As I applied the brakes, the red light from the center, high-mount stoplight reflected off the spoiler, into the rearview mirror, and ricocheted into my eyes. It startled me. "Whoa! What is THAT on the rear hatch?" I wondered as I brought the car to a stop. "It kind of looks like a spaceship landed there." We were driving a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS. The car loaned to us was equipped with what Mitsubishi calls its "sports value package."
In essence, the sports value package transforms the already attractive Eclipse coupe into a car that looks as if its owner spent thousands on aftermarket modifications. Included are a security system with remote entry, a single in-dash CD player, leather front seat surfaces, white-faced gauges, a "turbo-look" rear spoiler, and 16-inch O.Z. Racing wheels.
GS, a good deal
All this is in addition to the equipment that the standard GS already includes: a moonroof, power door locks, power windows, and air conditioning. For $1,000 more than the well-equipped GS, we think the sports value package is a good deal. At $21,185, the Eclipse GS with the sports value package is priced competitively when compared with other cars in the sporty-coupe segment, given the high level of equipment included. But don't worry. If you are on a really tight budget, the Eclipse is also available in RS trim, starting at $16,185. However, at that price, most of the appointments of the Eclipse GS are sacrificed.
What the Eclipse GS' price does not include is a turbocharged engine. With the sports value package, the car's exterior accouterments insinuate otherwise. However, only GS-T and GS-X versions include the blown engine. Power for the GS is provided by a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine. Yeah, we would all like to have the 210-horsepower engine that comes with the GS-T and the four-wheel-drive GS-X, but they come at a premium price — about $2,000 more for the GS-T and $5,000 more for the GS-X.
1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse
So most Eclipses make due with the base engine. That's not all bad, though. It provides adequate power and reasonably brisk acceleration. However, should you find yourself accelerating briskly (on your own test drive), be forewarned: the steering wheel requires a firm grip due to a noticeable bit of torque steer in the latter quarter of its rev range. But it's not inordinately bad — it certainly didn't keep us from revving the engine to hear the healthy growl of the exhaust. The torque steer is just the Eclipse showing its age a bit. After all, the current model has been on the market since the 1995 model-year. Mitsubishi will undoubtedly take care of the torque-steer problem when a new Eclipse arrives in 2000.
Despite being in its fourth model-year, the Eclipse's exterior is still quite appealing. A subtle redesign in 1997 of the front fascia and headlamps imparted a more aggressive look to the Eclipse. When we first saw the redesign, we thought that an aftermarket tuner had built the car. It came as a surprise when we found out we were looking at car that would roll off the assembly line.
Inside, the Eclipse is roomy. The instrument panel is laid out fairly well, with the exception of the controls for the excellent-sounding Mitsubishi/Infinity sound system. The buttons are rather small and awkward to operate — especially when the car is equipped with a manual transmission, as ours was. Other than that, the Eclipse is easy to live with, even for long trips.
While the Eclipse is a 2+2, the back seat reminds us of those in the Ferrari 456M GTA we drove recently (another supposed four-seat coupe). The back seat is simply for looks and not really able to comfortably carry passengers.
With its expressive styling, it should come as no surprise that a healthy percentage of Eclipse buyers are purchasing their first new car. Mitsubishi says that in 1997, around 18 percent of Eclipse buyers were in this category. That is great for Mitsubishi — since it gives the company an excellent opportunity to develop a lifelong relationship with younger consumers. They have a chance at successfully executing a strategy similar to that of upstart Korean automaker Daewoo: "Get 'em early and get 'em for life."
The Car Connection Consumer Review
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