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2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse ReviewThe Good
For Mitsubishi's Eclipse, 2009 brings a styling refresh that has seen positive reception overall, as well as the car's usual standards of a sporty V6, smooth transmissions, and fine road handling.The Bad
The '09 Eclipse is a poor performer on anything other than smooth, dry surfaces, and the base engine is inadequate, especially with the automatic.
The CarGurus View
Buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse has always been an exercise in sacrifice. Many other cars offer better performance, more utility, and a lower price, but if the Eclipse's styling is to your taste, none of that matters. For performance sake, the V6 is necessary, but it badly impacts the balance in a car that already suffers from sketchy handling.
At a Glance
2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and to commemorate the event, it has received a slight refresh to the exterior, including a blacked-out center grille/bumper/intake combo as well as a similarly blacked-out lower bumper section out back that visually lightens the entire rear. The rear wing has also been redesigned. Additionally, the SE and SE-V6 trim levels have been deleted, and the GT model gets standard stability control and a dual-exhaust setup that delivers a power increase.
The Eclipse is available in two trims, GS and GT, with two engines and transmissions for the two-door sport coupe. The front-wheel-drive design is centered on its sport aspirations and competent if inconsistent suspension.
GS and GT trims both get their own unique engine, with the GS trim powered by a 2.4-liter, 162-hp inline four cylinder and the GT getting a 265-hp, 3.8-liter V6. Both trims receive standard manual transmissions, a five-speed for the GS and a six-speed for the GT, with a four-speed automatic optional in the GS and a five-speed automatic optional in the GT. The difference in speed and power between the two engines is noticeable, although neither lacks power when mated to the manual transmission. 0-60 times are 9.2 seconds for the 2.4 and 6.5 seconds for the 3.8.
However, with the automatic, the 2.4 is a bit sluggish at highway speeds, requiring absolute flooring of the accelerator to achieve passing power. That said, the Sportronic mode is a welcome addition, giving manual control over gear selection in the automatic. Manual-equipped GSs have EPA estimates of 20/28 mpg, while automatics achieve slightly less at 20/26. GTs with the manual transmission achieve 16/26, while the automatic does a bit better at 17/26. Mitsubishi recommends premium fuel for the 3.8.
Both engines are quite noisy at high RPM, but only the 2.4 ends up sounding ragged when taxed.
Ride & Handling
The Eclipse’s short wheelbase and firm suspension make for a confident ride on smooth pavement, and a shaky ride in nearly all other conditions. While grip is substantial and body lean minimal, the Eclipse’s composure over rough surfaces leaves a lot to be desired, especially with the 18-inch wheels. Interestingly, the GS has been noted by reviewers as being better balanced than the GT.
What is very surprising is the Eclipse’s rather large turning radius, unexpected for such a small and sporty vehicle. Brakes are strong and pedal feel is firm, though. Watch for torque-steer under hard acceleration with the GT.
Cabin & Comfort
Sadly, neither 2006’s complete redesign or this year’s slight refresh has addressed one of the biggest complaints regarding the Mitsubishi Eclipse, which is an interior that is peppered with cheap, hard plastics. Taller drivers may find an issue with headroom, while shorter drivers may find pedals and even some controls a long reach.
Seats, however, are both comfortable and supportive, if a bit low, and low doors make entry and exit a bit of a chore. Predictably, rear seats are symbolic at best, suitable only for children or inanimate objects. Additionally, road noise intrudes in the cabin, especially from the tires.
Complaints aside, the Eclipse's interior styling has been well-received, despite being four years old, and the controls are generally well-placed and convenient. An illogical choice was to place the audio display on top of the dash, too far from the controls, creating a dangerous driving situation when making adjustments.
A Sun and Sound package includes a power sunroof, upgraded stereo with an in-dash 6-CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio, steering-wheel radio controls, aluminum pedals, and more. The Premium Sport package offers leather upholstery, heated front seats and mirrors, a 6-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, aluminum pedals, a wind deflector, and unique alloy wheels.
Standard safety features include dual front, front side and front curtain side airbags, antilock, four-wheel disc brakes, daytime running lights, and a tire-pressure monitor. GT trims additionally receive an anti-skid system.
NHTSA ratings for the 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse are not currently available.
What Owners Think
Owners have always been pleased overall by the looks of the Eclipse, and both the major redesign in 2006 and the refresh this year have been well-received. When it comes to performance, the Eclipse has never been a great value for the money, and the fit and finish have been nothing to brag about. However, especially with the GT’s V6, performance isn’t poor, and the handling is a big positive, as long as you’re on dry, smooth pavement.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.