A few days ago while aimlessly swiping down through my Instagram, I saw a post from Mitsubishi with a teaser shot of an upcoming cross-over called the Eclipse Cross. Cool, I thought, already being a big fan of Mitsu’s Outlander Sport, which I piloted across all five mysterious National Parks in Utah a year ago. Yes, it was only a rental but it earned its off-road stripes trekking up steep rocky hills, muddy washes and through a few streams. Not once did it hesitate or let me down. I was very, very impressed with this little SUV’s off-pavement capability.
When I saw this mysteriously partially-revealed car was called the Eclipse Cross, it got me thinking. Would it be like the aforementioned Outlander Sport I love but with more of a sporty, fun pedigree? That would be cool. But then I felt a wave of disappointment, realizing the Eclipse name plate would be brought back in the form of some dorky, cross-over that will probably spend it’s road life clogging the parking lots of shopping malls and McDonald’s drive-thru lanes. Sad face, yes, because I’ve always thought the older Eclipse, you know, the sports car Eclipse, were fun.
Then I saw a Starion fan boy’s rant in the Instagram photo’s comment section below, it reads as following, and yes…it’s really written in all caps:
“WE NEEDED THE STARION TO REVIVE US TO COMPETE IN THE CHEAP RWD CAR MARKET (FRS/MIATA/BASE MUSTANG). THE ECLIPSE TO COMBAT THE ENTRY LEVEL LUXURY CARS (A4/C250/328_ THE EVO TO COMBAT THE STI. WTF!”
I almost got a headache reading that comment. But it does draw a good point, well, the first half of this rant does (I can’t put the Eclipse on the same par as an Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Bimmer’s 328. That just doesn’t work. No). Thumbing down through more of the surprisingly negative comments on that photo and another teaser pic, I noticed a hashtag trending… #NotMyEclipse. “Oof, that’s not good,” I thought. Now, I have a degree in advertising and public relations, so I somewhat understand what the design team at Mitsu is trying to do by bringing back a familiar name in hopes it will stick to a new product. But I think this execution is poor and will soon be regretted.
Is Mitsubishi letting down it’s gearhead following and losing out on that niche market of performance-oriented new car buyers? I think so. With their likely-to happen-but-maybe-not discontinuation of the Lancer Evolution, there will be nothing fun in their lineup. Honda should have never killed off the S2000. Toyota made the same mistake when they axed the Celica, Supra and MR2 years ago and has since been failing to make up for this absence with television ads claiming their Camry drives like a sports car. Palm to face. Thank God for the Scion FR-S, err, Toyota 86 and your three-pedal option. My faith in the automotive world is slowly starting to come back. But Mitsubishi needs to get on-board. Stat.
Before the last generation sports car Eclipse sailed off into the automotive sunset of doom, I remember driving the GT model, with it’s peppy 263-horsepower 3.8-liter V6, unique styling and of course that killer Rockford-Fosgate stereo. Anyone recall the convertible models having that one subwoofer protruding from the back seat? Its manual gearbox and not-subtle exhaust note made it a hoot to drive around. If only it were rear-wheel-drive. If only. Those bittersweet memories have now been tainted after seeing the Eclipse nameplate sadly return in the form of some crossover. I like to be optimistic and preach that it never hurts to just try something. Sure, there’s a laughable, sad demand (one I will never understand) for these dorky things called cross-overs, but Mitsubishi already has the sharp-looking Outlander and capable Outlander Sport. What if they saved all the money their spending on development and promotion of this concept EclipseCross and redirect it towards bringing back a true sports car.
Today is February 23, 2017 and I just spent some time looking at Mitsubishi’s website. They’re still advertising the 2015 Lancer Evolution. Yes, you read that right. They’re even using copy that reads “One of a kind, last of a kind” in its on-screen marketing. Clicking through a bit more, I realized it’s almost identically the same compared to the new, 2014 GSR model I flung around Road America almost four-years ago at an event. Hooniverse’s Kamil also drove one too, read his review here. Gosh that car was fun, and fast; launching it down the Moraine Sweep at 135mph, coming into Turn 5. And it was so planted thanks to its solid all-wheel-drive system. I remember interior being bland and outdated, yes and it still is, even in the new 2017 Lancer models. But come on Mitsu, show the Lancer some much-needed love and redesign it. If you’re not going to, at least update your website so it doesn’t look like you’ve forgotten to delete a webpage for of your models. Subaru keeps pushing ahead with new redesigns of their Impreza and WRX and WRX STI variants to suit the boy racers’ demands. Shouldn’t Mitsubishi? Remember in the mid-2000s when one of the hottest car mashups was the fight of the massive winged EVO and STI?
Rewind back even farther to the 3000GT (gosh I still just lust to own one some day)- would a brand-new 3000GT shine today? Let’s dream for a second. Base 2018 models could have, rear-wheel-drive, the outgoing Lancer EVO’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder churning out around 250-300hp and of course Brembo brakes. That right there could be enough bone for the Toyota 86, base six-cylinder Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros and Nissan’s 370z to bite at. A higher-end VR4 model would be all-wheel-drive (borrowed from the outgoing Lancer EVO), soft leather and carbon fiber-wrapped interior and some sort of twin-turbocharged V-6 breathing out around 400-450hp give or take. Would that potentially place the new VR4 model that lurks not far from the shadows of the GT-R or Lexus’s new sport coupes? Maybe. I can just see the tuners going bonkers.
Mitsubishi still holds small splinter of the U.S. car market share and sold 96,267 cars last year. 2016 was the fourth year in a row for sales growth. Of those close to one-hundred-thousand new vehicles to roll off dealer lots, some 59,643 were crossovers like the Outlander and Outalnder Sport. Lancers (14,304) and Mirages (22,226) made up the majority of remaining sales. Their all-electric i-MiEV claimed responsibility for the final 94 (down from last year’s 115 sold) . There’s still hope little i-MiEV! Would the reintroduction of a few sporty cars boost those numbers? Would a new-age Eclipse, 3000GT or redesigned Lancer EVO help? Will Mitsubishi ever break-free from the explosive cross-over rage? This year they also celebrate their 100th anniversary as a car maker. Not many manufacturers have crossed that milestone. So I do congratulate Mitsubishi and proudly raise a glass to your century of automotive existence but please, bring back the fun cars.
What do you think? Should Mitsubishi add a few sports cars to its lineup?
Update 3/1/2017- Mitsubishi finally graduated from Instagram teaser pics and decided to reveal full photos and details of their Eclipse Cross before it takes a bow at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show. I’ll be honest, I’m excited for Mitsu and I think this new, sharp compact SUV looks seriously awesome. Inside and out. But please, for all of our sanity, ditch the name.
[Image © Mitsubishi Motors North America]