Motoring to a destination in the White Mountains about 10 days ago, I had an early taste of the driving that we all will experience very soon. Steady snow began to fall. It quickly coated the road with a layer of granules that can act like ball bearings beneath a car’s tires, threatening to make them break traction. I tensed, and became anxious, anticipating a skid. Having an appointment to keep, I didn’t slow down much.
Inevitably, on an inclined curve, I felt the tires break free.
It was an instantaneous blip before the car automatically corrected itself and maintained the course. It never had time to stray because the correction occurred so rapidly. I relaxed after that, and drove with a much greater sense of assurance.
The fast-acting all-wheel-drive mechanism that prevented the slide is called Super All-Wheel Control. It’s made by Mitsubishi Motors and installed on a few of the car company’s crossover utility vehicles. The particular model I drove is the newest, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Introduced about a year ago and now beginning the 2019 model run, the Eclipse Cross gives Mitsubishi a vehicle to sell in the popular category of compact crossovers. That’s an important place to be. Inhabited by well-established models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 – two of the top-selling autos in America – compact crossovers are the most popular vehicle type available today.
And New England is an important market for those moderately sized wagons. New Englanders buy a lot of them. The extra carrying capacity of their haul-it-all rear cargo areas fits with active lifestyles. Plus, their greater road clearance and four-wheel-drive traction help during winter driving.
Mitsubishi acknowledged our area’s importance to the model’s success when it presented the new Eclipse Cross to members of the New England Motor Press Association earlier this autumn – as documented on these pages. The show-and-tell session with auto writers coincided with a marketing campaign aiming to make consumers more aware of Mitsubishi’s latest addition.
At Michaud Mitsubishi in Danvers, the publicity efforts are paying off, observed Zack Michaud, senior product specialist at the dealership. In October the dealer sold four times more Crosses than it had during any previous month, he said.
“Showroom traffic has increased a lot,” Michaud stated. “Not many people knew about it before. But now it’s starting to catch on more and gain more popularity because people are seeing it on TV. They’re seeing their friends buy one, or they’re hearing about it from other people.”
Typical buyers of the new model range from young singles to middle-aged couples with youthful attitudes, he noted. They’re attracted by the racy appearance of the Eclipse Cross.
Another draw is the contemporary cabin technology that suits the new model for the smart-phone generation. For instance, all but the most basic, lowest-priced model feature a center-console touch-pad – like a laptop computer – for controlling an entertainment and information system that displays on an advanced seven-inch screen and incorporates Apply CarPlay and Android Auto phone links.
Such characteristics are attracting drivers who before now were more likely to consider established crossovers, especially the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Michaud explained.
“The prices for those models have gone higher over the years,” he said. “In the Eclipse Cross you get all the same technology, but at a better price and a better value overall, especially when you factor in the warranty.”
Mitsubishi touts its warranty as the best in the auto business. It runs for 10 years or 100,000 miles for powertrain components, along with a general warranty of five years or 60,000 miles that covers the rest of the auto, transferable to second owners.
The Eclipse Cross starts at a list price of $24,290 for a basic, front-wheel-drive variation. You can get Super All-Wheel Control with that basic version for an additional $600. Or you can purchase a higher trim level of the Cross, starting at a list of $25,890 and bringing in added features and fancier dress, the touch-pad communication controller, and Super All-Wheel Control as standard equipment.
“It’s opening up the eyes of people who never considered a Mitsubishi before,” said Michaud.
The evaluation model I drove opened my eyes with its slick and sporty shape. Slanted, sculpted-in ridges and grooves along its sides and an uptilt to its tapering side glass appear to raise the vehicle’s hind end. Along with its pointy front tip, the high-back illusion gives the Eclipse Cross an urgent forward stance. Mitsubishi designed the model to have the aggressive attitude of a sporty coupe, paying homage to its famed Eclipse car years ago. The effort shows.
The company’s emphasis on appealing design carries into the cabin. Mitsubishi claims that the Eclipse Cross represents a new high-point in the company’s cabin design.
I noticed the new emphasis immediately. Piano-key black upholstery and surface coverings, outlined and accented by long metallic trim strips, created eye-appeal in an interior I found comfortable and accommodating. Instrument layout and appearance reflected both a regard for aesthetics and for easy operation.
A turbocharged four-cylinder engine gives the Eclipse Cross 184 pound-feet of torque, which supplies a suitable amount of off-the-mark energy to make the crossover hop energetically.
The model’s continuously variable automatic transmission operated smoothly and responsively during my seven-day evaluation. I never experienced the sensations of slip and hesitation, and I never heard the whirring windups, that annoy me in other continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).
But through my experience with the Cross, its greatest asset turned out to be its Super All-Wheel Control system, which Mitsubishi calls S-AWC. In most crossovers with all-wheel drive, the system apportions power between front and back only. The S-AWC system distributes driving torque not just front and back, but also left and right.
The difference showed when the Eclipse Cross stuck to the road during my first experience on snow this season.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle
Price range: $24,290 to $31,390 (plus options)
Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/100,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged I4
Power: 152 horsepower at 5,500 rpm; 184 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city; 28 mpg highway (with AWD)
Wheelbase: 105 inches
Length: 173 inches
Width: 71 inches
Height: 66 inches
Weight: 3,307 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons
Turning circle: 34.8 ft.