Review and photos by
Peter Bleakney, CanadianDriver.com
The last Mitsubishi Eclipse I drove was a 2008 Spyder GT-P ($35,998 for 2011), and I will confess I didn’t like it much. It had a terrifically lusty 265-hp 3.8-litre V6 engine and lovely six-speed gearbox, but it suffered from front-wheel spin, torque-steer and way too much torsional flexing in the body structure.
So when the 162-hp four-cylinder 2011 Eclipse GS Coupe ($24,498 base) showed up at my door, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
In a nutshell, it’s an about-face from the Spyder GT-P – a good front-drive chassis in search of a better motor.
So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. The 2.4-litre SOHC 16-valve MIVEC four is a coarse and unpleasant sounding lump right from idle to the strained 6,500 rpm redline. To be fair (and I’m being charitable here), it gets the job done. It has a fairly broad torque curve (peak 162 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm) and decent throttle response. While no powerhouse, the car never felt flat-footed.
For 2011, the Eclipse GS sits 15 mm closer to the ground and rides on standard 18-inch ten-spoke alloys wearing 235/45 Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season rubber. These upgrades go a long way in giving the already striking Eclipse a better stance, and its J-Lo butt seems less pronounced with the wheel wells filled. The car also gets dual exhausts this year.
What surprised me was how capable and balanced this front-driver feels. It’s truly a fun car to toss about. The rigid structure and lighter four-cylinder engine certainly play into this.
First on the menu is great steering feel – a quality that is harder to find these days with the adoption of the more efficient electric (vs hydraulic) steering systems. This hydraulic helm is direct, well weighted and linear. However, a large turning circle limits manoeuvrability in tight spots.
Dive into a bend and the Eclipse GS tracks with unerring resolution – there is little body roll and you have to push pretty hard to find understeer. The icing of the cake is a well-judged ride. It’s sport car firm but never harsh.
The brakes feel strong with good pedal feel too.
A driver’s car is only as good as its office, and here the Eclipse has its ducks in order. These heated four-way manual fabric seats are excellent – deeply contoured and comfortable, and height-adjustable by an accurate vernier dial. While the steering wheel only tilts, I found it easy to find a good driving position with all the major controls falling easily to hand.
On the down side, the clutch take-up isn’t the smoothest and the pedals aren’t set up well for heel-and-toe action.
A Sportronic 4-speed automatic transmission costs $1200.
The Eclipse’s cabin may not worry anyone at Audi, but I did like its simple layout featuring large, well-marked and easily decipherable controls, another rarity in cars these days. The expansive dashtop is soft-touch plastic but the rest of the interior is the hard, cheap stuff. Manual climate control, auxiliary audio jack, cruise control, electronic traction and stability control are standard in the GS.
Ergonomic foibles include door armrests that are too low, a dash-top digital readout for time, temperature, compass and audio info that disappears in bright sunlight, and seats that don’t return to your preset rake when flipped forward. This latter (largely Asian) violation drives me absolutely bananas. Puleeeze, take apart a VW seat and see how they do it.
As might be expected in a low-slung coupe, rear visibility is compromised and the back seats are best suited for smaller humans. With the rear seats flipped down, the hatch offers a useful 445 litres (15.7 cu. ft.).
I suspect most buyers of the Eclipse Coupe will spring for the Sun and Sound package, which for $3,300 offers a pretty substantial upgrade count: power sliding glass sunroof with sunshade, 650-Watt Rockford Fosgate Audio System (nine speakers including 10-inch subwoofer), AM/FM/six-disc in-dash changer and digital signal processing, steering wheel audio controls, centre audio display with outside temperature and compass and clock, auto dimming rear-view mirror, Sirius satellite radio with six months complimentary service, Bluetooth and rear-view camera with a display in the rear-view mirror.
The Rockford Fosgate system can certainly annoy your neighbours, but the sound quality is sub par. It is, however, an effective way to mask the sound of the engine. Lesser of two evils, I guess.
Official fuel consumption for the Eclipse Coupe GS manual is 10.6 L/100 km city and 7.3 L/100 km highway. I came in at 10.5 L/100 km over a week of mixed driving.
Mitsubishi offers a very attractive warranty: 5 year/100,000 km basic, 10 year/160,000 km powertrain, and 5 year/unlimited km roadside assistance.
So the 2011 Eclipse Coupe GS offer comfort, good handling, decent economy and a nasty engine in a show-car body.
The biggest threat to Mitsu’s sport coupe comes from Hyundai in the form of the rear-drive Genesis 2.0T Coupe: six-speed manual, 210 turbo-charged horses, Bluetooth and USB, great rear-drive chassis and a better interior. All for $24,495. Oh boy.
Pricing: 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Coupe GS
Base price: $24,498
Options: $3,300 (Sun and Sound Package $3300 – power sliding glass sunroof with sunshade, 650 Watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, nine speakers including 10-inch subwoofer, AM/FM/six-disc in-dash changer and digital signal processing, steering wheel audio controls, centre audio display with outside temperature and compass and clock, auto dimming rear-view mirror, Sirius satellite radio with six months complimentary service, Bluetooth and rear-view camera with a display in the rear-view mirror)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $29,248
2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
2011 Nissan Altima Coupe
Crash test results