Classic CARmentary: 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

This completes are trio of 1999 Mitsubishi reviews.  Technically, there is a fourth if you count the Chrysler Sebring Coupe (coming soon).

As you may have already guessed even before reading the review, this one was clearly the most fun.  What I’ll never understand is why some manufacturers take a car that is selling well and receiving lots of positive press, then just completely neutering it.  I’m sure from the accountants’ point of view, since the front-wheel drive, naturally aspirated versions were comprising the bulk of sales, why add the extra expense of building and certifying a high-performance variant?  Yet it was likely those “halo” versions that inspired people to buy the lesser models in the first place.  Then again, if I was actually on the inside, I may find my hypothesis faulty.

Personally, I didn’t mind that Mitsubishi resurrected the Eclipse moniker for yet another boring crossover.  That’s because between 2000 and 2012 it adorned a boring coupe.  As far as I’m concerned, this 1999 model was the last true Eclipse.  Everything following, including the Eclipse Cross, are just things you should not look directly at no matter how badly you want to.

The following review was written on February 28, 1999.

When the Eclipse premiered early in 1989, it floored the automotive world with its sleek shape, high-output turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, all for a reasonable price. Fortunately, not much has changed since then.

The second-generation Eclipse has been around since the 1995 model year, and it is still one of the more attractive sport coupes on the market. Noticeably more muscular and “boy-racer-like” than the original, the only visual changes to the top-of-the-line GSX for 1999 are new spoked alloy wheels and a large rear wing whose main purpose seems to be blocking the already limited rear vision. Inside is a functional leather interior with an instrument panel that wraps around the gauges and into the console, with the climate controls and radio angled slightly toward the driver. The white-faced gauges are a nice touch, but the wildly optimistic 170-m.p.h. speedometer puts the oft-used zero to 70 range too close together.

And 70 comes up damn fast. While nothing much happens before 2500 r.p.m, which is known as “turbo lag,” the driver is literally pushed back into the seat when the turbo comes alive. While 210 is a lot of horsepower to put on the front wheels of a small car, Mitsubishi has made all-wheel drive standard on the GSX, although a less expensive front-drive GS-T is also available. An additional benefit is that the GSX is one of the few all-weather sports cars, a rip-roaring combination not available on any Subaru sold in the U.S. Handling is understandably outstanding, and the ride and noise levels are predictably harsh and high. For the even more budget minded, non-turbocharged RS and GS variations are available, as well as turbo and non-turbo Spyder convertibles. The ultimate configuration, Spyder GSX, is not available.

The hatchback design adds a nice level of versatility, especially when the near useless rear seats are folded down.

If all this pleases you, act now. Rumor has it that next year’s Eclipse will follow the continuing blandness that has cursed the U.S. market. Gone will be the turbo and all-wheel drive.  From the looks of spy photos, the versatile hatchback body style will disappear as well.

For more information contact 1-800-55MITSU


Type: Two-door Hatchback
Engine: 210-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four
Transmission: Five-speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 23 city/31 highway
Tested Price: $26,985