Before the soon-to-be crossover days.
Earlier this week we learned that Mitsubishi’s upcoming new crossover is called the Eclipse Cross. Really? That’s the best name Mitsubishi could come up with? Reviving a name once given to a sports car? OK, so the word "Cross" was added. Creativity abounds. But we think this is the ideal time to look back at the original Eclipse Coupe and Spyder. Built from 1989 until 2012 in four generations, the Eclipse was a front-wheel-drive sports car that was relatively inexpensive, a favorite among tuners, and, for this writer, almost his first car.
Generation 1, 1989-1994: Without question my favorite of the four generations. I literally begged my parents to help me buy what I thought was a good used one at a local lot shortly after I somehow passed my driver’s license exam on the first try. My sixteen-year-old-self determined I earned that Eclipse GS Turbo. The price: $3,500. Everything about it appealed to me: It was red and had the optional 2.0-liter turbo four making 190 hp. I didn’t know how to drive stick yet, but this car desperately made me want to learn. I sure as hell wasn’t cool, but the car was. I ended up with a 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme instead. I was as uncool as ever.
Generation 2, 1995-1999: I can see why this is the favorite Eclipse for many, perhaps because it was featured in "The Fast and the Furious." It still looks good today. Completely redesigned inside and out, both power and performance also increased. Unlike the first generation, a convertible version, the Eclipse Spyder, was added to the lineup, further broadening the appeal. Although the Eclipse, in stock form, still wasn’t very fast, the opportunities it provided to the tuning crowd were much appreciated. Around this time, my Cutlass Supreme got rear-ended and declared totaled. Wasn’t my fault, but I was soon driving my dad’s 1996 jelly bean-shaped Mercury Sable. I permanently gave up trying to be cool.
Generation 3, 2000-2005: Honestly, I was never a fan. The third generation Eclipse offered new engines but AWD was dropped. Exterior styling? Meh. Those three indent lines on the doors are proof Mitsubishi designers were trying too hard. This was when the Eclipse began its downhill descent from which it never really recovered. Maybe the fact that it now shared a platform with the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus had something to do with it. Above all, however, this Eclipse was even less sporty than before and never really would be again.
Generation 4, 2006-2012: Well, at least it looked better than its immediate predecessor. Mitsubishi wisely decided to opt for the sleeker, more rounded profile of the second generation car as inspiration for the fourth and final gen Eclipse. A six-speed manual was later offered for the first time, but AWD was still absent. Despite the better executed design and an optional 3.8-liter V6 with 263 hp, the Eclipse sadly still wasn’t a very good sports car. The 90s were long over, as was the popularity of Japanese coupes and convertibles. The Mazda MX-5 Miata was and still is the exception. The Mitsubishi Eclipse, at least the first two generations, was cool. Few crossovers can be labeled as cool today, and I doubt the Eclipse Cross will be one of them.