At a recent learn-and-drive event for media near Venice Beach, yours truly heard straight from Mitsubishi’s mouth that its “Eclipse” model name was brought out of retirement solely to drive home the notion that its newest crossover utility vehicles perform more like compact sports cars than CUVs.
The blatant linking to a beloved pedigree is understandable. Four generations of Eclipse compacts were among Mitsubishi’s most popular vehicles in North America from 1989 to 2011. They wound up on Car and Driver‘s Ten Best list from ’89 through 1992 with its Turbo trim and took Motorweek‘s Driver’s Choice Award in ’95-’96.
Named after an unbeaten 18th century English racehorse, Eclipse sports cars won countless victories for Mitsubishi over other automakers’ entries at racing events worldwide. Many still race these Eclipses and performance parts continue to be churned out for them.
It was January of last year when Mitsubishi announced the Eclipse name would be resurrected for its compact crossover, and the new model made its debut at that March’s 2017 Geneva Auto Show.
By 2018, the Eclipse Cross joined a Mitsubishi CUV lineup that also includes the Outlander, the Outlander Sport and the Outlander PHEV hybrid. The upstart featured: a new, 1.5-liter, direct-injection, turbo engine; and exterior designed to resemble an athlete in the “set” position; an available “Super All-Wheel Control” that controls the torque of each wheel; and a reasonable starting price of $23,595.
New for 2019 will be roof rails on all trims and, on the LE, gloss black window switch panels–because the kids love them some gloss black window switch panels.
Naming a crossover after a sports car is one thing; actually driving like one is another. That’s why I looked forward to getting behind the wheel of an Eclipse Cross in Venice, even though my time would be severely limited compared to the usual week-long engagements with other vehicles for Ride Me.
My windy roadway began near the Boardwalk, snaked inland through the hills and ended about where the beach town touches the Culver West community. Traffic was not heavy, but there was enough that I never really got to open the sucker up. I suppose that means I experienced normal LA commuter driving conditions.
The engine under the hood and eight-speed continuous variable transmission (with sport mode) of the 2018 is unchanged for 2019. The power plant generates 152 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm.
It was enough to not only keep up with the flow of two-lane highway traffic, but it also gave me the confidence to make passes no sweat. (If only I’d gotten the opportunity … without a Mitsubishi rep white-knuckling it in the back seat, that is.)
When it comes to handling, the Eclipse Cross with its Super All-Wheel Control borrows not from the sports car that gives it its name but from Mitsubishi’s Montero, Outlander and four-wheel drive legacy. However, it still felt and sounded to me as if I was somehow riding high in a much lower sports car as the engine revved and the all-season tires hugged the pavement through the turns.
One area where the crossover has the sports car beat is inside, as the ride is much more comfortable thanks to the traction and stability controls and recliner-like leather seats. For 2018s and ’19s, the driver’s seat is eight-way power adjustable on the SEL and six-way adjustable on the other trims, and both front seats can be heated on the SE and SEL as can the SEL’s rear seats.
An array of standard features are also unchanged for both model years, including: roof spoiler; shark fin antenna; rear-view camera; LED lights throughout; heated power side mirrors; advanced seven airbag system; seven-inch smartphone link thin-display audio system; and LCD color multi-information display with high-contrast meters.
A heads-up display, heated steering wheel and multi-view camera system are standard on the SEL trim as are–along with the SE–rear cross-traffic alert, 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual zone automatic climate control, electric brake switch with auto hold, keyless entry with push-button start and panic feature, and a 24-month trial subscription to Mitsubishi Connect services.
The automaker, whose North American headquarters are in Cypress, offers a 10-year or 100,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty on the powertrain to the vehicle’s first owner, a five-year/60,000 new vehicle warranty that is fully transferable, seven years or 100,000 miles anti-corrosion warranty and five years/unlimited miles of roadside assistance .
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.