2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross First Drive: Reinvention


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A thick, smoky haze blanketed Santa Monica. The beach and coastline were not visible. The Santa Ana winds were howling—slanting palm trees and fueling wildfires just a few miles north.

Those apocalyptic surroundings only made the media drive of the new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross all the more interesting.

Mitsubishi hasn’t had a new product in years, and it is betting big on this compact crossover. It’s a cruel fact of a cutthroat industry: The automaker’s lineup is not very competitive, and executives hope to change that with the Eclipse Cross. They wouldn’t let a fire get in the way. Masks were handed out as product experts gave presentations. Photographers scrambled to stay ahead of the ash.

The Eclipse Cross fills the space in between the company’s best-selling smaller Outlander Sport and the larger and more expensive Outlander. It has the same wheelbase and width as the Outlander Sport and has a mere 1.5 inches more overall length—which raises the question whether there’s enough room in the lineup for two similar-sized vehicles with such a large price gap.

The Eclipse Cross is designed to be the sportier-looking, fun-to-drive alternative to the Outlanders. Designers hit the styling mark with the sloping roof, high beltline, raked rear window, and a thick body line. Mitsubishi’s signature Dynamic Shield grille, tubular-LED taillights, and large fenders lend to the sporty styling. It’s an attractive design from the front and profile. The rear end, however, is another story. The split rear window will get mixed opinions, but it stands out in a sea of similar crossovers.

But does the sporty design carry over into driving character? Mitsubishi didn’t invite us to Santa Monica for the beach, smoke-choked air, and famous pier. They set us up right next to the hills of Malibu, which provides some of the best twisting, climbing roads in America. Scenic canyon carving made up most of the drive. After driving the not-fun Outlander Sport, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I couldn’t forget the brand’s sports car heritage. It takes guts to borrow the name of one of the iconic coupes of the 1990s and slap it on a crossover.

After cruising north on Pacific Coast Highway, we turned onto Topanga Canyon and the fun began. From the first turn-in, I knew this was no Outlander Sport. That’s a relief. As the twisty canyon road continued, I found some initial body roll, though plenty of grip followed—nothing extraordinary but one of the better-handling utes in the segment. In certain cornering situations, the Cross felt momentarily unsettled, but product planners took careful notes regarding our impressions of these preproduction models. Expect the Eclipse Cross to be tweaked before going on sale in March.

An all-new engine powers the Eclipse Cross—a 1.5-liter direct-injection turbo-four that produces 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A CVT with eight simulated gears backs the engine and routes power to the front wheels (only in the base trim) or to Mitsubishi’s S-AWC all-wheel-drive system. The powertrain provides plenty of power with decent throttle response for daily driving, but it feels a bit shy on torque. It’s a definite improvement over the 2.4-liter I-4 found in the Outlanders.

The AWD system did a fine job providing grip coming out of corners, but like most AWD crossovers, understeer quickly ruins the party (or saves your butt). Not watching the road because of the beautiful scenery, I found out that the Eclipse Cross does well under quick trail-braking. I have no complaints about the brakes—the power, feel, and travel is acceptable for a crossover.

The Eclipse Cross comes equipped with Mitsubishi’s best-ever budget-minded interior. It’s not the best in class, but it’s much better than those in the Outlander and Outlander Sport. Most noticeably, Mitsubishi designers created a much quieter interior. The steering wheel and some of the switchgear are shared with the Outlanders, but overall, the quality is much better. The new-to-Mitsubishi touchpad did a better job of navigating the infotainment system than expected.

The Eclipse Cross lineup consists of four trims. The base ES trim starts at $24,290 and comes standard with front-wheel drive. But the S-AWC system—with Auto, Snow, and Gravel modes—is available for $600; it’s standard on other trims. Standard features for the ES trim include 16-inch wheels, foglights, LED running lights, LED rear combination taillights, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and a USB port. That’s pretty good out of the gate.

The LE trim adds black 18-inch wheels, SiriusXM radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and dual USB ports. It takes moving up to the SE trim to get standard blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and features such as heated front seats and keyless entry. LED headlights, a head-up display, and a multiview camera system are standard on the SEL trim.

The Eclipse Cross introduces a new service called Mitsubishi Connect, which consists of automatic collision notification, emergency services, and alarm notification, among other things. The Remote Services package can remotely start the crossover, adjust the climate settings, lock the doors, honk the horn, turn on the lights, find your car in a parking lot, and offer parental controls. It’s standard on the SE and SEL trims and free for two years—it’s $99 a year after that.

The Eclipse Cross’ biggest problem could be pricing. A $24,290 starting price is not that low, especially for a brand that is not known for superior build quality. It’s also a three grand jump from an Outlander Sport. That price tag also puts it above all subcompact rivals. Perhaps a worse equation: The Eclipse Cross has a price ladder just shy of the larger Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mazda CX-5, and it is almost identical in starting price to the Kia Sportage and Ford Escape.

If Mitsubishi is betting on its bold looks, all-wheel drive, and new features and technology to steal buyers away from other brands, they might be in for a tough ride. Our upcoming First Test review will give us a better idea of its real-world prowess. Regardless, the Eclipse Cross is currently the automaker’s best product and shows that Mitsubishi has evolved and can again be competitive.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
BASE PRICE $24,290
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 1.5L/152-hp/184-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,300-3,500 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 105.1 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 173.4 x 71.1 x 66.3-66.5 in
0-60 MPH 9.2-10.8 sec (MT est)

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