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2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

Top Down Fun…For Some

    Nine times out of 10, convertibles do not make a good primary car. By their very nature they are a compromise; from wiggly windshields with the top down to Buick-blocking blind spots with the top up. Their trunks are small, their prices are big, and unless you live in the Southwest your year is marred with weather you’d rather tackle in anything but a convertible. After a few days in a 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder we can tell you it suffers from all of these compromises and more, but it looks so good you might not care.
     Mitsubishi launched the fourth generation Eclipse coupe in 2006 to mostly positive reviews. Among enthusiast publications, including this one, the general consensus was the car looked great but needed to go on a slight diet to regain some of its long gone handling prowess. Well, that hasn’t happened, and the Spyder now weighs in at close to 3,700 pounds. This doesn’t help performance, as you might imagine, but we’re happy to report the show car styling that works so well on the coupe is just as successful in soft-top form.

     The Spyder is best viewed from behind where the curvaceous body sports its best curves. From that angle the fender flares, small fin and incredibly stylized taillights combine to lend some credibility to Mitsu’s claim that this is an “affordable exotic”. In profile the Spyder continues with exaggerated shapes and the 18” thin-spoke wheels lend an aura of sporty aggressiveness that, although not apparent from the driver’s seat, looks good anyway. The short front overhang and neat monocle-sporting headlamps are cool too.

      In terms of incorporating the folding top, Mitsubishi has scored higher than most. The top feels high quality and power folds (after releasing two header latches) in 19 seconds under its own hard tonneau. This gives the Spyder a clean look with the top stored and even when it’s up the top maintains a natural, even sporty, roofline. The glass rear window features a defogger, although the window itself is pretty small. You’ll find substantial blind spots with the top up, but unless you can afford a hard-top convertible you can’t really escape this. Overall, we were happy with the high-quality appearance of the top and its operation. The press kit even brags about its built-in mold-inhibitor and fungicide, which is good news for owners hoping to keep their convertible from turning into a two ton Chia Pet.
     Our GT model’s interior earned more praise than the GS we tested a while back. The two-tone IP looks fantastic, and the leather bucket seats are deeply sculpted and comfortable enough for long trips. All Spyders come standard with the 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo system that is optional on coupes. It certainly gets loud, but our tester had already developed a speaker rattle, which isn’t surprising when considering the punch these speakers have if you get aggressive with the volume control. In addition, the 8-inch subwoofer mounted in the back seat will help you earn the respect of teenage hoodlums the world over. We’d do more complaining about the positioning of the subwoofer but one look at the back “seats” and you’ll understand that they’ll never carry people anyway. A cell at Guantanamo looks more spacious. We used the space for storage and suggest you do the same. Climate controls and gauges are clearly marked, but we still don’t like the dash-mounted screen that displays the radio info. You have to look down at the radio faceplate to locate the right button and then up to verify the change and then back at the road before you careen across the median in glorious Dukes-of-Hazzard style.

     Based on the car’s sex appeal alone consumers will be begging dealers for test drives, but that could be the step that thwarts a lot of sales. Yes, Mitsubishi moved 895 Spyders in May, but we truly believe that number would be much higher if the car was tuned to deliver the driving goods we know Mitsubishi can deliver. After all, this is the company that produces the Evolution. We’re not so thick-skulled as to suggest every car be as hardcore as the Evo. But dynamically the Eclipse Spyder is a bore, and that will prevent a whole group of buyers from giving the car serious consideration.
     Most of our disappointment stems from the utterly terrible 6-speed manual and clutch combination. What should be a joy to work through the ratios becomes a guessing game of what gear you’re in, and the clutch provides no clue about take-up. If we didn’t know better we’d say the shifter and clutch weren’t even engaged in a mechanical operation, such is the extent of their isolation. If one end of the enthusiast spectrum is populated by S2000s and MX-5s, this must surely be the other end. Yes, you’ll get smooth shifts, but your enthusiast soul will be unsatisfied.
     It’s a shame the gearbox and clutch are a letdown because the 3.8-liter SOHC V6 they’re attached to is a decent piece. The MIVEC equipped six puts up 260 hp at 5,750 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 revs. We’re a little confused why Mitsu has recommended the engine run on premium fuel when competitors have similarly powerful V6s that drink the cheap stuff without a problem. The downside to sending 260 horses through the front wheels is torque steer that makes keeping the car in one lane under heavy throttle a full-time job.
     The strut and offset coil spring front suspension does a decent job soaking up bumps before they send a shutter through the chassis. The suspension is set for ride over handling but the front and rear anti roll bars keep things from getting too tippy. Like the coupe, the Spyder doesn’t like to be hustled, but if you try to get spirited its weight will turn the Spyder into an understeering mess. We were content with the brakes and pedal feel, so not all hope is lost when it comes to the stuff that matters to car guys.
     If you don’t have an enthusiast bone in your body and always mosey through curves at the recommended speed, then you may enjoy the Eclipse Spyder. It certainly is a looker and it seats two in open-air comfort. Our test car had the $1,730 GT Premium Sport package, which was short on sport but did include heated leather seats, alloy pedals, those handsome 18” wheels and more. For $179 we also enjoyed nice floor mats and an alloy (not plastic!) fuel door. Add in delivery charges and our car commands $30,803.
     Enthusiasts will shop somewhere else, but if the dynamic shortcomings don’t bother you, one of the best looking convertibles on the market is waiting at a Mitsubishi dealer near you.

The Good:
Show car styling, comfortable seats, relatively rare.
The Bad:
Torque steer, anti-enthusiast gearbox/clutch, small rear window.
The Verdict:
The Eclipse Spyder apologizes for its dynamic deficit with a surplus of style.
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