Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder features stylish open air driving

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Mitsubishi had steadily become a nonentity in the United States. The sales of Mitsubishi cars, SUVs and light trucks had fallen from nearly 350,000 in 2002 to a projected 115,000 this year. The Japanese company has struggled to stop the bleeding despite a small stable of what we consider stylish, dependable products including a mid-sized sport utility, a mid-sized family sedan and a hot-rod compact.

And this kind of good stuff is still coming down the pipeline despite the problems created by an over aggressive marketing campaign that unfortunately worked to well.

Good stuff for instance includes, the company’s newest sporty vehicle — the 2007 Eclipse Spyder — an outstanding effort.

The Eclipse coupe and Eclipse Spyder are the bright spots for Mitsubishi so far this year, although a new, very nice, Outlook SUV is soon to be released. Eclipse coupe sales are double what they were at mid-year in 2005 and the Spyder is selling about 10 percent better than the previous drop-top (car talk for convertible).

Our advice is not to avoid the Mitsubishi store if shopping for an affordable 2+2 convertible for less than 30 grand. We found the Eclipse Spyder GT a delightful open-air machine.

The convertible version is of one of the most popular sports coupes of the last 15 years, but the Spyder is not a chopped-roof version of the Eclipse coupe. It was engineered from the wheels up as a convertible with a stiff chassis that all but eliminates cowl shake, the convertible bugaboo of old.

The new Spyder originated in the Mitsubishi Design Studio in Cypress, Calif., emerging with an aggressive stance that looks good top up or top down. The lines flow smoothly in a wedge shape from a high rump into a steeply raked windshield and a sloping front end.

Like most convertibles these days, the power top folds neatly under a clamshell cover giving the car a clean look with the top down. The driver’s only responsibility is to flip open two header latches and press and hold the power top button for about 19 seconds.

The top is an example of the attention to detail that Mitsubishi put into its new design. It’s made of acrylic fabric, a step up from vinyl. A rubber layer is sandwiched between the outside fabric and a cotton headliner creating a surprisingly quiet interior for a convertible in its price range.

Like those in such cars as the Audi TT, BMW 3-Series and Porsche Boxster, the windows lower slightly when the door is opened and then return to a fully closed position when the door is shut creating a tighter, wind-cheating seal.
As important as the styling — which is important because impressing the neighbors and your girlfriend is definitely important — is the seating position and interior surroundings.

Some cars speak to us in a positive language. Others offer personality traits we don’t particularly care for. The Eclipse falls into the former category in a big way.

We found the high-backed seats comfortable and the feel from behind the wheel to our liking. Reaching the optimum driving position was possible with six-way power on our loaded-up GT test car. Unlike some small convertibles, driver and passenger space is plentiful up front.

Mitsubishi officials say the instrument panel display was inspired by the look of motorcycle gauges. They are illuminated by ice blue LEDs that are designed to improve visibility. And they are accented by silver-finished surrounds. It’s an attractive package.

Perhaps the highlight of the interior setup is the standard nine-speaker, 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system that automatically adjusts volume and equalizer settings for top-down driving. The system includes a forward-facing eight-inch subwoofer mounted in the rear passenger compartment. The system includes a six-disc CD changer with MP3 capability.

The Spyder comes in two trim levels — GS and GT — and with two engine choices.
We have not driven the base 162-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, but auto writers have told us it is an adequate performer, and has an attractive starting price of $25,839.

All models are well equipped with such standard features as the power top, 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, keyless entry, the outstanding Rockford-Fosgate audio system, air conditioning and cruise control.

Our GT with its 260-horsepower V-6 was mated to a six-speed manual shifter starting at $28,269. A five-speed automatic is offered as an option.

The six-speed is an easy shifter making boulevard cruising a snap. You won’t dump this one off the line. And the V-6 offers enough first-gear grunt to make things interesting. It has been clocked from 6.5 to 6.7 seconds from 0 to 60 by automotive publications. Some torque steer will grab the wheel on quick take offs, but it’s not intrusive. And most people will never experience it.

The convertible is entertaining on the back road curves. We had a great time, top down, rolling though some of our favorite terrain. We experienced some understeer at high speeds as the car tended to plow through the corners. But if you keep things entertaining without approaching the limits — something we recommend on public roads — the Spyder offers an enjoyable experience.

We like the Spyder styling, it will turn heads and we like the uniqueness of the car. We like the overall interior look including fit and finish and quality materials. We like the gas mileage — 17 city and 26 highway. We like the price, $30,844 with destination charge and several options including leather interior and 18-inch wheels.

But most of all we like mild summer evenings behind the wheel, top down and wind in the hair with the killer audio system belting out our favorite tunes.


Base price: $28,864; as driven, $30,844
Engine: 3.8-liter, V-6
Horsepower: 260 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 258 pound-feet @ 4,500 rpm
Drive: front wheels
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Seating: 2/2
Turning circle: 40 feet
Trunk space: 5 cubic feet
Wheelbase: 101.4 inches
Length: 179.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,680 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17.7 gallons
EPA mileage: 26 mpg highway, 17 city
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ford Mustang GT, Toyota Camry Solara, Nissan 350Z.

The Good:
• The GT offers a rewarding combination of performance and handling with wind in your hair.
• Power top stows neatly away with the push of a dashboard button.
• 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system is killer.

The Bad:
• Rear seat is incredibly tight with no cupholders or side airbag protection.
• The Spyder has no rollover protection.

The Ugly:
• Give us an acre and we can turn this thing around with its 40-foot turning circle.