2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P. Click image to enlarge
Competitors
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Honda Accord Coupe
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Hyundai Tiburon
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Mazda RX-8
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac G6 Coupe
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Solara Coupe

Manufacturer’s web site
Mitsubishi Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse

Ottawa, Ontario – Mitsubishi calls its Eclipse an attainable exotic. It’s a bold statement, considering the “exotic” label is generally reserved for cars that are expensive, exclusive and fast; the styling is usually sexy, the interior fitted and the car’s purpose singular.

Stretch the terms that define an exotic, though, and you could make a case for including the Eclipse.

This isn’t exactly a common car; during a week of tooling about town, I saw exactly one other Eclipse, coincidentally, in the same Rave Red Pearl paint my tester wore. It’s a new colour for 2008, and a great shade on a car that, thanks in part to its rarity, is quite striking in the flesh.

My tester, an Eclipse GT-P, is powered by Mitsubishi’s 3.8-litre V6. With 260 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, it’s a healthy engine; though strong when mated to an automatic transmission (as in the Galant sedan), the six-speed manual in my tester makes this motor come alive, despite tall gearing.

2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P. Click image to enlarge

This motor might even be too powerful, if the wheelspin and torque-steer that erupt in first and second gears is any indication. Punch the throttle in first and the traction control system struggles to keep the car pointing straight ahead; tie up the traction nanny and try the same trick and you get nothing but noise and a smoke show as the open diff routes the power to one wheel or the other.

In the past, high-end Eclipses (the Eclipse used to be sold here by Chrysler as the Eagle Talon) used all-wheel drive to route a turbocharged engine’s power to the road. That would be welcome here. Even a limited slip differential would help the traction deficit problem.

It isn’t until you get into third gear that you can count on drama-free acceleration at wide throttle openings. As a result, it’s in the higher gears that you get a true feel for this engine’s power. Cruising in sixth, you’ll rarely need to downshift more than one gear for passing manoeuvres. The engine doesn’t really come alive until after 3,000 rpm, but there’s useful torque available around 2,500 revs. Work the engine, and it returns the favour with a terrific exhaust note that sounds great at high engine speeds but is quiet enough at cruise to never get annoying.

2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P. Click image to enlarge

The manual transmission is a joy to use: shift action is light but precise, and the clutch is easy to modulate for smooth take-up. If the steering doesn’t transmit much road feel to the driver’s hands, it’s at least nicely weighted; the brakes are strong and, like the clutch, are easy to manipulate for smooth stops.

The Eclipse’s interior is snug, but comfortable. The front seats coddle, with useful side bolstering that helps occupants hang on in hard cornering, without making it a pain to get in and out of the car.

The standard sunroof erodes headroom, so this isn’t the car to take to the Mr. Big-and-Tall. Those of average height will be fine, though. As expected, the back seat is tiny and likely exists only so you don’t have to tell your insurance company you just bought a two-seater.

The trunk is little too, but fine for everyday stuff like a couple of gym bags or groceries; the subwoofer (it’s part of the Rockford-Fosgate stereo that’s standard in the GT-P) occupies some valuable real estate, but audiophiles will at least appreciate its contribution to the sound system. What they won’t appreciate is the stereo’s lack of an auxiliary input, a glaring omission in a car aimed at the iPod crowd.

The dash is stylish enough, and simple too, though a few parts-bin pieces stand out: the climate controls are straight out of the Galant and are decidedly unglamorous here. Materials are basic; everything is screwed together well, but there are a couple of curious panel fits, like where the door panel meets the A-pillar. The gauges are on the small side, but legible. Automatic climate control is a nice feature in a relatively inexpensive car, but it can be overzealous and the fan is loud.

2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P. Click image to enlarge

Small item storage is at a premium too. The large covered bin in the console and glovebox are it: there’s nowhere to stash a cell phone, and the door pockets are so small as to be almost pointless.

A fuel consumption gauge would be handy, though maybe it’s best there isn’t one. I wasn’t able to calculate my consumption, but the Eclipse GT-P’s EnerGuide ratings are 13.1 L/100 km (city) and 7.9 L/100 km (highway). This is a car that goads the right foot, however, and I was not immune.

On the road, the GT-P offers up a firm ride. Coupled with 18-inch wheels and low-profile tires, this means some rough going in a post-winter Ottawa, where potholes and frost heaves are the order of the day. When the road is smooth, however, so is the Eclipse, which feels stable and planted at speed, and its flat cornering attitude encourages freeway ramp antics. Road noise is pronounced at anything over 80 km/h, though.

2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P. Click image to enlarge

A major annoyance is the Eclipse’s massive turning circle; along with epic blind spots to the rear, it makes getting around in tight parking lots a nerve-wracking experience.

Despite its foibles, the GT-P is still a great deal at $35,893 (including freight), the only option being the $1,200 automatic transmission.

Three of the hallmarks of an exotic are speed, comfort and style. The Eclipse has them all and, like many exotics, forces its owners to accept a few idiosyncrasies. If the Eclipse is missing the cachet that makes it easier to deal with these faults in an exotic, it at least makes up for it with an attractive price-tag. And sometimes, what you really want is to be able to tell your friends you paid family-car money for a car that looks like a mid-life crisis special.

Pricing: 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P

Base price: $34,298
Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $ 1,495
Price as tested: $35,893
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT-P

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