First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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La Jolla, California – The debate about whether certain cars look better as hardtops or convertibles is a favourite of enthusiasts. One thing’s for sure: the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder has lost nothing in its transition from coupe to cloth. In fact, it’s lost very little in the transition from concept to production model.

Top down, this is a very fetching design, and with its clear, LED taillights and optional aero kit you arguably have a tuner fait accompli. According to Dave Shembri, Mitsubishi Motors U.S. marketing executive, “You won’t find anyone swapping out the rear lights on this car.”

But if you think the Eclipse Sypder is targeted only at the tuner crowd, Mr. Shembri begs to differ. “We’re targeting this car at Generation E,” he says. “That’s “E” for Everyone.”

Mitsubishi’s flagship vehicle, the front-wheel drive Eclipse Spyder arrives in Canada in two trim levels. The GS model is powered by a 2.4 -litre, four-cylinder engine that generates 162 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm (this is the same engine that powers the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart). The 3.8-litre V6 GT makes 260 hp at 5,750 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
3.8-litre V6. Click image to enlarge

The GS uses regular fuel and rides on standard 17-inch, five-spoke “lipless” alloy wheels. The GT requires premium fuel and arrives with seven-spoke 18″ lipless wheels. Both can be ordered with a manual or automatic transmission, although the GS uses a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and the GT uses a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

Compared with the outgoing mode, the 2007 Eclipse Spyder grows in all dimensions. Overall length is up by approximately 75 millimetres, and wheelbase increases by a modest 12 mm. Interior dimensions, including hip room and leg room are also increased.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
Click image to enlarge

Standard equipment on both trim levels is generous. Fog lamps, power and heated mirrors, heated front seats, a unique transparent rear spoiler, side airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, keyless entry and a 650-watt, MP3 compatible Rockford Fosgate audio system are some of the desirable standard features. This premium audio system incorporates digital signal processing, a six-disc, in-dash CD changer and nine speakers (including a 20-centimetre sub woofer in the rear seatback).

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
Click image to enlarge

The GT adds leather seating surfaces, automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, aluminum pedals, centre mounted information display, vented front rear disc brakes (GS has solid rear discs), traction control and the big, 18-inch wheels.

Complementing the dramatic curves of the exterior, the Eclipse Spyder’s interior presents the driver with an organic “wave form” shaped instrument panel, and a centre stack designed to resemble a modern entertainment interface. Three interior colour schemes are available, including charcoal, medium grey and terra-cotta. The latter, a striking two-tone interior called “Avant Garde” is available only in the GT.

On the road, the five-speed manual, four-cylinder GS is peppy and responsive. The gear ratios are well-spaced, providing quiet highway cruising and nimble acceleration in the lower gears. The extreme wedge shape of the Eclipse Spyder means occupants sit low in the car and the top of the door seems high in relation to the driver or passenger’s shoulder.

Nonetheless, visibility all around was good and front seat occupants enjoy a spacious cockpit. The back seat, however, is largely decorative, or alternatively a good place to throw your jacket or put the groceries. It’s not adult-passenger friendly.

The four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson strut front, low-mount multilink rear) is tuned for a smooth highway ride and sharp handling. This it achieves, at the expense of some choppiness at low speeds on city streets. Power steering is hydraulically actuated.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
Click image to enlarge

The V6-powered GT adds a formidable 98 hp in comparison to the GS, and this you definitely notice. Torque-steer is a constant companion when accelerating in the lower gears, however, and a firm grip on the multifunction steering wheel is advised, especially when accelerating out of a tight corner. While the GT does have traction control, it doesn’t use a limited slip differential which might have helped with this much horsepower driving the front wheels.

Nonetheless, the powerful V6 suits the character of the GT and gives this model the kind of acceleration promised by the car’s rakish looks. The six-speed manual transmission is precise, the clutch is light, and the snappy, high-tech, V6 exhaust note is engaging when accelerating, but obediently quietens down when cruising or creeping along in stop-and-go traffic.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
Click image to enlarge

This can’t be said for the booming exhaust of the GT when equipped with the automatic transmission. Especially at low speeds, this exhaust note was intrusive, and it seemed to hijack the Rockford-Fosgate optimized interior acoustics to sustain and amplify vibrations from the mufflers and tail pipe. Oddly, it was louder on the driver’s side of the vehicle, even though the single exhaust emerged from the passenger side of the car.

Come to think of it, a dual exhaust would look better on the GT.

The power operated, cloth, triple layer convertible top with headliner, raises or lowers in 19 seconds. It’s fastened by two latches on the header rail, and lowers to reveal an integrated, rigid boot cover that fits flush with the rear deck. The top is sourced from ASC and visually it works up or down. But you have to give to get. Yes, you get a beautiful, smooth, look to the car with the top down, but all that canvas has to go somewhere, and it ends up in the trunk. Don’t get me wrong, there is space in the trunk (147 litres) but you’ll need that back seat if you’re going on a trip with more than an overnight bag.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
Click image to enlarge

And speaking of compromises, the smashing terra cotta “Avant Garde” interior doesn’t extend into the back seat. I’m sure this is a first. Take a look at the picture and you’ll see the rear interior panels and seat surfaces are grey, while the front panels and seats are terra cotta. Avant garde indeed… it’s half an interior.

Everyone at the press launch for the Eclipse Spyder seemed to enjoy the car, and informally at least, had positive things to say about it. The design is striking, the big wheels are impressive and modern; it’s comfortable, drives well and not everybody has one. The 10-year powertrain warranty is unmatched in Canada, and combines with a five-year overall warranty. The main topic of conversation, however, was the price. Mitsubishi will release pricing closer to April when the Eclipse Spyder goes on sale, but the company’s press material suggests that the GS will be in the $36,000 range.

This seems high, especially given that in the U.S. the GT will start at less than $30,000 American. Competition from the Ford Mustang convertible, both V6 at $26,999 and GT V8 at $36,999, the Chrysler Sebring and the upcoming V6-engined, $34,995 Pontiac G6 with its hardtop convertible would

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Eclipse Spyder GT in Satin Meisai with $2,455 Aero Kit. This was the “show” car at the Detroit Auto Show, and appears to have a
lowered suspension. Click image to enlarge

suggest the four-cylinder GS Eclipse Spyder will be seriously outpriced. Another competitor is the Toyota Camry Solara which is very well-equipped and aggressively priced at $34,700.

Needless to say, we think pricing is the key to success for the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder in Canada.

Though it was a “foreign car” favourite at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is entirely built in the U.S., at Mitsubishi’s Normal, llinois plant, and was designed at the company’s U.S. Research and Design studios in California.

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