While sports coupes have largely fallen from fashion, the Mitsubishi Eclipse has retained an avid following, especially among youthful racer wanabees. Whether normally aspirated or turbocharged, front- or all-wheel-drive, the capable hatchback has been delivering road thrills for ten years! But after a decade, even the most exciting car gets tired. So the new millennium sees the arrival of an all new Eclipse! Does this mean ten more years of driving fun?
That will depend on whether 21st Century buyers embrace the changes that Mitsubishi has made in its most popular sporting model. Mitsubishi claims that the 2000 Eclipse is: ”...smarter, more substantial and more sophisticated, yet still hot looking and streetwise.”
And we must agree, that this longer, wider Eclipse, with two inches more wheelbase, is a very smart looking automobile, with or without a Celica-style rear wing.
In total it bears a strong resemblance to the company’s radical SST show car, which knocked ‘em dead on the 1998 auto show circuit, and looking back at the two preceding generations, shows the Eclipse design to certainly be more sophisticated. Because the new car is actually based on the latest Galant sedan. Assembled in the same Illinois plant as the Galant, the 2000 Eclipse shares not only the sedan’s basic platform, but its excellent suspension and drivetrains as well.
The top unit of which is this 3.0-liter single-overhead-cam V6, which delivers 205 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. The peaky turbo charged 4-banger that once propelled the top Eclipse is no more. The base powerplant is now a 2.4-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder with balance shafts that puts out a spirited 154 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque.
Buyers of either engine can choose between the slickest 5-speed manual that Mitsubishi has ever produced, or a 4-speed automatic transmission that can be equipped with manual override.
With V6 and short shift 5-speed, our GT-grade test car hits 60 in 7.6 seconds and finishes the 1/4-mile in 16 seconds at 90 miles-per-hour. About half-a-second slower than the last turbo Eclipse we tested. The V6 engine is strong and silky smooth, but lacks the hard-edged feel of the turbo-four. Diehard Eclipse fans may not like this, but it fits the more sophisticated attitude of the whole car.
Eclipse handling is more refined, too. The front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension rides softer than that of the previous car, yet also requires less work to go fast. A big jump in body rigidity means flatter cornering. Front plow is front driver moderate, and turn-in is as quick as ever. But steering feel seems less connected, more sedan-like than before. Not surprisingly, the 2000 Eclipse GT shows its best side on public roads, easily soaking up all sorts of bumps and potholes that would have made the old car a real handful.
Indeed it is more GT car than pure sports car and a better daily driver, but it’s still entertaining. Braking is by 4-wheel discs for our GT model, front discs and rear drums are standard on the RS and GS versions. ABS is optional in the GT. But we didn’t have ABS, and therefore experienced plenty of lockup on a hot, slick test track. Average stopping distance was 134 feet from 60. Certainly respectable, but a big increase over that of the old car. Fortunately, excellent pedal feel helped us maintain control. Our advice: order the ABS.
Along with all these new mechanical bits, comes a new, much more open cabin, as well, and a dash that is fresh, sleek, and efficient. We also like the stylish, yet still readable, instrument cluster layout, and the almost plush bucket seats that position you in easy reach of all important controls. A gain of 2 inches in wheelbase really pays off in front leg room.
Ventilation controls are super simple rotary switches, while the now higher placed audio system features large, well-marked switches and a clever, high-mounted display that lets you keep your eyes on station selection and the road.
Rear seat room leg room has increased too, but Eclipse is still a 2 plus 2, so fold the split seat backs for more cargo space. Which has also increased slightly, to 16.9 cubic-feet. The hatchback opening is large and the liftover lower than before.
But despite all these changes, Eclipse pricing has still stayed on the very affordable side of the performance market. The base 4-cylinder RS model starts at $18,132. Move up to the GS, and pay $19,482. While our GT test car starts at $20,622, and tops out at only $21,972 with options. That’s more than fair, for the elevated looks, performance, and comfort that the new Eclipse now offers.
Our friends at Automobile Magazine put it another way: “Eclipse drivers around the country will not know quite what to make of the new car at first. Like us, they’ll finally figure out that this coupe delivers what its dramatic styling promises: an up market driving experience.”
Indeed, a decade after its introduction, the 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse is a more mature, much more refined machine than ever before. But still a very capable performance coupe. In many ways it’s more a successor to the muscular 3000 GT than the previous Eclipse, and a great start to another ten years of Eclipse driving fun.
Engine: 3.0-Liter Sohc V6
Torque: 205 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 90 MPH
60-0 MPH: 134 Feet (w/out Abs)
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 28 MPG Highway