Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

In the 90’s, the Mitsubishi Eclipse and its Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser derivatives acquired an almost cult-like following among the tuner crowd – particularly the all-wheel-drive turbocharged models. That, combined with Mitsubishi’s clever TV ad campaign which featured young, urban singles swaying to the rhythm of leading edge pop music, and starring roles for the Eclipse in “The Fast and the Furious”, propelled the Eclipse into a role as a poster car for fast lifestyles, fast cars, and youthful rebellion.

But times are changing: the ‘outlaw’ tuner culture is going mainstream, the 240SX, MX-6, Prelude and Celica are gone, and Mitsubishi is focusing on making profits, not niche cars (with the exception of the Evo IX).

Yes, the new, fourth generation Eclipse coupe is more powerful and offers striking and muscular new styling – but it’s also bigger, roomier, more comfortable, and shares a front-wheel-drive platform with the Galant and Endeavor. 2006 Eclipse owners no longer need spiky hair, a tight T-shirt, and a cheeky attitude to drive one.

The 2006 Eclipse’s styling is a derivative of Mitsubishi’s Concept-E show car first displayed at the Detroit auto shown in January, 2004. That car had more aggressive cab-forward styling, and a V6 engine in front and an electric motor at the rear (see Laurance Yap’s First-Drive report).

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

The production 2006 Eclipse isn’t quite as adventurous, but it does borrow the big curves of the concept car, particularly the protruding wheel arches, pinched waist, and rounded rump. Details like the chrome spoiler, chromed taillights, 18-inch (optional) alloys, alloy fuel cover, and stainless exhaust tip add a bit of flash.

By the way, a convertible Eclipse Spyder model will be coming in 2007, but there are no plans for a turbo or all-wheel-drive.

Two distinct models

As before, the 2006 Eclipse is offered with four and six cylinder engines. In the GS, the standard 2.4 litre 4 cylinder powerplant now has 162 horsepower, up from 147. In the GT, the new 3.8 litre V6 has 263 horsepower, a big boost from the previous 3.0 litre V6 with 200 horsepower. As well, torque has been bumped up from 205 foot pounds to 260.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS
2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS. Photo: Mitsubishi. Click image to enlarge

Both engines have the “Mitsubishi Innovative Variable timing and lift Electronic Control” (MIVEC) system, which features separate cam profiles for high and low engine speed modes, providing maximum and power and torque over a broader range of engine speeds. It’s new in the V6.

Four-cylinder Eclipse GS models have a standard five-speed manual or optional 4-speed Sportronic automatic transmission ($1,200), while six-cylinder Eclipse GT models offer a new 6-speed manual transmission or optional 5-speed automatic with Sportronic manual mode ($1,200).

Starting at $25,498, the GS includes a 140-watt Mitsubishi CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, 17-inch tires and five-spoke alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, rear spoiler, air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, keyless entry, 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support, manual 4-way adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, and 50/50 split fold-down rear seatbacks.

An optional “Sun & Sound Package” ($3,000) includes a one-touch power sunroof, 650 watt Rockford Fosgate 6-CD/MP3 audio system with 9 speakers and a 10-inch trunk-mounted subwoofer, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a centre LCD display for time, audio, temperature and compass.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

The V6 Eclipse GT starts at $32,998. In addition to the standard features on the GS, the GT adds the V6 engine and 6-speed manual transmission, vented disc brakes, traction control, front strut tower bar, front fog lamps, and centre audio display.

Options on the GT include a 5-speed automatic Sportronic transmission ($1,200), Sunset Pearlescent paint ($160); alloy fuel door ($200); stainless steel exhaust finisher ($251); and a “Premium Sport Package” for $4,200. This extensive package includes leather-suede front seats, automatic climate control, 650 watt Rockford Fosgate 6-CD/MP3 stereo with 9 speakers and 10-inch trunk-mounted subwoofer, 8-way power drivers seat with lumbar support, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, aluminum pedals, one-touch power sunroof with vent feature P235/45R-18 inch all-season tires and 18-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels.

My Eclipse GT equipped with all these options came to $37,809 plus Freight, A/C tax and local taxes. Last year’s Eclipse GT with the Premium Package was priced at $34,448, so there has been a price jump.


Interior impressions

The 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse is bigger than the 2005 model: 74 mm longer, 48 mm taller, 84 mm wider, with a wheelbase that is 15 mm longer. Though it’s larger, it couldn’t be described as roomy – just roomier. The front seats offer good headroom and legroom, though the optional sunroof reduces headroom by an inch.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

The two rear seats have some legroom rather than no legroom.
However, the new Eclipse is bigger and roomier than many of its competitors, such as the Acura RSX Type S, Hyundai Tiburon Tuscani, and the 2005 Toyota Celica GT-S.

The optional leather interior that’s part of the Premium Package is exceptionally attractive. The striking two-tone copper and white front seats include real suede, and they also include large side and shoulder bolsters for support when cornering.

The instrument panel has coordinated colours, black, copper, and grey with leather-wrapped steering wheel and a shift knob with orange stitching. The rear seats, however, are a monotone black colour.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Photo: Mitsubishi. Click image to enlarge

On the upper centre dash is a compass, clock, outside temperature gauge, and radio station selection. The optional 650 watt Rockford Fosgate stereo offers terrific sound and six levels of adjustment for the rear 10-inch subwoofer – it’s possible to shake the whole car and the car next to you with this woofer. I also liked the buttons for radio volume and station seek on the back of the steering wheel spokes where they are easy to reach without taking your hands off the wheel.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

The automatic climate control is effective in hot weather, and easy to operate, but I have one small complaint. The ‘A/C’ graphic turns with the dial, so it’s usually at a 45 degree angle when turned on. Other things I liked about the interior: seat heaters with two temperatures, two cupholders in the centre console, and a front storage bin with a 12 volt powerpoint for charging cell phones.

The Eclipse is probably the only sporty coupe to offer six standard airbags: two front, two side, and two curtain airbags.

With its pressurized gas springs, the rear hatch is easy to open, but the cargo area doesn’t have a flat floor because of a raised transverse cross member. As well, the big subwoofer on the left side takes up a quite a bit of space. Still, I was able to get my bicycle inside the cargo area and close the hatch with the split 50/50 rear seatbacks folded down. The hatch can be unlocked with the remote key fob.


Driving impressions

With its transversely mounted 3.8-litre, 60-degree, SOHC, 24-valve V6 engine, the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT has a front/rear weight distribution of 62/38. Despite the front weight bias, handling at speed is quite neutral, the body feels tight, and the suspension is firm yet surprisingly supple over bumps.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

This is an enjoyable car to drive, and much more refined than say an Acura RSX Type S – not to mention a lot more powerful. Partial credit for the good handling must go to the fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts with coil springs/rear multi-link) and the optional Goodyear Eagle RS-A 235/45R-18 inch tires. 225/50R17-inch all-season tires are standard on the GT.

With 263 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque going through the front wheels, I did experience torque-steer under hard acceleration. However, traction control is standard, and this will help in winter weather conditions. Good winter tires would be a big asset.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

At crusing speeds, the engine chugs along at just 2000 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear, and is very quiet. During acceleration, it emits a sporty burble, and thanks to its variable valve timing, it feels responsive in different rev ranges. The MIVEC system switches to a different cam profile at 4300 rpm, and that’s when you receive a boost in horsepower.

Fuel consumption figures of City: 13.3 L/100 km (21 mpg) and Hwy: 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg) with the V6 engine have increased by about 10% since last year – but that’s expected with such a large increase in horsepower.

I found the new 6-speed manual transmission easy to shift, and clutch pedal effort was low. The Eclipse’s power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering provided a good balance of boost and steering feel, but I was disappointed in the wide turning circle of 12.2 metres (40.0 ft.).

Standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS provide excellent stopping power for this 1608 kg (3545 lb) coupe.

The driver’s visibility is good to the front and sides, but the right-rear corner has a thick C-pillar which obstructs vision when lane-changing. However, the car’s standard rear wiper and defroster are very useful for clearing the rear window of condensation, heavy rain, accumulated dirt, ice, and snow.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT
Click image to enlarge

The 2006 Eclipse is available in eight exterior colours: Liquid Silver, Ultra Red, Pure Red, Titanium Pearl, Solid Black, Frost White Pearl, UV Blue and Sunset Pearlescent.


Competitors

With its big V6, the Eclipse ‘eclipses’ most other Japanese and German sporty coupes in horsepower and torque – but at close to $40,000 fully equipped, it’s getting a bit pricey. Only the 300 horsepower Mustang GT V8 offers more power in the two-door sporty coupe class.


Verdict

Bold and distinctive, both inside and out, the 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT offers impressive but refined performance that makes it an easy sporty coupe to live with on a daily basis.

The Eclipse is built in Normal, Illinois.


Technical Data: 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

Base price $32,998
Options $4,811 (Sunset Pearlescent paint $160; alloy fuel door $200; stainless steel exhaust finisher $251; Premium Sport Package $4,200: 650 watt Rockford Fosgate 6-CD/MP3-compatible audio system with 9 speakers, 10-inch trunk-mounted subwoofer, leather front seats, 8-Way (6-Power) adjustable front drivers seat with lumbar support, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, aluminum pedals, air conditioning with automatic front climate control, one-touch power sunroof with vent feature, auto dimming rear view mirror, 18-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels, P235/45R-18 tires).
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $38,904 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 4-passenger sport coupe/hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.8 litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves, variable valve timing
Horsepower 263 @ 5750 rpm
Torque 260 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual/5-speed automatic/Sportronic
Tires P235/45R18 Goodyear RS-A
Curb weight 1608 kg (3545 lb.)
Wheelbase 2575 mm (101.4 in.)
Length 4565 mm (179.7 in.)
Width 1835 mm (72.2 in.)
Height 1366 mm (53.8 in.)
Cargo capacity 445 litres (15.7 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.3 L/100 km (21 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 10 yrs/160,000 km

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