Automotive attitude adjuster
Have a bad day at work? Did you miss an episode of The Office? Or maybe you had a tiff with your "better half"? Maybe we can help. Few things in life have such an immediate and positive effect on one's mood as a convertible. Somehow, dropping the top on a gorgeous day melts away minor annoyances and injects a childlike joy into one's spirit. With the warm sun, a nice breeze and "The Big '80s" blasting out of a megawatt sound system — you realize that life ain't so bad after all.
And it's all the better when said drop top has a ripping, 260-horse V6 and six on the floor. Say, something like the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT V6.
Actually, at our sun-drenched first drive event in La Jolla, California, near San Diego, we got a preview of both Eclipse Spyders that Mitsubishi will be fielding for 2007: the base GS and the sporty GT.
Stylewise, this generation of the Eclipse makes a nice transition from coupe to convertible. The rising beltline and built-in hard tonneau cover preserve the rounded yet wedgelike shape of the coupe in alfresco mode. The hunkered-down top gives the Eclipse the look of a two-seat speedster when the top is up.
And that top is a quality piece, made of cloth, not vinyl and with three layers to provide a finished look and a quiet cabin when raised. Unfortunately, and in keeping with Eclipse tradition, the glass back window is really small, looking more like an opera window from an old Lincoln Mark IV than a rear window. Visibility with the top up is so sketchy that a reverse parking sensor should be optional.
Dropping the top is a cinch. Flip open the header latches, hit the button and the top stows itself under the tonneau cover in 19 seconds, and it goes up just as rapidly. According to the Mitsu suits, the top's speedy action makes operation at stoplights an option.
Another price to pay for open-air fun is a small trunk. At 5.2 cubic feet there's about enough space to stow your gym bag, a six-pack of Propel and little else. A Mustang convertible, with 9.7 cubes, has nearly double the capacity.
Will that be Charcoal, Gray or
The interior is available in three interior color schemes: Techno-Sport (charcoal), Hi-Q Sport (gray) and Avante Garde (terra cotta). We call the last choice the "Creamsicle" scheme due to its combination of orange and cream colors.
Over the course of our five hours behind the wheel, we found the front buckets very comfortable and firmly supportive in the lumbar and side bolster areas. Leather is optional, as are seat heaters. We highly recommend the latter — cruising on a cool day with heated seats is one of driving's simple joys.
The backseat is another story. As with most cars in this class, it's best left to little kids or cargo duty. The backrest is about as upright as a church pew and legroom is expectedly tight. Fortunately, there is toe space under the front seats, so at least your tootsies won't get jammed if you don't win the call for "shotgun."
Open top, open road
On the road, the GT Spyder felt virtually identical to our long-term GT coupe, which is mostly a good thing. As with the coupe, the front-wheel-drive Spyder is fast, handles well and delivers a nice ride that makes it ideal for a long drive up the coast. Well-weighted steering, crisp turn-in and minimal body roll make for big fun in the canyons, though laying into it coming out of tight corners will reveal some torque steer. Traction control is standard, while stability control is not available.
When it's time to kick back and devour interstate, the Spyder is equally adept, with the supple suspension swallowing bumps without a trace of harshness. These Eclipses were designed from the ground up as convertibles — compared to the previous generation, torsional rigidity is up 55 percent. Cowl shake was nowhere to be found, even when running over broken pavement.
Top up, the ride is quiet, with only some slight wind ruffle betraying the lack of a hardtop. A standard 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with six-disc CD changer and a subwoofer mounted between the rear seats is ready to shatter the silence with its clear and powerful sound.
I could have had a V6
As expected, most mechanical specs are similar to the coupe's, with a minor exception. Due to a somewhat quieter (read: more restrictive) exhaust, the burly 3.8 V6 makes a few less horsepower and pound-feet of torque. The numbers are 260 hp at 5,750 rpm vs. the coupe's 263, and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm vs. the coupe's 260.
Mitsubishi's engineers felt that the coupe's extroverted exhaust note might be too much when the convertible's top was down, so they toned it down some. But don't worry, they didn't castrate the exhaust. Top down, there is still a muted baritone that growls nicely when you step into it, yet it remains unobtrusive when cruising at 70 or so on the freeway.
Mitsubishi claims the 3,700-pound GT V6/six-speed manual Spyder will scurry to 60 mph in under 7 seconds, which seems about right, given our seat-of-the-pants meter and our numbers for the GT coupe. And like our long-term coupe, the ragtop GT pulls hard right off the line and doesn't let up even as the tach needle flirts with the 6,500-rpm redline. This is a well-matched powertrain that does a lot to endear one to this car.
Choosing the five-speed automatic doesn't kill the performance either, with well-matched gearing and quick gear changes making for minimal compromise in the car's character. The "Sportronic" tranny allows manual shifting, but like most shiftable automatics, it's quick to shift down but slow to change up when the lever is flicked.
Four-wheel discs with ABS scrub off the speed and didn't seem to be affected by the car's mass — we observed no fade, just strong, confident braking when pressed.
An Eclipse GS Spyder tips the scales at around 3,500 pounds, quite a bit of weight for a four-cylinder to haul around. The 2.4-liter's output is respectable (162 hp and 162 lb-ft) but there's only so much it can do with a car that weighs the same as a Buick LaCrosse. Running with the five-speed manual, overall performance is acceptable. Around town, there's some punch here, but as expected, the pull from higher speeds drops off. With the four-speed automatic, it's the same story — peppy down low and through the midrange and a little sluggish when booted at highway passing speeds.
I need a new drug
The Mitsubishi folks like to call the 2007 Eclipse Spyder "the attainable exotic." That may be a bit of a stretch, but with its strong performance in GT form and concept car styling, it's not as far-fetched as you might think.
Set for release this summer, Eclipse Spyder pricing will range from $25,389 for the GS to $28,269 for the GT. We say spring for the GT; it's chump change for a mood-enhancing drug that has no ill side effects. Well, except for a speeding ticket if you're not careful