Eagle Talon Review

Eagle Talon Review

Chrysler's Eagle brand was nothing if not eclectic. Comprised of several badge-engineered cars with French, Japanese or American origins, Eagle aimed at would-be import buyers through various market segments. The brand as a whole never caught on, but of the five automobiles to wear its badge, the Eagle Talon developed the most enthusiastic following.

There was good reason to get enthused. The Eagle Talon was always a rather striking sports coupe. In its top-level trim, it came with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. This potent combination made the Talon one of the quickest sports coupes of the 1990s. Versatility -- a benefit of the car's hatchback body style -- and value were also big draws.

Of course, this description also fits the Mitsubishi Eclipse, the car that gave the Eagle Talon its heart and soul. These two cars, as well as the short-lived Plymouth Laser, were a result of the Diamond Star Motors (or DSM) joint venture between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Eagle was able to specify the Talon's look via some differences in the body, such as different wheels and spoilers, a black-colored roof, and in the later years, some flamboyant displays of flash. But in terms of mechanicals, the Talon (and Laser) shared all its sibling's traits.

Not all of those traits were favorable. Despite all the speed and technology, not everyone took joy in piloting the Eagle Talon. It was no model of handling refinement, and perhaps most importantly, lower-level Talons weren't much faster or exciting to drive than a common economy car.

The Talon's fate was sealed after the DSM partnership fizzled in the early 1990s. Mitsubishi continued to build the Eclipse into the new millennium, but Eagle didn't follow. The Talon has thus gone down in history as a relative of only the first two generations of Eclipse. As a choice for a used sport coupe, both generations of the turbo AWD cars offer plenty of bang for the enthusiast buck as well as considerable performance potential for the hot-rodding crowd. But if you find these or the lower-level Eagle Talons not to your liking, well-regarded competitors like the Acura Integra or Honda Prelude should be considered.

Most Recent Eagle Talon

The second-generation Eagle Talon was sold from 1995-'98. Its base-level powertrain consisted of a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 140 horsepower. Power was sent to the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. In contrast to the previous generation's base setups, this powertrain was borrowed from the then-new Dodge Neon.

The Talon's step-up powertrain was still a turbocharged 2.0-liter Mitsubishi four-cylinder, though it now came with a quicker-acting Garrett turbocharger and kicked up 210 horses (205 with the automatic). It came with its own five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic, and with or without all-wheel drive (AWD). All Talons enjoyed a meaningful upgrade in suspension hardware, with more sophisticated double wishbones replacing the former front struts in front and a multilink suspension now on the rear of all models. A richer interior with dual front airbags and a bigger cargo hold were further advances.

The Talon debuted with trim lines of ESi, TSi and TSi AWD. The ESi was the slow-mo version and came only with a basic radio, cloth-and-vinyl seats, tilt steering column, and rear wiper and spoiler. The turbocharged TSi added a sport suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, power mirrors, rear defroster, cloth seats, leather steering wheel, a cargo net and an upgraded stereo with cassette. The TSi AWD had that equipment plus power windows and locks, cruise control and slightly wider tires (on manual models). As for options, the lesser trims could be had with the TSi AWD's convenience features, and leather upholstery and a power driver seat were optional on all TSi models. The TSi AWD could also be equipped with a limited-slip rear differential. Options on all Talons included air-conditioning, a sunroof and antilock brakes.

This generation of the Eagle Talon underwent most of its changes in 1997. That year an even more stripped-down base Talon debuted without the ESi's spoiler, radio, digital clock or intermittent wipers. Non-turbo models lost their rear wiper and rear disc brakes, while the TSi AWD upgraded to 17-inch wheels. Styling on all Talons grew even more outlandish, notable for the supersized Eagle badge in front and a new airplane-like wing out back. Depowered airbags marked a final change in 1998, when the Talon exited the scene and took the Eagle brand with it.

For the performance enthusiast, the base and ESi-grade Talons should be quickly forgotten. Their engine was rough, noisy and capable only of economy-car acceleration, and the accompanying manual transmission was a chore to shift. Their glazed-donut-like tires (sized P195/70R14) contributed little to handling acuity and were helped in no part by the Talon's hefty weight. Steering was quick, at least, and the new independent suspension provided reasonable comfort and composure, but overall, consider this an Eagle with its wings clipped.

Honestly, the Talon is all about the turbos. Its 210 hp put it at the front of the sport-compact pack, and its 214 pound-feet of torque could give a shove in the back that no Honda or Acura engine could offer. Moreover, the Talon's all-wheel drive was truly one-of-a-kind, letting it dig hard into dry corners and hold its line on wet ones. Downsides included a slight vagueness to the steering and shifter and excessive body roll, which, some argued, made it less fun than the Prelude or Integra.

Finding a turbocharged Eagle Talon of this generation that's clean and in good running condition might be a challenge. Even the newest model is at least 10 years old and many previous owners have no doubt been keen on modifying their cars for enhanced performance. Base models, despite their lack of desirability, will likely have led an easier life and could still hold sway for someone just wanting a sporty-looking sport hatchback.

Past Eagle Talon models

The first-generation Talon was sold from 1990-'94. In contrast to the second-generation Talon, the early model was pitched as the classy member in the Eclipse-Talon-Laser family, as it came only with the two most potent engines: a 2.0-liter twin-cam four-cylinder with 135 hp, and a turbo version of the same with 195 (190 with front-wheel-drive, 180 with an automatic transmission).

Again, a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic were the transmission choices, with all-wheel drive optional on the turbo model. The rear suspension on front-drive Talons was a decidedly primitive torsion beam, but unlike its successor, most models had generous 16-inch wheels and all had four-wheel disc brakes.

The Eagle Talon originally came in base, TSi and TSi AWD trims. Base Talons had power steering, a rear spoiler and defroster, power mirrors, a tilt steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo. The TSi added the turbo engine, foglights, a leather steering wheel and shift knob, and a multi-adjustable driver seat. The TSi AWD added alloy wheels (except in 1990), a superior multilink rear suspension (sport-tuned all around) and limited-slip center and rear differentials. Available to all were air-conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, uplevel stereos with graphic equalizers, rear wiper, alloy wheels and a pop-up sunroof. Leather seats were optional on turbos.

Antilock brakes became available across the line in 1991, the year when turbo models became available with the automatic transmission. All Talons sported more modern styling for 1992 via exposed headlights that replaced the previous pop-up units, and new taillights and wheels. This generation's last change came for 1993, when a new DL model was added to the bottom with manual steering (power optional), 14-inch wheels and a 92-hp, 1.8-liter engine.

With each of the Talon DL's horses carrying 30 pounds on their backs, expect no more than Geo-grade acceleration in this sad mockery of a sport coupe. Midgrade Talons were markedly livelier and hit 60 mph in the mid 8-second range, quite respectable for the era. Quick steering response and aggressive tires made handling nimble, though there was coarse engine and road noise to go with it.

Again, the only truly special Talon was the turbocharged one, as it simply blew away import competitors upon its release. Car magazines at the time tested the AWD car doing zero to 60 mph in the mid 6-second range. But given their age, first-generation Eagle Talons, especially ones in good condition, are a rare sight on the road today.