Review: Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

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SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    Ah, springtime. If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes. In 
many parts of the country, it's possible to have snow, warm 
sunshine, and everything in between in the same week. In some 
places, make that the same day. So Spring is the perfect season to 
test a convertible.
    Any convertible is wonderful on a dry summer day with the top 
down and wind in your hair. But how is it with the top up? Can you 
see out, especially to the rear and rear sides? And how good is the 
heater? Does the car leak in the rain? Does it creak and rattle 
excessively as you drive on rough roads? In short, is it a car you can 
live with year `round, or is it merely a summer toy?
    The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is one of the most popular 
convertibles, and for good reason. It combines the convertible 
experience with style, performance, and even a reasonable degree of 
practicality. Although best for two people, it will hold four when 
necessary. The three-layer power-operated top insulates well and has 
a glass rear window with a heater element for visibility and all-
season use. Unless you live in territory where the Ice Age is not just 
something studied in a geology class, and four-wheel drive with 
clearance is a necessity for transportation, the Eclipse can be a real 
year-round vehicle.
    Mitsubishi offers two versions of the Eclipse Spyder. The GS has 
a 2.4-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while the GT has a 
200-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6. I've been driving a GT for the past 
week. That week started out with cold rain, and snow in the local 
hills. Now it's sunny and 80 degrees. Tomorrow? Anything could 
happen, it is Spring, after all. But the Eclipse Spyder can handle it, 
with style and spirit, and in comfort.

APPEARANCE: The Spyder was part of the original Eclipse design 
plan, and it shows. Top-down, its proportions are spot-on. Despite 
its short hood and deck and long passenger area, the Eclipse Spyder 
has no problem looking like a sports car. Mitsubishi calls the 
Eclipse's styling ``geo-mechanical,'' a unique combination of rounded 
forms and angular edges, with prominent side strakes and flattened 
wheel arches. With the top up, the Spyder has a similar roofline to 
the Eclipse coupe, although the quarter windows and rear window 
are smaller.

COMFORT: Let's get practicality out of the way first. The Eclipse 
Spyder is roomy enough to be an only car for singles or young 
couples. The rear seat has as much room as those of many compact 
sedans or medium-sized sports coupes - two medium-sized people fit 
reasonably well. If the trunk is on the small side, the rear seat can be 
used for soft luggage and other items. But practicality is not the 
primary consideration in buying a convertible. Convertibles are 
about open-air motoring, and there the Spyder is in its element. Its 
power top can be lowered or raised quickly, at the touch of a button, 
and, with the top down, the front passengers are treated to just the 
right amount of wind in their hair. Hats will not be lost. The front 
bucket seats are comfortable for long drives, and visibility, top-
down, is unlimited. Top-up, use the mirrors and visibility is OK. The 
instrument panel is as ``geo-mechanical'' as the exterior, but function 
is not sacrificed to style. Plenty of climate-control system vents and 
very good heating and air conditioning keep the interior temperature 
just right in any weather.  

SAFETY: The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is designed with a safety 
cell around the interior and front and rear crumple zones. Antilock 
brakes, traction control, and side air bags are available.

ROADABILITY: The old front-wheel drive Eclipse Turbo was 
practically the definition of torque steer. Depress the throttle pedal, 
feel a strong tug at the steering wheel. The current Eclipse has no 
such problem, in fact the best way to tell that it is a front-drive car is 
to look underneath the front end to see the drive axles. The Eclipse 
is a sports car, and has a firm fully-independent sports car 
suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink design in 
the rear. Ride comfort is good for a sports car - an all-day ride is a 
pleasure, not an ordeal. The Spyder's open-top chassis is reinforced 
for extra rigidity, but it's still not as stiff as the coupe, no surprise 
there. Chassis flex is about as expected in a four-seater open-top car, 
and only a serious autocrosser or racer concerned with the last .001 
second in lap time would find it detrimental. For everyone else, hey, 
when the sun's out, put the top down, slather on the sunscreen, and 
enjoy the convertible experience courtesy of Mitsubishi.

PERFORMANCE: Other than its convertible experience, the Eclipse 
GT Spyder's best feature is its drivetrain. With an even 200 
horsepower at a relatively sedate 5500 rpm, and 205 lb-ft of torque 
at 4000, with plenty available far below that, the GT's smooth 3.0-
liter V6 is pleasantly undemanding for any type of driving. It doesn't 
need to be kept in a narrow rev range for best performance, and the 
exhaust note is a wonderful sound, almost that of a V12. The 
standard five-speed manual gearbox has smooth, positive shift 
linkage that makes shifting a pleasure, and the optional four-speed 
automatic has a manual-shift ``Sportronic'' mode that is among the 
best for that type of transmission. Because of structural 
reinforcements to make up for the removal of the roof, the Spyder is 
180 lbs. heavier than the coupe, and so is a touch slower in 
acceleration. But this is not a real-world problem, it's still plenty 
quick when needed.

CONCLUSIONS: The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder combines style, 
practicality, performance, and the convertible experience.

SPECIFICATIONS
2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT Spyder

Base Price			$ 25,597
Price As Tested		        $ 28,522
Engine Type			single overhead cam 24-valve V6
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower			200 @ 5500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			205 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		100.8 in. / 175.4 in.
Curb Weight			3241 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        16.2
Fuel Capacity			16.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires				P215/50 VR17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                  antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
                                  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 29 / 22
0 to 60 mph				7.2  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)				15.6 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
GT Premium package for manual transmission - includes:
 anti-lock brakes, Infinity(r) premium
AM/FM/cassette/4-disc in-dash CD changer stereo,
leather front seating surfaces, power driver's seat,
front seat side airbags					$ 2,370
Destination charge					$   555

CLICK HERE TO COMPARE OUTBACK SPECS AGAINST THREE OTHER CARS

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