The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross XLS is nice backroad tourer, with plenty to offer when pushed. The sporty ride and handling soaked up the sealed section of the road, but the XLS Eclipse really came alive once we hit the gravel and river fords, where the adventuring really begins.
Sitting on pretty much an Evo frame, with the new 112Kw, 1.5litre turbo petrol four, matched to an eight-speed CVT, and S-AWC (super all wheel control) final drive setup, this compact crossover really delivered when we took it out to explore the Orari Gorge just north of Geraldine.
Yeah, we know, CVTs (constantly variable transmissions) don’t do it for most reviewers, but with sports mode and paddle shift, this one works really well, launching the car seamlessly when the loud pedal is floored, and the trans is left to its own devices.
Start messing with its brain via the paddle shifters and the Eclipse Cross XLS becomes a real exercise in acceleration, with the free-revving MIVEC engine really lighting up, and the S-AWC grabbing every morsel of traction it can find.
After ploughing through a couple of shallow fords, we kept heading further out to where the road gets a bit rougher. No matter what we asked of it the Eclipse Cross XLS remained unfazed.
Then the rain set in.
So we stopped and turned around, not because the water filling the potholes had unsettled our little adventurer, not because some of the track was getting a bit slushy, and certainly not because the rain was making getting out to take photos really unpleasant!
Nope, we turned around because of concerns about the risk of rising water levels in the fords. After all the vehicle is an all-wheel cross-over, not a fully-fledged 4WD.
And talking about fords and water, the Eclipse Cross XLS had a very cool trick up its sleeve. No matter how deep the crossings, or how fast we hit them, the front wheels didn’t chuck water all over the windscreen like most other vehicles I have driven. None at all, so no loss of vision and no frantic searching for the wiper controls.
Another feature to impress were the mud deflectors on the bottoms of the doors. Although some silt did make it through onto the tops of the deflectors, the door sills, and our legs stayed clean.
It seems almost a shame the Eclipse Cross XLS is such a great little around town, city-type vehicle, comfortable, nimble, spacious and quiet, because that environment is going to be where the vast majority of them are going to spend their days. If they weren’t so good in that urban scene maybe more would be seen out doing what they do best — delivering family adventures in our great outdoors.
Load an Eclipse Cross XLS AWD up with the family, a tent or two, camping gear, maybe even the dog, and the world is your oyster, more so than probably any other compact crossover we have yet driven.