Full 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse Review
What's New for 2009
A face-lift and other exterior styling changes make their debut for the 2009 model year, including a blacked-out front bumper and a tweaked rear end with a redesigned wing. The V6 GT model gets standard stability control and a new dual exhaust system that yields an itty-bitty horsepower boost. The SE and SE-V6 models have been dropped.
For almost two decades, the Mitsubishi Eclipse has been a mainstay of the affordable sport coupe market. Originally known for its turbocharged and all-wheel-drive performance, the Eclipse has become more comfort-oriented in recent years. But thanks to available V6 power and a sporty design inside and out, the Eclipse continues to be a solid choice.
The 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse represents the car's fourth generation, on sale since 2006. This year, Mitsubishi has given the car a freshened look that takes styling cues from more expensive sports cars. The most noticeable aesthetic change is the large trapezoidal front grille, which is reminiscent of the latest Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Nissan's GT-R supercar. The 2009 Eclipse also gives up its "light focusing" headlamps in favor of projector beams, with high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps standard on the GT version. The powertrain and interior stay the same, although the GT trim level sees an extra 2 horsepower thanks to a new dual exhaust system.
These changes are minimal, however, and the 2009 Eclipse faces increasingly stiff competition from other sporty models in the $20,000-$30,000 range. The rear-wheel-drive Ford Mustang coupe gives V6-powered Eclipses a run for their money, although the Eclipse is more refined. Other moderately priced models with comparable or superior all-around performance include the Honda Civic Si and the supercharged Scion tC as well as "hot hatches" such as the Mazdaspeed3, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GTI.
Don't get us wrong -- we still think the 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse is a good choice for buyers prioritizing good looks and decent performance at an attainable price. But we do recommend that you shop around a bit before making a final decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse hatchback sport coupe comes in two trim levels: GS and GT. The GS comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, 50/50-split-folding rear seats and full power accessories. The standard six-speaker audio system includes a CD player and MP3 playback capability. An auxiliary audio jack isn't available. The V6-powered GT model bumps the wheel size up to 18 inches and adds xenon HID headlamps, foglamps, larger rear brakes, a rear spoiler, a compass and outside temperature display.
There are two major options packages for the Eclipse coupe. The Sun and Sound package, available on both the GS and GT, adds a sunroof, a rear window wiper, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, aluminum pedals, a rear cargo shelf and the compass and temperature display (GS). An especially notable addition with this package is the rockin' 650-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with satellite radio, a six-CD/MP3 changer and a 10-inch subwoofer. Steering wheel audio controls are also added.
The optional Premium Sport Package is available on the GT only and includes most of the options from the Sun and Sound package, with the addition of heated side mirrors, heated leather front seats, automatic climate control and a power driver seat.
Powertrains and Performance
The Eclipse GS comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 162 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with either a five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic with manual shift control. The GT's 3.8-liter V6 produces 265 hp -- a smidge more than last year thanks to the new exhaust system -- and 262 lb-ft of torque. It's teamed with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse remain respectable, albeit not phenomenal. The GS gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission (23 combined), and 20 city/26 highway with the automatic. Naturally, the V6 doesn't fare as well, with a rating of 16/25 mpg (20 combined) for the manual and 17/25 for the automatic.
The 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse offers quite a bit of standard protection, at least for those riding in the front seat. Both trim levels come with antilock brakes, front seat-mounted airbags and side curtain airbags. Open head restraints protect front occupants, but are absent in the rear. Stability control comes standard on the GT but is not available on the GS.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior remains unchanged on the 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Stylish touches, such as the flowing shape of the dash, pale blue instrument backlighting and unique door releases, still look modern but aren't made of the highest-quality materials. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the backseat seems more for decoration than function. Still, the hatchback body style and 50/50-split-folding rear seat make the Eclipse better than expected at carrying cargo.
The Eclipse's front-wheel-drive platform and considerable curb weight mean that the car does its best work in a straight line. The GT's V6 offers plenty of power, although spirited drivers will encounter wheelspin off the line and torque steer during hard acceleration. On four-cylinder models, acceleration tends to be sluggish. Handling is sporty enough, although the large turning circle can prove frustrating. All in all, the car is like an average student who goes far in life thanks to an inherent cool factor and impressive good looks.