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TCC: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT Review

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2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT

More of the tame—now, without that pesky roof.

by John Pearley Huffman (2006-02-10)

Last May I wrote about the new 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT and now the 2007 Eclipse Spyder GT has come along and it's… MUST… FIGHT… TEMPTATION… the same… DON'T… SUCCUMB… STAY… STRONG… the same car with a top that goes down. Oh well, I've given in to the obvious. Here's a link to my review of the coupe - just add some comments about a convertible top to the equation. Have a nice day and place patronize the advertisers!

Still here? Go away. Here, look at my Porsche 911 Cabrio review. There's a picture of my kids at the bottom of it.

Okay, if you're going to be a die hard about this, here's some more about the sweet-natured and great looking (though not really very sporty) Eclipse Spyders.

Clear character

The fourth-generation Eclipse looks great as a coupe and it looks just as great as a convertible. The cloth roof doesn't ape the fastback lines of the hard roof but the quick tumble down to the flat deck looks neat and right when the top is up. And when the top is down, the line encircling the cockpit emphasizes the wedge shape of the body. Externally, this car is just flat gorgeous.

Inside there are few changes to the forward half of the cockpit. The dash, seats and décor all carry over intact from the coupe and that's no bad thing. It's the rear seat that's been subject to change - squeezed tighter in the hips and shoulders and pushed forward in order to make room for the top's folding mechanism. Compared to the coupe, the Spyder's rear shoulder room plummets 11.2 inches to 40.0 inches, hip room drops 4.1 inches to 40.3 inches, and leg room is down 1.5 inches to 27.7 inches. Now it's not like the rear seat is particularly generous in the coupe, but there's really no way the rear seat in the Spyder can accommodate more than one person - stretched out across the seat - for more than a short trip. And sentencing anyone to a long trip back there will surely attract the attention of Amnesty International and/or Human Rights Watch.

In compensation for that compromise in rear room, the Eclipse Spyder features a very stiff structure. The car is born as a convertible and the rear quarters are completely new sheetmetal - this is not simply a coupe with the roof hacked off despite what I implied in the first paragraph. Mitsu has added a crossbeam behind the dash and additional crossmembers to the floor stamping and reinforced the door sills to produce a stiff and impressive all-steel shell. Of course it's not as stiff as the coupe - you can still feel a slight cowl shudder going over train tracks - but it's at least as stiff as, say, Toyota's Solara convertible.

The top itself is built from a multi-layer fabric and features a glass rear window with built-in defroster. There are two latches at the windshield header that must be operated manually, but after that it's simply a matter of holding a single button down on the center console and the whole structure retracts under its own neat tonneau cover in about 19 seconds.

Top down, along with inhibitions

Here's a simple buyer's tip to keep in mind: Don't buy a convertible if you're not going to put the top down. Now that that's clear…

Clearly the best thing about the Eclipse Spyder is that when the top is down, this is a sweet-cruising open-air style machine. The large windshield drops down, as in so many vehicles today, to a cowl that seems to sit so far forward it may as well be in the car in front of you. In a coupe so much acreage on the dash top makes one consider erecting a crèche upon it - maybe a diorama of Utah's Monument Valley or at Christmas time, a nativity scene that recreates Bethlehem down to the blinking "No Vacancy" sign in front of the inn. But in a convertible the big steep windshield pays off with excellent wind protection and a relatively quiet cabin that allows conversation at normal volumes around town. In the Eclipse Spyder adding the optional rear wind blocker makes that conversation possible even on the freeway.

The four-cylinder Eclipse Spyder GS is powered, like the Eclipse GS coupe, by Mitsubishi's 162-horsepoower, 2.4-liter, SOHC, 16-valve four. Stirring the slightly vague shifter extracts adequate performance from this powerplant as long as you're not expecting to out-drag minivans. After all, 162 horsepower can only do so much when tasked with lugging 3472 pounds (that's 198 pounds more than the coupe). But it's not particularly raucous about its work, and never really seems totally strained.

But it's the V-6 Eclipse Spyder GT that's the more compelling drive. Mitsu's 3.8-liter, SOHC, 24-valve V-6 makes a decent 260 horsepower in the Eclipse thanks, in some part, to the adoption of the company's MIVEC electronic variable valve-timing system. It's also pretty quiet and mates well with either the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transaxles. But it's a big engine with an iron block, and its heft means 60 percent of the car's weight is on its nose.

With the V-6 humming along, the driver's arm propped up on the door and a stretch of coastal highway in front of it, the Eclipse Spyder GT is a premium glider. And its thoroughly pleasant composure and easygoing personality is only amplified by the outstanding Rockford Fosgate sound system (which inexcusably doesn't feature a way to plumb in an iPod). Don't ask too much of it, and the Eclipse Spyder GT delivers a solid transportation experience with a huge sunshine factor when the top is down.

Pleasant, but not thrilling

But with the top up, the flaws in the Eclipse Spyder become more apparent. In order to keep things from looking dirty, all Eclipse Spyder tops use a black headliner and that dark ceiling seems to suck the light right out of the interior. Furthermore, the lack of top-up interior light is exacerbated by a small rear window and the lack of courtesy lights high in the car. Some people may like comfort in such darkness - and the obvious way to avoid it is to never put the top up.

That small rear window also creates a serious problem when it comes to visibility. Top-up the C-pillars are thick, and the southwesterly and southeasterly blind spots are obvious. Those blind spots are also not easily overcome.

The limitations of the Eclipse Spyder's drivetrain and chassis are also more apparent with the top up. The strut front and multi-link rear independent suspension is effective for knocking out the bumps in life, but it's relatively soft and can't compensate for the big iron chunk in the engine bay - this car wants to understeer when pushed. And it wants to understeer heavily.

Decently powerful though the engine is, it's not really a romper and it only reluctantly revs to redline. Mitsubishi has re-engineered the Spyder GT's exhaust system to be slightly quieter than in the coupe version (it's why the engine is rated at three less horsepower in the Spyder) but it has retained the pleasant alto note. A more engaging engine would zing and sing, maybe even do a Judy Garland impression.

Built atop Mitsubishi's Project America platform, the Eclipse Spyder is a big machine - just like its factory mates the large Galant sedan and larger Endeavor SUV - and it drives like a big machine. As with the coupe, in character and size it's more a successor to the old 3000GT than the first Eclipse. It's pleasant but never thrilling and limited in its talents.

But the top does go down! And when it does, it's a better car.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT

Base price: $26,500 (est.)

Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 260 hp/260 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 101.4 in

Length x width x height: 179.7 x 72.2 x 54.4 in

Curb weight: 3671 lb

Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): NA

Safety features: Dual front and side airbags; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and traction control

Major standard features: Power windows/locks/mirrors; aluminum pedals

Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles basic, ten years/100,000 miles powertrain

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Link: http://www.thecarconnection.com/Vehicle_Re...184.A10007.html

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