Mountain Wheels: Turbo power for Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross makes cruising a breeze
Mitsubishi may not have a particularly big footprint in the High Country, being better known in the big city for truly affordable budget models, but the all-wheel drive products the company makes are certainly a pleasant alternative in one very crowded vehicle market.
As timing would have it, I got to drive the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, an SEL trim level with a 1.5-liter turbo engine and all-wheel drive, the second week of the full-blown pandemic, as everything started to close in Summit County and the Front Range.
That brings back a mix of emotions as we roll into an uncertain fall, things not particularly more clear than they were back in March. But at least you’re allowed to drive, at this point, so let me address that experience.
First, some news from Mitsubishi, which is admittedly not always top of mind when it comes to American car buyers but remains a gigantic player overseas and at home in Japan, part of the massive Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi auto group. The company says it will release one entirely new car this fall and make changes to three vehicles, including interior and exterior changes to the 2020 Eclipse Cross I drove. That also includes a mechanically updated version of the Outlander plug-in electric hybrid, the best-selling vehicle of its kind in the world, plus significant improvements to the ultra-budget Mirage. A brand-new Outlander is also expected in 2021.
My drive with the somewhat smaller Eclipse Cross CUV offered a bit of insight into some of the pleasantries and curiosities of the brand not the least of which is the fact that the sporty, tuner/racer-kid-friendly Eclipse car you may remember from the past has zippo to do with this vehicle. Nor does it have much in common with the much-loved Evo rally-styled racers, no longer in production, except the presence of Super All-Wheel Control.
That functionality is probably one of the $32,720 Eclipse Cross’ biggest selling points in Colorado, though the company’s 2020 models made a big deal about now being available with two-wheel drive as the standard option.
I got a pretty healthy speeding ticket in an Eclipse Cross almost a year to the day before my mid-March drive, so I can attest to the power put out by what might at first seem like an austere choice for a still-significant crossover SUV, a 1.5-liter turbo. Its 152 horsepower gave the vehicle plenty of credibility, especially as I sailed up the passes to deliver supplies. I also got about 30 mpg in the process.
Design is probably the most polarizing part of the Eclipse Cross package. Like the Toyota Prius or the much-lamented Pontiac Aztek, the vehicle incorporates two planes of rear glass in its almost fastback-styled rear, which I find causes rear visibility issues. There’s a small wiper to clear off the top portion, but the lower, more vertical glass was permanently covered in a layer of mag chloride during my winter travels.
Overall design is certainly contemporary and pleasant, with lots of chrome trim, an aggressive face and big arches on the hood that flow into the front window pillars. Mine had a huge panoramic sunroof added, but still had roof rails for adding extra gear.
The vehicle features a three-mode drive switch to improve wintertime or off-road traction, and the continuously variable transmission gets eight virtual gear ranges, which can be controlled by shifter paddles behind the wheel.
In my estimation, Eclipse Cross’s main fault was its suspension, as the vehicle felt a bit heavy and even minor potholes caused it to bounce. Otherwise, it does carry a sporty feel, enhanced by the all-wheel drive and the torque steer capability built into the system.
It’s also comfortable enough for front-seat passengers but comes up a little short in the rear on cargo space. I was carrying a snowboard in a box and it just barely fit, even with the second-row seats dropped, requiring me to move up the front passenger seat, as well.
Safety equipment is plentiful, including blind spot and lane change assist, rear cross traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control and a full around-view camera system. There’s also a color head-up display.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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