New Car/Review

1997 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE SPYDER GS-T

by Tom Hagin

Mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,380
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,849
Engine Type                             2.0 Liter I4 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                  122cid/1997 cc
Horsepower                                   205 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 3000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   98.8"/68.7"/172.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3165 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.9 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R16
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 56 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            20/26/23
0-60 MPH                                        7.2 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                         16 seconds @ 94 mph
Top-speed                                           125 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

The 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS-T follows in the footsteps of another powerful Mitsubishi convertible, the twin-turbo 3000 GT VR-4 Spyder, though its $26,380 price is less than half that of Mitsubishi's flagship performance car.

Available in either GS or GS-T trim, this week we test the top-line turbocharged model, the GS-T.

OUTSIDE - The Spyder receives a few subtle exterior changes for 1997. They include new headlights, a larger, squared-off air intake below the bumper and a newly available tan top. And while it shares most mechanical parts with its hardtop sibling, it's not a "makeover" or a factory modified coupe. Reinforcements are built into sections of the floor, A-pillars and quarter panels to produce a remarkably stiff chassis. And since the coupe is a hatchback, a new rear seatback and trunklid had to be designed for the Spyder. With the top folded, there is a good balance between its muscular midsection, short front and rear overhangs and steeply raked windscreen. Its proportions look "right." The top is simple to operate, and fits snugly to keep out the wind and rain. Also, the rear window is made of glass, not easily scratched plastic. Directional alloy wheels are standard, as are 16-inch performance tires.

INSIDE - The Spyder features well-formed front bucket seats, covered in leather and very comfortable and supportive. Its cowl is low, so shorter drivers can see over the dash, and the instrument panel is angled forward and slightly toward the driver to further enhancing vision. Our Eclipse Spyder GS-T came equipped with lots of standard features such as air conditioning, a high-power stereo including a CD player, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, variable speed intermittent wipers and a tilt steering column. It also comes standard with a HomeLink transmitter system, which consolidates three separate remote controls into one unit tucked into the corner of the driver's sunvisor. And while room up front is plentiful, we found the rear seat unusable except for small children, groceries and luggage.

ON THE ROAD - The Spyder is available with two powertrain choices, both being four-cylinder, 16-valve units made by Mitsubishi. Our GS-T test model uses a 2.0 liter version, with twin overhead camshafts, a turbocharger and intercooler, and produces 210 horsepower when teamed with a five-speed manual transmission. It drops a bit to 205 ponies when connected to the optional four-speed automatic. Torque figures change with different gearboxes, too, so our test car's 220 lb-ft of torque is six more than the five-speed version. Either way, power is abundant and ready to go, provided the engine's rpm level is high. This allows the turbocharger to "spool up" and get past the turbo lag inherent in this type of induction system. Once past the lag, however, it launches quickly to speed, and gives great passing power. But as with many powerful front-wheel-drive vehicles, the tendency for the steering wheel to pull slightly to the right under heavy acceleration, is evident.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Eclipse features full independent multi-link suspension, with coil springs and anti-roll bars front and rear. The built-in stiffness becomes apparent in twisting turns, with its biggest thrill coming after exiting a corner. At that point a full throttle romp brings the whoosh of the turbocharger and some impressive G-forces that push its occupants firmly back into the seats. Its wide, "sticky" tires no doubt enhance its handling, though the car exhibits some understeer at the limit of tire adhesion. Its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering felt very precise - not heavy, but not too light, either. Braking duties are handled by disc brakes all around, and an anti-lock system is optional. Our test car's 133-foot 60-0 mph stopping distance proved adequate, though we'd like to compare those numbers to an ABS-equipped Spyder GS-T.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard; ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - Floor mats on our test car added $49.

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