Rebadge Round: Eclipse, Stratus, Sebring.

This week is another Rebadge Round which comes early (or late, however you see this) for Christmas.  Rebadge Round is going to be a series which takes vehicles based on the same platform (or is a kissing-cousin) and sees which one I’d subjectively find more appealing.  Feel free to comment below as to whether or not you’d agree.

For decades, Chrysler and Mitsubishi had a close relationship with many different results, and just as many rebadges and shared platforms.  Everything from the tiny Mitsubishi Mighty Maxx/Dodge Ram 50 pick-up trucks, to the Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth sports cars were a result of these companies working together.  Among the most common on roads, even today, are the Stratus/Sebring/Eclipse Coupes.  Come the era of Y2k, the trifecta of MitsOdgLer came to fruition.

With the Eclipse hitting its third generation, it brought with it a slightly more mature air to it—something the Eclipse followers weren’t too fond of.  Gone was the massive hoop spoiler, fang-shaped ducts up front, and of course the replacement of the turbo-four with a V6 in its place (a reversal of many cars today—how about that).  The Eclipse was larger, heavier, and suspension was squishier.  I’ll admit that when my parents pulled up to my grandparents home in Nevada, and seeing the new hatchback (the Dodge and Chrysler merely have notch-back trunks) sitting in the driveway, my 12-year-old self was giddified all sorts.  Enough where my arthritic grandfather and name sake stepped out in the freezing, high-desert air that November to snap my glee on his humongous Sony digital camera.  Oh yes, a monster of a thing that took floppy disks.  Kickin’ it old school.

Like my grandfather, my uncle and aunt both liked having new toys—my uncle had the last generation (parked alongside), and my aunt and her husband recently bought the brand-new one I’d had pinned up in my 7th grade cubical… yes, a cubical.  Mr. Erich, if you actually read these: that was one of those great ideas that makes you a memorable teacher.

Likewise, there was a school-yard chum whose mother owned its platform mate (much to my surprise some 15 years later), the Chrysler Sebring Coupe.  It was black with chrome wheels, and beige interior.  A very clean looking machine, much like the last couple Honda Accord Coupe is.  Regardless, I paid relatively no mind to it as back then, it was still about spoilers and 0-60 times.  That cubical wall had everything from Lincoln LS’ to Ferrari F50 GT’s, and the Sebring Coupe wasn’t there along side the Eclipse and the next triplet.

Dodge brought along the Stratus, replacing the old Avenger of the 1990’s, and was equally short for this world with only one generation (the Sebring badge is a long-lasting name, only ending recently with the release of the Chrysler 200).  Unlike the Chrysler and Mitsubishi, the Stratus didn’t come in a convertible.  Technically, neither did the Sebring, and the Sebring convertible wasn’t an Eclipse at all, underneath.  The closest it came was the 2.4L inline-four shared through all three model names.

Later Dodge/Chrysler interiors (bottom) changed from the earlier trim that was more directly shared with Mitsubishi.  Mitsubishi kept the same design until the next generation in 2006.

What set the Dodge and Chrysler coupes from their sedan and convertible counterparts—besides Eclipse bones—was the V6 option: a 3.0L as opposed to a sludge-happy 2.7L.  What’s more, the 3.0L could be had with a five-speed manual in all three vehicles, putting down the 200hp the most proper way a coupe should—and frankly the only way these can be had without being a laughing stock.  I say that because the Stratus RT automatic pulled a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds under the shoes of Car & Driver… they pulled 8.5 seconds from the Toyota Echo manual sedan, and that was weighed slightly by the options list (a more basic coupe like mine will have been yet spryer).  Regardless, it won a comparison over both the Monte Carlo SS and (more surprisingly) the Mustang GT of 2002.  Give it, or any of these rehashed coupes a manual transmission, and that 200hp would put down around 7.2-7.6 seconds.  Suddenly I sound like that 12 year-old again.

In any case, all three share darn-near the same dashboard.  Chrysler stuck their stereos in so you wouldn’t forget what you bought, and changed some gauges and binnacles.  Otherwise, you’d find soft-touch materials around much of the doors and dash—something that surprised me when a friend went and bought a 2003 Eclipse GTS Spyder.

Speaking of the GTS, that’s something the Eclipse brought to the party that the others didn’t.  With 210hp from an added Mitsubishi Variable Induction Management system (MVIM), it could gun to freeway merging in 6.7 seconds or so.  MVIM was another way of saying variable-length intake manifold… I didn’t make that any easier did I?  Still, a very respectable sprint at a time when the only family sedan doing the same (or faster) was the 3.5L Nissan Altima, and soon the Accord would follow suit.

Of these three cars, what would I choose?  As an enthusiast, the Dodge Stratus R/T Coupe is a sporty-tuned little bugger that isn’t as acknowledged as the 2Fast2Furious Eclipse is, and is round-about as fun per reviews.  However in the real world, I’d love to combine the supple cleanliness of the Sebring Coupe, the exhaust note of the Dodge, and the extra 10hp from the Mitsubishi’s MVIM.  From what I see, the Sebring seems to look better in person, and more often they don’t look as abused as the Eclipse or Stratus.  Add on the rarity of the manual, and the surprise of a Sebring Coupe being driven with some spirit; that’d just suit me more.  Any would be fine by me, though.

Images were all sourced from Consumer Guide’s used car section.

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