Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in some world class sports cars. I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve spent a lot of time driving the Nissan 350Z, a car so good for it’s price range that cars worth twice as much are often compared to it.
So what does this have to do with my first drive in the 2006 Eclipse GT? Well, unfortunately I’ve become pretty jaded and my expectations have been set pretty high. This isn’t a good thing for any sports car that doesn’t keep up with the class. So does the Eclipse GT measure up? Well, yes & no.
I had high hopes when I was actually able to slide my rotundness behind the wheel without having to bend like an anorexic Russian gymnast. One thing that modern sports cars aren’t very good at is letting fat guys in, but getting in the Eclipse is easy. Once behind the wheel though, things began to get a little weird. The 4 way power seat was all the way down & was tilted into the back seat. Now I’m no gangsta 20 something and I prefer a more upright position. Adjust the seat properly and my hair is touching the headliner! I’m only 5’10”, so while I’m round I’m not any taller than average. Looking around though, it looks like Mitsubishi has done a lot of things well. With nice quality materials and good panel fit, the interior is attractive. It also feels roomier than some of the other coupes on the market.
Easing the 6 speed manual tranny into gear, the clutch feels smooth and light. Almost too light. On the road, things get interesting. The 263 horsepower, 3.8 liter V6 delivers it’s power through the front wheels. Whenever you have bags of power going to the front wheels, you get bags of torque steer. The Eclipse darts left and right, while looking for traction on a hard launch. Push it hard enough and the front wheels easily light up before the traction control takes care of things. A word has to be said about the traction control. It is one of the least intrusive systems I’ve experienced, controlling wheel spin in a quiet & smooth manner without that feeling that someone turned off the switch. Speaking of a hard launch, the Eclipse feels quick off the line and sounds great doing it. Edmunds.com recorded a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds and that feels about right by the seat of my pants. It’s not going to win top honours at the local autocross, but then again that may not be what this car is intended for.
I have one really big beef with the Eclipse, that oddly hasn’t come up in any of the reviews I’ve read. The gas and brake pedals are so far away that heel and toe downshifting is next to impossible. Even wearing work boots, I can’t catch the edge of both pedals. In regular shoes, well, forget it. Now I understand that I’m an old school driver, but proper up and down shifting are part of the enjoyment of driving a sports car. It would be difficult to hustle this car down a really twisty road with the pedals in their current location. While we’re on the topic of performance driving, remember the head on the ceiling. To wear a helmet in this car you would have to open the sunroof and tilt your head to the right. Not comfortable.
One of the things that defines a quality car for me is a lack of interior noises. In this arena, the Eclipse GT shine. The cabin feels tight and there are no squeaks, rattles or even panel movement sounds. Combine this with a sweet sound system and the Eclipse is a joy to cruise in.
If you want a drop dead gorgeous cruiser, then the Eclipse GT fits the bill. If you want a canyon carver that can do double duty as a lapping day car, spend the extra few grand and pick up a 350Z.