A great car overall if maintenance is kept up
Sunroof has been problematic since 3rd year of ownership. Have replaced the entire assembly 3 times. See below for final solution.
Transfer case recall performed at 40K miles.
CD player function was spotty from 40K to 70K miles, when it finally failed completely. Remainder of the stereo still functions.
Water pump at 58K miles. Replaced all belts at the same time.
Ball joints replaced at 75K.
Auto door locks began misbehaving at 90K miles, failed entirely at 100K. This also renders the factory alarm and remote keyless entry inoperable.
Turbo expired at 96K miles. Replaced with a new MHI turbo for a 3rd generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, as opposed to rebuilding/replacing the stock Garrett T25.
Surfaces have held up well, no cracks in the dash. Driver's seat has some wear, but is not torn. The driver's door handle/panel attachment point is broken, as well as the window/lock switch supports (I repaired the switch assembly.)
The car handles well stock, and tends toward understeer when pushed, as most AWD cars do. I have installed a set of thicker anti-roll bars, which tightened up the suspension quite a bit. And believe it or not, I am still on the stock struts at 13+ years. They are not worn out.
AWD is great in the snow and ice. With a good set of snow tires, this car can go anywhere.
Performance with the stock turbo is pretty good, and the car has a nice little kick-in-the-pants at low rpms, but the small turbo runs out of steam above about 5K rpms. This is why I replaced the blown stock turbo with the Evolution 3 turbo, as it has a lot more potential for increased power at pretty much any engine speed, while still showing little turbo 'lag'.
Wind noise can be a little annoying, as the windows tend to loosen over time in the guides/tracks. This can be remedied with a little elbow grease, and prevented by NOT closing the doors by pushing on only the glass.
The sunroof, as previously noted, has been a bit of a pain. I finally resorted to hardwiring the motor, bypassing the black box 'brain', and it works now, minus the one-touch open function. I can live with that.
The door lock issue can be fixed with some pretty cheap parts (<$25), but the labor costs to do it are high, as you have to access the inner end of the door lock cylinders to swap a couple of electrical fittings. Getting to them is a huge pain, and even as hands-on as I am with the car, I don't want to attempt this, so I live with the now-manual locks and no alarm.
There are a number of factory recall issues, most importantly the transfer case and front ball joints. Failure of either of these can result in a crash, so make sure that they have been performed before purchasing.
These cars, manufactured jointly by Mitsubishi and Chrysler under the 'Diamond Star Motors' (DSM) name, are great cars, with an overblown reputation of being unreliable. Even highly modified, making 2x the stock amount of horsepower and torque, I would not hesitate to drive my car across the country. Regular maintenance is a MUST on these cars, but doing so will guarantee you years of reliable service. This is my second second-generation Eagle Talon, and I expect to own more of them.
There are a small number of these motors which experience crankshaft thrust bearing failure, aka 'crankwalk', and while that can be an issue, it is certainly not pervasive, and can easily be checked out by a mechanic familiar with these motors. I will stress familiar, as these motors can be picky, and if not rebuilt properly will experience this bearing failure shortly. It typically affects only motors from the 1995-96 model years, but can affect any motor in any vehicle, so don't lose any sleep over it.
By this point (2009), these cars have a reputation of rather easily making a lot of power, and finding one that is not modified is becoming increasingly more difficult. I would personally steer clear of modified cars if searching one out, as there is no telling who performed the work, and how hard the car has been driven in the interim.
There are many online forums dedicated to these (DSM) cars, wherein a lot of information can be found. IMO the best national forum is DSMTuners, but search around for local forums, where you may benefit from a good knowledge base as well.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th July, 2009