What's New for 2008
The addition of formerly optional 18-inch wheels to the GT trim as standard equipment is the lone change made for the 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder.
In the realm of four-seat, under-$30,000 convertibles, the 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is one of the sportier entries. Now in its second year since a full redesign, the Spyder carries over mostly unchanged, offering the same radical styling and solid driving experience. Based on the regular Eclipse coupe, the Spyder comes with either four-cylinder or V6 power, a power-operated soft top and a two-person backseat.
The Eclipse's traditional soft top might seem a bit old-fashioned these days, given that competing convertibles like the Chrysler Sebring, Pontiac G6 and Volkswagen Eos 2.0T come with standard or optional retractable hardtops. However, the Spyder's soft top is well insulated from wind and road noise. Plus, the drop-top Eclipse has a nice-looking interior with generally solid-quality materials and an attractive, modern design. And in GT form, equipped with the V6 engine, this Mitsubishi can be quite sporty thanks to its substantial low-end torque and respectable handling ability.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is not without flaws. Its backseat is small, and less useful than the accommodations in most other four-place convertibles. It's not as sporty as the rear-drive Ford Mustang, and performance from the four-cylinder GS model is especially lackluster. Our advice is to figure out your priorities: If you want a truly athletic convertible, go with a Mustang GT. If you want a comfy and refined cruiser, consider an Eos or a Toyota Camry Solara. If you want something in between, Mitsubishi's Eclipse Spyder GT just might be the right fit, as it mixes modern styling with respectable amounts of performance and comfort.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is a convertible version of the Eclipse coupe. Two trim levels, GS and GT, are available. The GS comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, a power convertible cloth top with a glass rear window and defroster, air-conditioning, power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. A premium Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers, a subwoofer, an in-dash six-CD changer (with MP3 compatibility) and speed-compensating volume is also standard. It does not have an auxiliary input jack, however.
The GT is similarly equipped but adds 18-inch wheels, a slightly sportier state of suspension tune and a dash-mounted compass and exterior temperature display. For the GS, Mitsubishi offers a leather package that adds leather-trimmed and heated front seats, heated mirrors and the GT's aforementioned display. A similar package is also available for the GT that features a wind deflector, automatic climate control and a power driver seat. A couple of exterior trim packages are available for buyers seeking a sportier look.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Eclipse is available with two different engines. The GS model comes with a four-cylinder engine that displaces 2.4 liters and produces 162 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The GT model features a 3.8-liter V6 engine capable of 260 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The GS can be equipped with either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic with Sportronic manual shift control. Mitsubishi upgrades the GT with a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed Sportronic automatic. With the V6, the manual-equipped Eclipse can accelerate to 60 mph in a brisk 6.5 seconds. The V6's fuel economy (16 mpg city/24 mpg highway rating for 2008), however, is not exactly budget-friendly. The four-cylinder has a slightly better 19/26 estimate.
In addition to the government-mandated equipment, all 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyders have antilock disc brakes and front-seat side airbags with head and torso coverage. GT models further benefit from traction control and bigger rear disc brakes. Stability control is not offered. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Eclipse Spyder was given the highest rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Eclipse Spyder's cockpit has an attractive flowing dash, simple controls and generally good-quality materials -- although there are a few cheap bits here and there. The available two-tone color schemes are an attractive touch, although some may find the Terra Cotta and white combo a little like sitting inside a Creamsicle. Front-seat comfort is also notably good for this type of vehicle, but the two-person rear seat is suitable for children only -- and small ones at that. The Spyder features a three-layer convertible cloth top. Dropping it is a cinch. Release the header latches, hit a button and the top stows itself under the solid tonneau cover in 19 seconds, and it goes up just as rapidly. Unfortunately, this design severely limits rear visibility with the top up, and limits trunk space to only 5.2 cubic feet.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS's four-cylinder engine is fine for normal driving, but the V6 is clearly a better match for this relatively heavy car. Not only does it add some personality to the car thanks to its snorty exhaust note, it also helps to overcome the Spyder's hefty curb weight (3,700 pounds for the GT model). The manual transmission is recommended if you're so inclined, as it's easy and fun to shift. On the road, the Eclipse Spyder handles well for a front-drive convertible and delivers a supple ride that makes it ideal for longer drives. There is a little more chassis flex over bumps than we would like, and the car's wide turn radius can be annoying, but it's not enough to spoil an otherwise enjoyable driving experience.