What's New for 1997
The 1997 Spyder gets revised front and rear styling. Antilock brakes are now available on the GS model. Two new exterior colors, new seat fabrics and a new interior color combination round out the changes.
Capitalizing on the recent success of convertible sport cars, Mitsubishi released a topless version of its extremely successful pocket rocket in the spring of 1996. Unlike most convertibles, the Spyder is not merely a chopped version of the Eclipse coupe. Instead, it was designed from square one to be a convertible. This results in a drop-top that is extremely rigid with only a 50 pound weight gain over its hardtop sibling.
Available in entry level GS or performance oriented GS-T trim levels, the Eclipse Spyder is destined to impress the most demanding of taskmasters. Instead of the bellicose Chrysler-built 2.0-liter engine common to the GS coupe, the GS Spyder receives a 2.4-liter engine pulled from the Mitsubishi Galant. Horsepower figures are nearly identical for both powerplants but the Spyder's engine has the definite edge in torque; fourteen percent more available at a relatively low 3000 rpm. The real excitement, however, lies with the GS-T. Using a proven Mitsubishi 2.0-liter intercooled turbo engine producing 210 horsepower, the GS-T offers more power than convertible competitors from BMW, Saab and Toyota. Pretty impressive for a car that costs less than $26,000.
The Eclipse Spyder has very attractive look-at-me styling that we think is a good component of any convertible design. The sleek, compact body and tidy dimensions are complemented by fine interior ergonomics and an excellent driving position. GS-T models come packed with goodies that include leather seats, an in-dash CD player, cruise control, security system and air conditioning; to name a few. Unfortunately, anti-lock brakes are conspicuously absent from the GS-T's standard equipment list.
We can not point to many reasons to not by the Spyder; it has a respected bloodline, attractive looks and promising performance. However, in the $25,000 price range it places itself in direct competition with two of our perennial favorites, the Mazda Miata and the Ford Mustang GT convertible. Both offer rear-wheel drive performance that will appeal to most enthusiasts and are solid in construction and design. This is not to say that the Spyder isn't a worthy contender, just that it makes the decision difficult. Well, that's one tough decision we would love to make.