will now.