By Jeremy Cato
The Eagle brand took flight from Canada and the United States in the late 1990s, but not before a second-generation version of the sporty Talon coupe arrived as a 1995 model.
Eagle, of course, was phased out by parent company Chrysler Corp. at about the same time Daimler-Benz AG came calling to talk about a merger or a takeover (depending on your perspective).
Nonetheless, the Talon from 1995-98 was one of the more interesting sports coupes on the market. For the record, this car was also sold in the U.S. as the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Eagle sold a base version with front-wheel drive, one powered by a smooth and pretty quick four-cylinder engine (140 horsepower). If you’re looking at one of these, you’ll find that the five-speed takes better advantage of this limited power than the four-speed automatic.
At the top of the range, Eagle had the 210 horsepower Talon TSi all-wheel drive (AWD). This was, and remains a serious screamer of a two-plus-two sports coupe. All versions have held up reasonably well on the quality front, though a comparable Toyota Celica or Honda Prelude of that era would be a more refined choice. Talon prices are affordable.
The Talon TSi’s Chrysler-built 2.0-litre turbocharged four-banger will have you hitting 100 kilometres/hour from a standing start in well under seven seconds. Be alert to turbo lag, though (that acceleration delay as exhaust spools up the turbo, force-feeding air into the combustion chamber). To pull you to a stop, the TSi came with strong four-wheel disc brakes, although anti-lock was optional.
The Talon is a nimble handler thanks to a stiff body structure that allows the suspension to do its work more effectively in controlling ride motions. Speaking of suspensions, the Talon’s is a four-wheel fully-independent double wishbone layout. Add a relatively wide track and the picture gets even more clear.
Now, the Talon is somewhat unusual in that it was available with power going to all four of its wheels thanks to an all-wheel-drive system with a centre differential and a viscous coupling. Grip is very good, cornering is tight and steering sharp.
On the down side, this is a noisy car. Road noise seeps in to noticeable levels on rough pavement and at high speeds. The Ride is also choppy and can get tiring unless you are a true enthusiast.
As for looks, the Talon boasts a round, daring design that has real presence. Inside, those up front have adequate room, but there’s not much to spare. The rear seat is for little people only. The dashboard is pretty user-friendly, but compared to the Prelude the Talon’s cockpit it is not very refined. For instance, the matte finish on the dashboard has a hard, rough appearance to it. Also, the centre-mounted stereo is too low.
At the rear you’ll find decent cargo space, though the liftover to load and unload is pretty tall. At least the rear seat back splits and folds flat to open up the cargo area.
The Talon is one of those unusual cars that might appeal to an real enthusiast – at least the TSi version. The base model might make for a good second commuter car.