I recently had the chance to drive a pristine 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child. This is because, when I was younger, this was one of the coolest cars on the road: An all-wheel drive, turbocharged little sports car with 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. Few cars were cooler. Now, of course, a Camry would beat it in a straight line.
But I wanted to check it out, so I flew to Texas to film a few exciting cars, such as the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series (which I’ll show you soon). I included the Eclipse GSX in my trip, as it had been offered to me by a viewer. How can I pass up the opportunity to drive a mint DSM?
Before I get started with everything, let’s discuss exactly what a “DSM” is. Back in the late 1980s, Chrysler and Mitsubishi got together to make a factory in Illinois that made cars in a joint venture. The factory was called “Diamond Star Motors” — “diamond” was a reference to the diamonds in Mitsubishi’s logo, while “star” was a reference to the stars in Chrysler’s logo. The cars that came out of the factory were the Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Eagle Talon and the Plymouth Laser — collectively dubbed the “DSM” cars.
The DSM cars were sold in two generations: The first generation lasted from 1990 to 1994, and the second generation was offered from 1995 to 1999. After that, Chrysler got out of the “little sports car” business and Mitsubishi continued operating the plant without Chrysler, making sedans and crossovers until 2016. But while later vehicles came out of the same factory, car enthusiasts will always know the Eclipse, Laser and Talon as the true “DSM” cars.
And car enthusiasts of a certain age will always know the Eclipse, Laser and Talon as some of the coolest 1990s cars in existence. Sure, they were overshadowed by later Japanese sports cars like the Toyota Supra and Mitsubishi 3000GT — but for those of us who never dreamed we could afford a Supra or 3000GT, the DSM cars were the next best thing. Back then, all-wheel drive and 200 turbocharged horsepower was a dream — especially for just under $17,000, which was the starting price of one of these things.
Unfortunately, the fact that the DSM cars were cheap also caused problems. As they aged, DSM cars went from “cheap” to “really cheap,” and enthusiasts started buying them and modifying them to the point where they were blowing engines. This was also one of the most popular cars for illegal street racing, and many were destroyed in collisions by people who tuned them for cheap speed. The simple truth is that virtually no DSM cars have survived in clean shape since 1990.
But the one I drove was pristine. Absolutely mint pristine, completely stock, and unchanged, right down to the original wheels.
I won’t get into all the odd quirks and features here, as you can simply watch the video. Instead, I’ll skip right to the driving experience, which was wonderful. I mean it — really, excellently, wonderful. No, it isn’t all that fast, and there isn’t all that much technology, and the ride comfort could be improved. But the thing is just an absolute hoot to throw around on empty Texas back roads, which is where I drove it.
The main reason it’s so fun is because you’re just so connected to it. There’s no electronic anything, and the car barely weighs 3,000 pounds, so you can really toss it around with ease. It’s amazing how much more comfortable I felt with this car’s handling and driving characteristics after only a few minutes, compared to modern vehicles with so many layers of luxury, technology and insulation to keep you from the road.
The steering in the Eclipse isn’t perfect, to be sure, and it’s certainly not as precise as modern sports cars, but there’s a feeling of spry eagerness that just doesn’t exist in today’s cars. It’s a blast. You turn the wheel, you push it through a corner, you feel the whole car shift with you. Everything is just predictable and fun, and I even got just a little bit of oversteer coming out of one corner — something I never do with cars I borrow, but something I happily did in the Eclipse because I felt so used to it.
Admittedly, acceleration leaves a little to be desired. Although 200 hp is still what some of today’s sports cars are making (Subaru BRZ), nobody thinks anything with 200 hp is fast anymore. You push the throttle, the car moves off the line, and eventually the turbo engages and it moves off the line even faster — but it’s never raucously quick. It’s the same story with ride comfort: modern cars do a much better job improving ride quality and making sure you aren’t pushed around quite as much as the Eclipse.
But those are minor quibbles, and they’d never stop me from buying one of these, if only because the nostalgia is so strong. This was the cool car people had when I was a kid. And now it basically no longer exists. And I’m thrilled, after years of wondering, that I had the chance to actually experience one. Find a Mitsubishi Eclipse for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.