Eclipse signals death to the dreams of a generation
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Mitsubishi has confirmed that its latest SUV – which will be fully revealed at the Geneva Motor Show next week – will inherit the legendary ‘Eclipse’ badge, a name previously associated with a well-liked performance car.
The original Eclipse, introduced in 1989, was a favourite with modification enthusiasts and a true Japanese icon throughout the Nineties. Then, in 2001, its appearance as the late Paul Walker's initial ride in The Fast and the Furious cemented it in the minds of a whole generation.
Film critic Robbie Collin said that "Escapism was what [Paul] Walker lived for, and it was his life’s work." His shock death in 2013 prompted a recognition of the Fast franchise's importance.
Despite everything wrong with that first film, it brought elements of the car world into the mainstream, and – despite the whole “danger to manifold!” thing – the lime green Mk2 Eclipse with a black bonnet helped make car culture cool.
So Mitsubishi’s decision to name its new SUV the Eclipse Cross came as a blow to some parts of the community.
Those who grew up knowing the Eclipse as a cool, accessible sports car that definitely looked good in lurid colours and with neon lights underneath, don’t want the name to be sullied by a practical, reliable family crossover.
If you’re not of a generation that grew up thinking Japanese performance cars were the most exciting things on four wheels, and you're struggling to understand why we care, imagine if Jaguar had called the F-pace the ‘E-type Cross’.
Sadly, the Eclipse isn’t the only Japanese hero to become bloated and irrelevant in old age.
Mitsubishi’s own Lancer Evolution was unstoppable in the World Rally Championship, with flying Finn Tommi Mäkinen piloting his scarlet Evo to four consecutive victories.
Its looks, price and all-round brilliance made the Lancer in all its guises a desirable car to own, before it faded into obscurity before its 10th (and final) generation ever saw tarmac. In fact, this year sees its tragic relegation to the Chinese domestic market, where it will live out its days in a desperate, badge-engineered half-life.
Joining it is the Subaru Impreza, another motorsport icon and the chosen steed of the late Colin McRae. During the late Nineties it was an exceptionally cool car, and – like the Evo – its relative affordability meant that you might occasionally see one in real life.
Sure, your average Subie owner would install an exhaust that sounded like a fart in a watering can, but the Impreza’s presence in nearly all industrial estate carparks at 2am on a Saturday morning meant that it was accessible to enthusiasts.
And now look at it.
The modern-day Impreza isn’t a bad car, but the way in which Subaru has spent the past 20 years is disappointing. Maybe cars just aren't as exciting anymore. As someone whose childhood was littered with Subaru-related memorabilia, I’m now about as likely to get excited by the present-day Impreza as I am by the Hyundai i20.
And that's precisely what’s happening to the Eclipse. Mitsubishi is good at making SUVs, and if the brilliant Outlander PHEV is anything to go by, the new Eclipse Cross will be a popular family wagon.
But there’s still a certain melancholy in recognising that the world has moved on, that The Fast and the Furious was a bad film anyway, that nobody really modifies their cars anymore, and that the lairy, noisy, fake-nitrous-boosted Eclipse of our youth has grown up, straightened out, and had kids.