Full 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder Review
What's New for 2011
The base Mitsubishi Eclipse gets a price reduction for 2011 and standard alloy wheels. Heated leather front seats and a power driver seat are now standard on the GS Sport. The GT can no longer be had with a manual transmission.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is one of the last of its breed. Gone are the days of inexpensive, front-drive sport coupes from Japan like the Acura RSX, Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica. Tastes have changed and corporate priorities have shifted. Today, there's been a renaissance of inexpensive fun cars, but most belong to the hot-hatch genre. But for those who scoff at a dorky hatch and yearn for those good ol' days of the sport coupe, the 2011 Eclipse is a pleasant relic. It's also one of the few convertibles in its price range.
Since the moment it was introduced four years ago, the current Eclipse coupe and Spyder convertible have primarily stood out because of their outrageous styling, highlighted by a radically raked windshield, a forward-sloping beltline and a round, curvaceous rear end. A nifty touch is the GS models' transparent rear spoiler, while the GT can be equipped with a funky two-tone interior scheme reminiscent of a Creamsicle.
Sadly, though, that's mostly where the Eclipse's desirability ends. Its standard four-cylinder doesn't move the heavy coupe and convertible with any semblance of authority and its fuel economy isn't especially impressive. The big V6 found in the GT boasts robust power, but it overwhelms the front wheels with torque steer. The Eclipse coupe's handling is also a far cry from the Chevy Cobalt SS and Honda Civic Si (the other sport coupe relics) or hot hatches like the Mazdaspeed 3, Mini Cooper S and VW GTI.
The Eclipse interior is nice to look at, but upon closer inspection you'll discover unappealing hard materials. Common features like a telescoping steering wheel, rear-seat head restraints and a navigation system aren't available, and there's also significantly less backseat room than in most competitors.
Of the two Eclipse models, the Spyder is the more appealing of the two simply because there's not much competition. Those that are similarly priced (Ford Mustang, Mini Cooper, VW Eos) are dramatically different types of drop tops. We think they're all worth a look.
As for the coupe, as much as we fondly remember the Mitsubishi Eclipse's good old days, the 2011 version is but an interesting-looking shell of its former self. We'd be hard-pressed to pick one in lieu of the Civic Si and Cobalt SS, or the rear-drive Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Hyundai Genesis coupe. If you care more about fuel economy and a low price, the Kia Forte Coupe and Scion tC are appealing alternatives as well. Also, don't be so quick to dismiss those hot hatches. Times have changed and inexpensive sporty cars have evolved. The Eclipse may be a pleasant relic, but it's a relic nonetheless.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse is available in two body styles: coupe and the Spyder convertible. Both seat four people and are available in GS Sport and GT, while the Coupe adds a base GS trim.
The GS comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel, driver lumbar adjustment, a 50/50 split rear seatback and a six-speaker sound system with CD player. The GS Sport adds xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, heated power mirrors, heated leather front seats, a six-way power driver seat, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls. The Spyder includes a power convertible roof. The GT adds a standard V6 engine, bigger rear brakes, a bigger rear stabilizer bar, large rear spoiler (coupe only) and automatic climate control. There are no significant factory options, though an iPod adapter is one of several dealer-installed accessories.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse is front-wheel drive. GS models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 162 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The GS comes standard with a five-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is optional on the GS and standard on the GS Sport. Estimated fuel economy with the automatic is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
The Eclipse GT gets a 3.6-liter V6 good for 265 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. This engine requires premium fuel and its estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes, stability control and front seat side airbags. The coupe features front side curtain airbags and the Spyder gets taller side airbags that cover occupants' heads. There are no rear head restraints. The Eclipse Spyder received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top rating of "Good" in both the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Eclipse's cabin is both stylish and simple, thanks to a sweeping dash and attractive chrome-rimmed gauges with cool blue backlighting. Unfortunately this pleasingly modern design is tempered by the use of some low-quality plastic materials and a steering wheel that doesn't telescope. The front seats are well-contoured and supportive, but the upright rear seats have no head restraints and fail to provide much headroom (especially with the sloping rear hatchback of the coupe). That hatchback design does provide some extra utility, however, as do the 50/50-split-folding rear seats.
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.
For many drivers, the 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse's driving dynamics might be a bit of a disappointment. The GT's V6 produces plenty of power, but getting all those horses to the pavement can often result in a large dose of wheelspin and torque steer. In contrast to the V6, the four-cylinder struggles with the Eclipse's heavy curb weight -- acceleration with the smaller engine could best be described as anemic.
Another item of contention would be the large turning circle, which necessitates many more multiple-point turns than other vehicles. Overall handling should satisfy most drivers, but those with an appetite for performance would likely find inspiration in any number of competing sport coupes or hatchbacks. The Spyder exhibits a little more chassis flex over bumps than we'd like, but it's not enough to spoil an otherwise enjoyable driving experience.