By Nauman Farooq
If, like me, you were a child of the 1990’s, and were into sports cars at the time, you probably lusted after the Mitsubishi Eclipse. First introduced as a 1990 model, this stylish two-door coupe came with jaw-dropping spec (at least, in the top trim), because the Eclipse was the first car in its class to offer all-wheel drive, which meant it handled well. It also was available with a turbocharged motor – which meant it was quick and fast. In short, it was a dream car that was also reasonably attainable.
Because pretty much anyone with a full-time job could afford one by financing or leasing it, the Eclipse sold really well. The money Mitsubishi made from it, encouraged them to work even harder on its replacement, which showed up in 1995. The second-generation Eclipse not only had more power and better handling, but had movie star looks – in fact, it got a starring role in the first Fast and the Furious movie, and was driven by the movie’s leading man, the late Paul Walker.
The third-act, was not the greatest – not even close! In the year 2000, Mitsubishi launched the third-gen Eclipse, and this car had a much softer set-up, had grown in size, and there was no option for a turbocharged or all-wheel drive model. Worse still, because it was built around the times when Mitsubishi had corporate ties with Chrysler, this third-gen Eclipse was jointly developed along with the Chrysler Sebring Coupe – oh dear!
Things got a lot better when the fourth-gen model showed up in 2006. While some say that this vehicle was a bit too big, and its styling was too cartoonish, plus there were still no turbo or all-wheel drive option, at least it came with what I say is the greatest mass produced V6 motor ever made (6G75 V6), and a wonderful six-speed manual gearbox. I have spent a lot of time with this model, and have enjoyed every minute with them. The combination of its beautifully tuned MIVEC-V6 motor with a sporty exhaust, meant that every time you got on the throttle, you would smile – I surely did!
The smiles came to an end in 2012, when Mitsubishi ended the production of the Eclipse Coupe and Spyder (convertible) model. It seemed then, that the Eclipse nameplate was gone forever!
Fast forward now to 2018, and the nameplate has returned, but with a wist! The Eclipse is no longer a sports car, it has now become a crossover – hence it is now aptly called the Eclipse Cross.
This move of naming a crossover an Eclipse, has angered a lot of Mitsubishi enthusiasts; but if you put that aside, how is the rest of the vehicle?
I recently spent an entire week with one, to see what its like!
While I was also not a fan of a crossover being called an Eclipse, I have been quite curious about it. It first got my attention at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, and then a week later saw one driving around in England – yes, I was noticing the Eclipse Cross while in the driver’s seat of a new Rolls-Royce Phantom!
So, a few weeks ago, I finally got behind the wheel of one – but trust me, I was worried before I started out. Why? Because not only is this a small crossover rather than a sports car, it has a small engine, and a CVT automatic gearbox – so things could go very wrong in terms of driving dynamics!
That engine, is a 1.5L, four-cylinder unit, that features turbocharging. Net output is 152 hp (which is not very high), but 184 lb-ft of torque (which is really good). Power goes to all-wheels (S-AWC = Super All Wheel Control) via a CVT (continuously variable transmission) transmission, which has eight-steps for its gear ratios. Launch it correctly, and it’ll sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds, while top speed is a respectable 190 km/h. So, while it is no powerhouse, it performs well – especially if the air is cool. On a hot day, the Eclipse Cross does feel some power drain, but in most cases, the performance is adequate.
The ride and handling is much more satisfying. Perhaps this crossover was given the name of a sports car because it can really handle the bends. The steering is delightful, just like pretty much every Mitsubishi I have ever driven, and the suspension soaks up the bumps well – in short, it is fun on a twisty back road.
It is also well made, the fit and finish was much better than I was expecting; and while the interior doesn’t have a unique gadget, it is well equipped.
I do wish it had a built-in navigation system (rather than an app which feeds off your data), and the touch-pad controller for the infotainment system (a tech it shares with Lexus models) is annoying to use on the go.
The cabin is fairly comfortable, as long as you’re seated in the front – the rear seats are neither comfortable to sit in, or very spacious. The trunk, despite the sloping roof, has a lot of room, and the load height is low, making access easy.
However, what grabbed my attention regarding the Eclipse Cross in the first place, was the styling, and I think it’ll grab others attention, too! Some say it looks like a Pontiac Aztek from the rear, but that is no bad thing. I think it looks funky, and would gladly drive one on a long-term, daily basis.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has a base price of $27,798 (plus all the usual dealer fees and taxes). While not expensive to buy, it does drink a bit more fuel compared to its competition – I averaged 9.6 L/100 km in my test cycle.
Overall, the Eclipse Cross is a fine vehicle, but I also wish Mitsubishi had called it something else. Let’s hope, the Eclipse sports car (and the 3000 GT) makes a comeback in the near future!