Since 1990, the Eclipse has delivered edgy styling and quick performance at bargain prices. The 1995 redesign improved on this idea and last year, the Eclipse got another makeover - complete with enhanced four-cylinder engine performance, sophisticated technology and a new image.
Mitsubishi calls the Eclipse's styling "geo-mechanical," with an unbroken roof arch, a swell in the hood that rolls across the upper fenders, a lateral accent line and ribbed contours in its doors and front fascia. The spoiler that reminds us of the St. Louis Gateway Arch is now standard.
Inside, styling is one part futuristic and two parts sporty with a dash of luxury sprinkled in. Featuring a twin-cockpit design, the interior is symmetrical and functional, with some components appearing melded into the dash while others protrude aggressively. Materials include soft-touch appointments with titanium-finish details that look rather cheap.
The Eclipse is offered in three trim levels -- RS, GS and GT. The base four-cylinder engine found in the RS and GS models displaces 2.4 liters and produces 155 horsepower. The GT model comes equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 engine making 205 horsepower that offers increased responsiveness to throttle input. The turbo engine has been dropped in favor of the more refined V6. Regardless of engine selection, a five-speed manual transmission is standard fare. For those desiring an automatic tranny, Mitsubishi offers a four-speed automatic with "learned control" that tailors its shifting characteristics to the driver's style, or a Sportronic automanual transmission that allows drivers to change gears without using a clutch.
The 2001 Eclipse also incorporates a front suspension with large-diameter front struts and a multi-link rear suspension with tubular steel arms. A stiff sub-frame and a longer wheelbase also add to ride quality. Safety features include front-seat force-limiter seatbelts and front seat-mounted side airbags that are optional on the GT model. Traction control is offered only on GT with an automatic transmission, which leaves us wondering why it isn't available with the manual. And why can't buyers of the RS and GS models get antilock brakes?
With all these features, the value of Eclipse hasn't been lost. Standard equipment on every 2001 model includes power windows and door locks, an engine immobilizer and anti-theft system, microfiltered air conditioning, height-adjustable driver's seat, CD player, auto-off headlights, and alloy wheels. The mid-level GS also gets standard 16-inch wheels, cruise control, power sunroof, remote keyless entry, fog lamps, lumbar support and a split-folding rear seat. Step up to the GT and consumers will receive the V6 engine, 17-inch wheels, improved brakes, upgraded seat fabric and wider tires. The power sunroof is optional on the GT, as well as an audio and premium package with side airbags and a 4-disc CD changer.
Hardcore Eclipse fans will be upset that Mitsubishi no longer offers the turbo and all-weather GSX model this year in order to focus on attracting middle-market buyers. There's certainly no denying the huge leap that Mitsubishi has taken with the 2001 Eclipse. From styling to drivetrain, the car is totally different from the previous version that wore an "Eclipse" badge.