Before it starts adulting as a freaking four-door crossover, let’s revisit the past to remember why we loved this car so much.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Actually, we can’t say that for sure yet. The forthcoming Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross will debut next month at the Geneva Motor Show, and while we don’t have many details yet, it could be a pretty cool crossover. But Mitsubishi, does it really have to be named Eclipse? That’s like building a quarter-mile lawn mower race track in Alabama and calling it the Nürburgring speedpark.
We’re talking about one of the few storied Mitsubishi performance nameplates here; unless the new crossover is awesome by a factor of 50, calling it Eclipse just seems sacrilegious. Before we take that next step, here’s a reminder of what we’ll be lamenting when the new Eclipse Cross hits our shores.
First Generation: 1990 - 1994
The Eclipse debuted with its Diamond Star siblings, the Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser, but the Eclipse would ultimately prove to be the model with staying power. All had attractive styling and affordable pricing for the small two-door segment, but they also had something else – an option for turbocharged power and all-wheel drive. This gave the Eclipse some legitimate performance cred for the day, much to the delight of import fans who took to the Eclipse and it's terrifically upgradable 4G63 four-pot with fervor.
Second Generation: 1995 - 1999
The first two Eclipse generations weren’t just exciting cars; they were trailblazers for Japanese performance in North American markets through the 1990s. Engineers kept the much-loved turbo and all-wheel drive options on the table for the second-generation, and the exterior restyle was a hit with buyers. A convertible option sweetened the Eclipse's appeal, and just like that the Eclipse grew from a neat little coupe to a tuner-car legend. By the end of the decade it was thrashing the streets of America on a nightly basis, not to mention literally becoming the poster child for The Fast and the Furious.
Third Generation: 2000 - 2005
One might say the third generation was the beginning of the end for the Eclipse. Aside from stealing ribbed side cladding from the Pontiac Grand Am, Mitsubishi saw fit to delete both the turbo and all-wheel drive options – the two things that best defined the Eclipse. It gained a V6 of equal power, but as most things do with age, it got a bit bigger and a touch softer. Still, it was a sporty front-wheel drive coupe that was also available as a convertible and offered a manual transmission. The Eclipse lost some glory, but it still had a loyal fan following.
Fourth Generation: 2006 - 2012
By the mid-2000s Mitsubishi enthusiasts were turning their attention toward the Evo, but the Eclipse wasn’t ready to slip away quietly. A redesign inspired by the second generation cars brought new visual punch, while a 263-horsepower V6 (265 in later years) made this era the fastest factory-stock Eclipse of the bunch. They weren’t exceptionally comfortable, and torque-steer was always an Eclipse way-of-life, but when the lineup bid farewell in 2012, it went out with a shouty engine and a definite performance edge. It still didn’t capture the glory of the first two generations, but it certainly wasn’t a boring car to drive.
Until we get a chance to spend some time with the new Eclipse we’ll attempt to keep an open mind. In the meantime, pour a drink and fire up the old DVD player, so we may remember the Eclipse in its glory days, living life a quarter mile at a time.