Su­per-icy way to in­tro­duce new su­per-AWD Eclipse


Oh – su­per. Here we are in a Mit­subishi Eclipse Cross with its new-age all-wheel drive sys­tem called Su­per All Wheel Con­trol, we turn onto 40km of coun­try road spe­cially se­lected be­cause it was once one of the out­stand­ing spe­cial stages for the Rally of Nor­way – and we im­me­di­ately find it dif­fi­cult to see where the road goes be­cause it is snow­ing so heav­ily.

We snake our way along the road, and soon pass a pair of Cana­dian mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists who have hit a patch of deep snow and speared into a ditch. They’re OK and wait­ing for a res­cue ve­hi­cle to ar­rive and tow them out, so we carry on.

Two kilo­me­tres fur­ther on, we do ex­actly the same thing – all of a sud­den we’re in the ditch too. So we’re forced to wait as well. Soon a large trac­tor unit that is clear­ing snow off the road turns up, and the driver hauls us back onto the road’s sur­face. Then we’re off again, gin­gerly pick­ing our way along that for­mer WRC spe­cial stage, ad­mir­ing the skills of those rally driv­ers who had driven this road, on snow, at high speeds.

Wel­come to the in­ter­na­tional me­dia launch of the Eclipse Cross S-AWC, held in Nor­way be­cause Mit­subishi wanted to show­case the fact that the all-wheel drive sys­tem aboard the ve­hi­cle is the lat­est it­er­a­tion of a sys­tem that was de­vel­oped over 10 gen­er­a­tions of one of the best rally ve­hi­cles of all time – the leg­endary Lancer Evo­lu­tion.

Mit­subishi’s own all-wheel drive sys­tem was first seen in very early form in the Galant VR4 that was launched in 1987, be­fore be­ing pro­gres­sively de­vel­oped in the var­i­ous Evo lines, cul­mi­nat­ing with Su­per All Wheel Con­trol that was aboard the Evo 10 that was built un­til from 2007 un­til 2016.

And now, es­sen­tially the same S-AWD sys­tem is aboard the Eclipse Cross com­pact SUV, and it is sched­uled for New Zealand launch in April.

It’s go­ing to re­tail for $2000 more than the equiv­a­lent 2WD mod­els that have just gone on the mar­ket – an XLS model will carry a rec­om­mended re­tail price of $43,490, while a top VRX ver­sion will re­tail for $47,590. At launch both the 2WD mod­els car­ried spe­cial re­tail prices $6500 lower than the RRPs, and it is ex­pected the same will hap­pen with the four-paw mod­els.

But even at the full re­tail prices these Eclipse Cross mod­els ap­peal as very good value for the money, be­cause not only is it a fine com­pact SUV that of­fers al­most coupe-like lines, but also be­cause its S-AWC has to rate among the best on the mar­ket.

It’s es­sen­tially an elec­tri­cally con­trolledAWDsys­tem that works two ways – it not only feeds torque from the front to the rear wheels as re­quired via such in­puts as throt­tle open­ing, ve­hi­cle speed and driv­ing con­di­tions, but it also has what is known as Ac­tive Yaw Con­trol which uses the ve­hi­cle’s brakes and other in­puts to help keep side­ways mo­tion un­der con­trol.

The Eclipse Cross also has a Drive Mode sys­tem that re­fines all of this to suit par­tic­u­lar road con­di­tions.

On startup it de­faults to an Auto set­ting which can in­stantly change the torque split from 80 per cent front wheels and 20 per cent rear wheels, to a 55/45 split. A Snow set­ting can of­fer a bit more rear-wheel bias by go­ing from 80/20 to 45/55, while a gravel set­ting goes even fur­ther by go­ing from 70/30 to 40/60.

A spe­cial fea­ture of the in­ter­na­tional launch of the Eclipse Cross S-AWC was an op­por­tu­nity to drive the ve­hi­cle on a frozen lake near the in­land win­ter play­ground of Geilo, which is where Nor­we­gian ral­ly­ing leg­end John Haug­land op­er­ates a Win­ter Rally School.

You need spe­cial skills to drive on snow, said Haug­land, as one of his pupils roared and crack­led around the fa­cil­ity in a Lancer Evo. Slower is of­ten faster – you must brake ear­lier, and cor­ner­ing must al­ways be a case of slow en­try speeds to achieve fast exit speeds.

And then we were in­vited to take out Eclipse Cross S-AWCs out onto a choice of four han­dling cir­cuits on the large ex­panse of frozen lake.

What fun! With the SUV’s trac­tion con­trol on, the sys­tem al­lowed the Su­per All-Wheel Con­trol to work its magic un­til it judged the ve­hi­cle was about to slide into a snow bank, and then it in­ter­vened by brak­ing and sub­stan­tially re­duc­ing en­gine torque, al­most to the ex­tent of bring­ing the Mit­subishi to a stand­still. It was al­most as if the elec­tronic sys­tem was telling the per­son be­hind the wheel: you mucked that up – now start again.

The ve­hi­cle’s 1.5-litre di­rect in­jected and tur­bocharged en­gine worked well too, hap­pily revving away as the ve­hi­cle worked to main­tain trac­tion.

This ve­hi­cle also has a CVT au­to­matic trans­mis­sion which can be op­er­ated as an eight­speeder us­ing pad­dles on the steer­ing wheel, but we all found it ac­tu­ally per­formed bet­ter by be­ing left as a CVT – even though sev­eral of them did have to take a rest af­ter over­heat­ing thanks to the ve­hi­cle be­ing driven side­ways in big cir­cles at full revs.

Then it was on to our 120km road drive – which was sup­posed to be a ‘‘scenic’’ tour but which thanks to all that snow and ice ended up as some­thing of a bat­tle, with four of the ve­hi­cles com­ing to grief.

The Eclipse Cross has en­joyed a solid start to its ca­reer in New Zealand, with the 2WD mod­els achiev­ing 159 sales in Jan­uary, 72 of them the top VRX ver­sions. Mit­subishi New Zealand ex­pects the S-AWC ver­sions to add an­other 30 per cent to to­tal Eclipse Cross sales.

Eclipse Cross on the rocks – the AWD ver­sion of this new Mit­subishi poses on the ice lake in in­land Nor­way.

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