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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jul 11, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE FOURTH TIME IS THE CHARM By ROY NAKANO There was a time when the Mitsubishi Eclipse ruled the import tuner community with its turbocharged in-line four engine and all-wheel drive. Those were the first and second-generation Eclipses, which made up the third prong of the three-car sport compact kings of the 1990s - the others being the Honda Civic and Acura Integra. The third-generation Eclipse was no less successful, but it marked a turn to a more accessible design. Gone were the turbo-four and all-wheel drive (Mitsubishi's own Lancer Evolution VIII now carries the turbo-four and all-wheel drive torch for the car maker). In its place was an Eclipse better suited for day-to-day driving on real roads. Although the car was quite popular, some were less than enamored with the third-generation Eclipse's Gundam anime-inspired styling.

The new, forth-generation Eclipses maintains the drivability of its predecessor, while harkening back to the design of the first and second-generation Eclipse. Rather than going retro, however, the new Eclipse looks thoroughly modern. The new model has, arguably, the most beautiful shape and silhouette of any car in its sporty coupe class. Our test vehicle received a number of stares from passers by - and deservedly so. Every now and then, Mitsubishi comes up with some odd styling cues, but not here. This is, without question, the best-looking Eclipse ever - both inside and out.

On the inside, the Eclipse offers a good blend of high style and high-quality materials. "Our goal with the design was to create an attainable exotic," says Daniel Sims, general manager of Mitsubishi Design America, who led the Eclipse design team. "With the Eclipse interior, we wanted to create that 'wow' factor, so that the first time you look inside, you see it as an exotic machine." We think Mitsubishi succeeded. The interior exudes quality, and the design follows its own path - resisting the temptation to imitate. On the outside, details such as the translucent spoiler and sweeping signature C-pillar set this car apart from its competitors. The front end is not quite as stunning as the rear, but it's certainly not unattractive. On the contrary, it's a more pleasing design than any of its predecessors.

With 263 horse under its hood and 260 lbs feet of torque, this car has the moxie to back up its foxy figure. The only thing I yearned for was rear-wheel drive, which would have turned this car into the ultimate drifting machine. Even without it, however, this front-wheel driver managed the power quite competently. All-in-all, a nicely executed piece of work. Mitsubishi deserves to do well with this vehicle.

SIDEBAR COMMENT The best part of the Eclipse is the feeling of distinction it has. The new Mustang relies on its heritage and so does the Mitsubishi. Major styling cues are reminiscent of the second (and first) generation Eclipse. Those who enjoyed the earlier models will feel right at home in this. While this new design pays respect to its heritage, it also moves forward into the modern sports car world. As with nearly all cars, there are a few problematic issues. The visibility out the back is compromised by an awkward blind spot. The armrests are too low to be useful while holding the steering wheel. Rear seating is limited. A little more texture on some knobs would also facilitate their usage.

On the other hand, to become overwhelmed with any of the shortcomings of this car is to be oblivious to the fact that this is a fun driver. From the top-of-the-line model's throaty engine that packs a punch with its 263 horses and its Rockford Fosgate sound system, the Eclipse is bringing excitement back to the streets of America. The motor has enough grunt as it approaches redline to generate a fair dose of torque steer from this front driver. The transfer of power to the road is nevertheless a blast of exuberance. I did need to pay attention to what I was doing while shifting the six-speed as the torque can squirt the coupe off into an uncharted trajectory. Unquestionably, Mitsubishi understands our need for speed. I did reminisce over my years driving the first-generation model when it was released back in 1990. I spent hundreds of hours shooting through the canyons of Malibu. The mid-level GS model, while naturally aspirated, did have good handling and a decent five-speed that made it a pretty capable car even through the tighter twists and turns. The 2006 model just feels too portly to have that same demeanor. Today the primary focus of many manufacturers is on power rather than a balance of power and handling. A number of cars now have some staggering horsepower figures. As such, the Mitsubishi might have a tough time standing above the competition when comparing spec sheets. On its own merits, this Mitsubishi brings an effortless smile to my face, quirks and all. With a fun factor as high as this car provides I don't foresee the sun setting anytime soon for the Eclipse. - John Grafman

For more information on Mitsubishi cars, go to SPECIFICATIONS

Name of vehicle: 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

Price Base $23,699 As tested: 26,969 (includes GT Premium Sport Package: Leather front seating surfaces, 18-inch alloy wheels, one-touch power sunroof, 650 Watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers including a 10" subwoofer, AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD changer, digital signal processing, steering wheel audio controls, auto air conditioning, electrochromic rearview mirror, six-way power driver's seat, alloy pedals, heated front seats and heated door mirrors).

Engine type: 3.8-liter SOHC, 24-valve MIVEC V6 Horsepower: 263 at 5750 rpm

Torque: 260 ft-lbs. at 4500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission

Drive configuration: Frontl-wheel drive Suspension Front: Independent MacPherson strut with offset coil springs and stabilizer bar Rear: Independent multi-link with coil springs and stabilizer bar

Exterior Length: 179.7 in. Width: 72.2 in. Height: 53.8 in. Wheel Base: 101.4 in. Turning Circle: 40 ft. Curb Weight: 3545 lbs. Interior Front/Rear Head Room: 38.5/34.6 in. Front/Rear Hip Room: 53.7/44.4 in. Front/Rear Shoulder Room: 54.2/51.2 in. Front/Rear Leg Room: 42.8/29.2 in. Fuel Data Fuel Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.7 gal. EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway) Manual: 18 mpg / 27 mpg

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