x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT

It's easy to sneer at the budget, boy-racer fare, but my advice is not to knock them until you've tried them.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse GT is loud and raw and the handling is excellent. Perfect for the boy racer who's grown up a little, but not that much.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse GT is loud and raw and the handling is excellent. Perfect for the boy racer who's grown up a little, but not that much.

Aside from inventing sports for the well fed and consuming extremely dangerous fish, if there's one other thing the Japanese do rather well it's producing V6 bundles of joy. From the sublime and speedy Nissan GT-R, which can be a bundle of terror in the wrong hands, to the other end of the V6 market, the Land of the Rising Sun raises heart rates through its sports cars. It's easy to sneer at the likes of the smaller Nissan, the 350Z, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse as budget, boy-racer fare, but my advice is not to knock them until you've tried them.

And I'm speaking from experience, for I was once one of those naysayers. As a speed snob with no time for these peppy little performance pieces, I first tried the 350Z some time back and immediately began to love the genre, with its cut-price interiors and all-out focus on the promise of its engines. A stint behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Eclipse did no less than reinforce this opinion and I'm not ashamed to broadcast it. True, these cut-price coupes may well be the domain of a boy-racer-on-a-budget clientele, but they offer so much more than a wad of speeding tickets and the scorn of other road users. The right driver will immediately see, particularly in these days when you should probably be tightening your belt, the benefits of substance over form.

As far as form goes, the Eclipse occupies the norm: a wedge shape from nose to over-spoilered tail conveys the lines of a typical GT, regardless of the price. The front is quite demure, certainly not in matching with the rear, but it's still reasonably sporty and boasts attractive headlights, while the rising flank-side view gives a real impression of the Eclipse's purpose and the rounded back-end, with its prominent E C L I P S E badge formed using a fiery font, and moulded curves reminiscent of a 1980s Porsche, really gets down to business. And it would, because this is exactly the angle from which an Eclipse driver would want you to be viewing his car.

The "his" in the last line is entirely intentional, and meant without any sexism. This is a man's car - or rather a boy's - and every inch of it is designed to appeal to the hairier sex. There isn't even one sop to the ladies in the cabin with its monochrome menace, while the faff-free fascia has no bells or whistles and, like the rest of the cabin, is quite utilitarian. Instead of soft furnishings, there are plastics: whole seas of them, with polymers and PVCs covering the entire interior. In all, I counted 13 different types of plastic within reach of the driving seat, although there could have been many more. Some were soft, others hard, shiny and low quality, a few were much more upscale and matt. Each one gave off a different shade of black, grey or silver and on the whole sat very well with the overall effect. Interior designers, who love to label, might give the look a name like "sports-austere".

The plastics go hand-in-hand with the ethos of the Eclipse, given that this is a fast, powerful V6 that costs the square root of next-to-nothing. You can splash your cash on Bentleys, with their swathes of expensive leathers and cherished veneers, but if you want something that under-promises and over-provides, the Eclipse will make you a very happy man. To keep in line with the overall sporting persona of the car, the stylised seats with electric adjustment for the driver are excellent for lateral support, even if they do start to tail off as they approach the back of your knees.

They also give you the feeling that you are almost lying down, which becomes wearying the longer you spend behind the wheel, and longer journeys can sometimes be accompanied by a loss of feeling in your extremities. The Mitsubishi boffins must obviously have picked up an old Alfa Romeo when they researched driving positions for the Eclipse. The traditional Italian driver's physique of short legs and long arms comes into play with this Japanese model and the encumbrances in the footwell meld uncomfortably with the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel.

This aspect of the car can, unfortunately, be a real turn off, as are the lack of rear visibility due to the rising waistline, thick C-pillars and pitiful storage space. Before we get to the engine, which you will find is worth the wait, a shout must go out to the quality of the Rockford Fosgate stereo system, which is just as much an integral part of this pocket rocket as its V6. Especially inside the close confines of the cabin - you will be ill-advised to sit in the rear unless you are a small child or an amputee - this system has the power and all-reaching might to fill every last inch with sound.

It becomes obvious why the Eclipse needs a good stereo, though, once you switch on the ignition and the engine sparks into life. As you would expect, the 3.8-litre V6, which produces 265hp and 355Nm of torque, fits this car's mould well in that it is loud and raw. This unit is ideal for the type of car and exudes just as much power as the chassis can take, enabling the potential for all sorts of fun. You can gun it, drift it or just plain cruise it and it will give you the feeling there's plenty in reserve.

The torque steer can drive the Eclipse away from you so be prepared to tug the wheel somewhat, but on the whole, the ride is firm and the handling excellent. Compared to earlier generations of the model, this one is no athlete but it certainly provides plenty of fun, and that is the name of the game for these Japanese V6s. And what's more, the Eclipse weighs less than a substantial sumo wrestler and is a lot safer than eating the scrag ends of a poisonous puffer fish. motoring@thenational.ae