2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse GTS

The pony car for a younger generation

While many of us grew up with traditional pony cars such as Mustang, Camaro and Firebird, today's young people still gravitate toward this kind of inexpensive, fun-to-drive mode of personal transportation such as the Honda Civic and Subaru WRX. But, another favorite of the mosh pit crowd is the aggressively styled Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Unlike the Mitsubishi Lancer, also a favorite of this demographic, the Eclipse is more of a pony car in the traditional sense, featuring a low, swoopy two-door body. It's meant to look aggressive and fast, rather than appearing like a conservative sedan such as the Lancer. You can also get an Eclipse in a convertible form called the Eclipse Spyder.

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Base model Eclipse RS and GS cars come equipped with a 2.4-liter 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while the up-level GT model comes with a 3.0-liter 200 horsepower V-6. The car we drove for this test is the GTS model, which features an upgraded version of the GT's 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out 210 horsepower. Modifications to the smooth-running engine include new variable length intake manifold runners and higher compression pistons that broaden the torque curve to help achieve 205 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine changes also make for crisper throttle response across the rpm range. While the GTS is no rocket ship, it runs from 0 to 60 in an adequate 7.0 seconds.

GTS models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, or you can opt for Mitsubishi's Sportronic Sequential Shift automatic transmission that changes gears automatically or provides the driver with clutch-less manual control. Click the shifter into the Sportronic gate and you can take control of gearshift points and engine revs. This allows the driver to make quick downshifts especially during cornering.

Eclipse Coupes feature a sport-tuned suspension system with front struts and a rear multi-link set-up. The driver's wishes are translated into cornering commands via engine-speed-sensitive variable-boost power rack-and-pinion steering and P215/50VR17 tires. On the road, the Eclipse is confident, stable and fun to drive-like a personal coupe should be. The ride is firm, but no where near as punishing as many other sporty coupes.

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Mitsubishi designers embraced a subtle, evolutionary process to develop the Eclipse's character by styling the front-end treatment with halogen headlights and front fascia that includes a rounded and contoured grille opening. The molded front bumper includes cavities for the integrated fog lights. The tail section displays composite rear tail lamps that add a sense of Euro-sportiness to the Eclipse's stern with a trio of lamps shining through a clear lens.

The Eclipse interior comes in a choice of either midnight or sand blast interior color themes. The midnight interior theme combines a black interior with dark blue accents on the material covering the instrument panels, seats, door panel inserts and center console. The sand blast interior consists of a black dashboard, console, taupe colored seats and matching taupe door panel inserts. The leather-covered seats are quite comfortable for a sport model and offer more than adequate lateral and lumbar support during aggressive driving maneuvers or long highway cruises.

The Eclipse GTS arrives fully-loaded, equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a 6-disc in-dash CD player, a stylish leather-trimmed interior, dual front, side-impact airbags, ABS brakes, 6-way power driver's seat, rear window wiper/washer, and fog lights. In addition, the GTS comes with a long list of desirable standard features including power windows and door locks, an engine immobilizer, air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo. Our tester was a fully loaded GTS with the 5-speed manual that priced out at $224,649 including a $595 destination charge, making it a relatively excellent value.

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All Eclipse models are backed by a three-year or 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and seven-year or 100,000-mile anti-corrosion/perforation limited warranty. In addition, Mitsubishi provides 24-hour roadside assistance and free towing on all warranty-related repairs during the first three years or 36,000 miles.

Since its introduction in 1990, Eclipse has been an enthusiast's sports coupe, defined by its raw, athletic looks, and the exhilarating performance of sports cars costing thousands of dollars more. The 2004 Eclipse continues a tradition of style, performance and, most importantly, value that has made the Eclipse one of the best-selling import sports coupes of the past decade. (www.mitsubishicars.com)

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