Break out your warm-weather gear, grab some sunscreen, put on a pair of cool shades and head down to your local Mitsubishi store, because summer is near (or here) and the hot new Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible is calling.
The Japanese-based automaker did a credible job assembling the fourth-generation Eclipse coupe that arrived last year. Now along comes a Spyder to tempt and tantalize sports-minded buyers.
The latest Eclipse convertible, which uses a platform first developed for the Galant sedan and, believe it or not, Endeavor sport-utility vehicle, displays all of the physical and mechanical features that make the fixed-lid version such a hit. The California-designed car is considerably larger in every key dimension than the previous version and marks a return to the fender-bulging, high-rump styling that was a hallmark of earlier (pre-2000) Eclipse bodywork.
More room outside translates into added space inside the Spyder’s cockpit and the most noticeable gains occur in both front-seat shoulder and hip room. As before, though, anyone relegated to the back seat should be small of stature and hope for a warm, dry day so they don’t have to worry about bumping their heads on the low-slung ceiling.
Speaking of the roof, the Spyder is one of only a handful of convertibles on the market that looks nearly as good with its tops in place as it does when it’s stowed.
When the sun is shining and the road is beckoning, 19 seconds is all it takes to transform the Eclipse into an open-air cruiser. The standard power cloth top also neatly folds below a hard tonneau, leaving a completely unobstructed view behind the rear seat.
How rapidly you travel will depend on your choice of models. The base GS operates with a 162-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder connected to either a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. Opting for the GT gets you a 3.8-liter V6 that turns up the wick to the tune of 260 horsepower. A six-speed manual comes with the V6 while a five-speed automatic can be found on the option sheet.Mitsubishi claims that the Spyder GT, when fitted with the six-speed gearbox, will scoot to 60 m.p.h. in about seven seconds. That’s only slightly slower than the coupe, which is understandable considering that the ragtop weighs about 100 pounds more.
Regardless of model, there’s a wealth of standard equipment, including air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, anti-lock brakes, and power windows, mirrors and door locks. "Also according to Chris Cobb of Newton GMC Mitsubishi in Chattanooga, there is a 650-watt, nine-speaker audio system that automatically adjusts the volume depending on whether the top is up or down, "that you really should hear in order to fully appreciate it."
Other than the bigger engine, the GT doesn’t include much more content, but it’s the way to go if you want to spring for extra-cost items such as heated outside mirrors, power adjustable driver’s seat, a leather interior, heated front seats, aluminum pedals, wind deflector and 18-inch wheels.
"There is also a 10 year, 100 powertrain warranty from the factory, which is hard to beat," says Mr. Cobb.
At a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range, the Eclipse Spyder will likely challenge such diverse convertible offerings as the Ford Mustang, Pontiac G6, VW New Beetle, Toyota Camry Solara as well as Chrysler’s Sebring and PT Cruiser. That’s plenty to choose from, but the stylish Spyder should easily hold its own among this list of established sun worshippers.