Mitsubishi, Road Test Reviews

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT – Road Test

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

My opinion on the looks of various Mitsubishi vehicles has been documented in this very space through previous Road Tests – such as the Galant and Endeavor. To quote myself: “Not ugly – just unattractive in the way Katie Holmes and Jennifer Aniston look – only one of them will make your heart skip a beat.” We’ve already reviewed Katie Holmes – now it’s Jennifer’s turn…

Look at this car – it certainly makes my heart skip a beat! Hubba-Hubba!

I waited all summer to test the Spyder and when it finally arrived, I was giddy with anticipation. I could use dozens of poetic descriptions of how I feel about the way this car looks, but that would waste too much time.  The big question is: Is it a “Go-er”? – You know – a 3 dressed up as a 9?

First Impressions
When I pulled into the parking lot, I was scanning all the rows of cars, looking for my test Spyder. Would it be one of those orange ones you see every now and again, or is there a color I haven’t seen yet? Then I spotted it! Over there between the Jaguar XJ and something else (doesn’t matter) – it – is – grey. Charcoal grey. Hmmm there’s a let-down. Oh well, the color’s a bit mundane, but check out the body! Walking up to the Eclipse Spyder I notice it’s not as mundane as I’d first thought. The color is charcoal grey with a hint of blue/green. Alright, I’ll take it.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

As is the case with the overall look of the Eclipse, the door handles are not run-of-the-mill – they open sideways as opposed to up or even straight out. Opening the door reveals a very sporty interior covered in black leather and plastic. Getting behind the wheel is relatively easy for a low-slung sports car. Adjusting the rally inspired multi-way electric seat gets you into the comfort zone quickly. The headrest are cut out in the centre and have mesh inserts, that according to Mitsubishi “enhance rear visibility.” I don’t know about you, but I never try to look through the headrests if I’m trying to get a better view of anything – especially the driver’s one! (Maybe this goes a long way to explaining the recent lack of success in Mitsubishi’s WRC team).

Grabbing the “Sport Touch” steering wheel, it feels just perfect in my hands. Looking around the interior, everything is very logically laid out and there’s no sign that this is going to be a complicated vehicle to operate. The audio system is nice and clean – everything legible with nice big buttons. A Rockford Fosgate stereo eh? This should sound pretty good. Below the stereo are the climate control buttons and dials – nice and easy to use, none of those stupid million-button systems – and surprise – the owner decides where to direct the heat/cool air – not the cars designers. Mitsubishi seem to have everything perfectly placed in this car – why can’t all manufacturers get it this right? The steering wheel has one of those easy-to-use cruise control sticks at the 4 o’clock position and the audio controls are right where I’d expect them to be – on the reverse side of the steering wheel right where your fingers rest. Between the driver and passenger is the leather six-speed manual transmission shifter (a little smaller than a baseball, but with similar stitching) and two very good usable cup holders and a storage compartment. The door “map pockets” on the other hand were useless unless you have the need to carry a couple of spare Tic-Tac containers in the car at all times. They don’t even fit sunglasses, and if you put a map in them it would fall out as soon as you opened the door.

Directly in front of the driver is the pod that houses the speedometer and tachometer as well as the other gauges such as fuel, temperature and turn signals. This is the only part of the interior that looks and feels cheap. The dash is nice and solid with good quality plastics, but the pod is constructed in a flimsy, extremely cheap-feeling plastic reminiscent of a toy car. It looks good – it’s just not very well made. The dials themselves are very nice, and according to Mitsubishi: “are motorcycle inspired and feature exotic, Ice Blue nighttime illumination” as do all of the other dials and buttons in the car – very nice and classy looking.

The cowl is higher than you’d expect on a traditional sedan, adding to the sporty nature of the Eclipse. On the top of the dash out by the bottom of the windshield in the centre is the information centre which houses the outside temperature reading, radio stations and CD info, compass and clock. At first it seemed a little far away, but after just a couple of minutes it seemed very logical and ideally placed. Much like the bi-level dash on the Honda Civic, it’s far enough away that it actually doesn’t require you to re-focus when you look at it. The information is nice and large, so there’s no searching and squinting to read it – even under direct sunlight the readouts never got washed out.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

The steering tilts, but doesn’t telescope which I didn’t feel was a necessity due to its perfect placement. The rack-and-pinion steering is very good, being sharp, perfectly weighted and giving plenty of feedback. It’s light enough for parking lot maneuvers, while heavy enough at higher speeds to encourage spirited driving. The clutch/shifts are silky-smooth and easy to use with nicely balanced take up of the clutch as you let it out. Shifting into reverse requires you to lift a ring located just under the knob while shifting the lever to the left of 1st gear. To me, this is the most logical and perfect way to shift into reverse. I hate the ones that are over to the right – by 6th gear, or the ones that leave you guessing if it’s in first or reverse until you let the clutch out and lurch forward.

Power from the V-6, 260 hp engine is smooth and comes on with a rush around 4,500 rpm. Like the Galant, the engine is always ready to take off at a split-seconds notice. A couple of times I did get the feeling that (gasp!) the car had too much power. It wasn’t torque-steer that was the problem, it just wanted to GO. During several trips up the steep hill in our area, I had to ease off the gas on the way up, to rein in the power. I never felt the car pulling to one side or the other – which would have been a clear indication of torque-steer where the power overwhelms the tires/steering. Peeling away from stop signs was always a blast and I never tired of it. I always wanted to take the engine right up to its 6,500 rpm redline to hear the growl and feel the power, but once I got into 3rd gear I had to ease off because I was well over the posted speed limit – bummer. Overtaking slower vehicles meant you HAD to have both hands on the wheel, because when it took off, it moved! I liked the fact that I didn’t have to mash the gas to get the revs and speed up; a nice consistent move of the pedal brought an equally constant rush of power.

The Spyder’s fully independent suspension provides firm and sporty handling without being harsh – no doubt the front and rear anti-roll bars helping considerably. I hit some wicked pot holes and road construction in Toronto and there was almost no shaking or shivering from the Spyder – very impressive if you’d seen the condition of the roads. But, surprisingly when we were bombing down country back roads it was the very opposite. We had quite a bit of cowl shake and wobblies over the off-camber roads with much smaller imperfections and pot holes. The driver’s door started squeaking like a Chevy Camaro after a few minutes too. However, railroad tracks and expansion joints weren’t an issue at all. Overall though, Mitsubishi’s engineers have done an incredible job of making topless driving virtually shake-free.

With the top up, driving at speeds up to 90 mph, the car was very quiet, with only the PT Cruiser convertible being more civilized to the eardrums. I expected a problem with the blind spot on the right ride, and so it proved to be the case. The top fills a very large area which means backing up out of a parking spot requires a lot of care because it tends to hide large people and cars. With the top down it’s easy to have a normal conversation without raising your voice too much. There’s an optional wind deflector, but I don’t feel it was a necessity as it was very civilized, with very little wind swirling around the cabin. When it did get a little too windy, we just rolled up the windows. Dropping the top is painless and simplistic – undo two latches, press and hold the power top button on the dash and 19 seconds later – no roof. The 4 windows are lowered as the roof lifts up and the rear deck opens like a clam shell to accept the top. The Spyder’s high quality cloth top folds completely out of site, underneath a flush fitting tonneau cover making it one of the best looking convertibles available at any price.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

Trunk space is very usable and doesn’t change whether the top is up or down. The trunk is an average size with 5.2 cu/ft. available, but it looks much bigger than many other convertibles I’ve driven this year. The rear seats don’t fold forward and there’s no access to the trunk from inside the cabin. As a side point – the only access to the trunk is via the fob or key – there’s no trunk release button anywhere inside the car, and you can’t pop the trunk with the fob while the key is in the ignition.

The rear seat is a very small place to be. During my test, I climbed into the back to check it out and hurt myself getting back out. Once you’ve wrestled the seatbelt out of the way, it’s not hard to get in (obviously much easier with the top down than up). The back seat itself is very small, with the seat back being very upright. There’s a surprising amount of headroom with the top up – it has enough headroom for someone 5’10” (as long as he or she has no legs – cause there’s no room for long legs back there). I’m 5’7” and my right knee was jammed up against the hard back of the passenger seat, with my left knee up against the equally hard centre console. Foot space wasn’t too bad for my small feet, but there was no shoulder room to speak of because the interior infringes so far into passenger space, and my bum just barely fit into the contoured seat. Getting out is easy if your name is Harry Houdini. First of all there’s the seatbelt again, then you’ve got to push yourself forward, while trying to stretch out the right leg over the very wide sill (didn’t notice that on the way in) to touch-down on the ground. Accomplishing that, you still had to twist and squeeze past the seat – and the seatbelt – while avoiding the roof and trying not to fall out of the car. On a positive note: the Eclipse Spyder comes with the LATCH system for those that would like to put a baby’s car seat back there – good luck with that!

Once again, a factory installed stereo system – in the case of the Eclipse – a 650W Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with an in dash 6-disc CD/MP3 player, 8 speakers plus an 8” subwoofer, is truly outstanding. The subwoofer sits between the rear seats facing forward, taking up an otherwise wasted piece of real estate within the car. Combined with the other 8 speakers, the sound is all-encompassing and crystal-clear. There are numerous options available depending on what type of music you listen to – for example jazz or rock and roll. The deck features PUNCH Audio Dynamics (automatic sound equalization system – it knows whether the top is up or down and adjusts the volume/dynamics accordingly), along with steering wheel mounted controls (on the back side of the wheel). Cranking it up to its limit would definitely bring the on-slot of deafness if it were done regularly. It amazes me why auto manufacturers have taken so long to team up with audio manufacturers to give the customer a killer stereo without having to spend extra time and money going to the aftermarket for their sound ‘fix.”

The Eclipse Spyder comes in 2 variations: GS and GT (in Canada it’s GT Premium). The Canadian version comes fully loaded, with a 5-speed Sportronic automatic transmission as the only option. In the U.S. you have to buy the $1,730 GT Premium Sport Package to get the equivalent vehicle. The GT Premium model comes with a new 3.8 litre, SOHC, 24 valve, MIVEC V-6 producing 260 hp. The engine makes a throaty growl and loves to pull all the way to its 6,500 rpm redline. The MIVEC system features separate camshaft profiles for high and low engine speed modes, giving maximum power and increased usable torque under the widest variety of driving conditions. It allows the intake valves to open wider and longer, allowing more air/fuel mixture into the cylinder, thus maximizing power and torque over a broad range of engine speeds. Simply put: MIVEC alters the cam profiles, tailoring engine performance to suit your driving needs – and it works superbly – providing significant power and torque throughout the entire rev range.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

Standard features in the GT-P Spyder include: Cloth fully lined convertible top with glass rear window, sport leather heated seats, 8-way (6-way power) driver’s seat with lumbar control (4-way passenger), heated front seats, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), Traction Control, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with a 6-disc in dash CD/MP3 player, 9 speakers including an 8” subwoofer, PUNCH Audio Dynamics, tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, fog lamps, one-touch down driver’s window, side air bags, trip computer (display for time, audio, compass, external temperature), rear spoiler, power heated side-view mirrors, automatic climate control, keyless entry with remote trunk feature and electronic lockout protection, map lights with delayed auto off, swivel and illuminated visor mirrors, engine immobilizer, 2 power outlets, and seven-spoke 18” alloy wheels with P235/45 tires.

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT,, Iain Shankland

On the safety side, features include: seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters, side impact door beams, engine immobilizer, front seat mounted side-impact airbags, LED tail and brake lights, ABS, EBD and traction control.

Bumper To Bumper Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles [100,000 kms]. Powertrain: 10 years/100,000 miles [160,000 kms]. Roadside Assistance: 5 years/unlimited.

Towing capacity: Not recommended

The Conclusion
It’s a gorgeous looking car – with the top up or down – that’s better and cheaper than a few other convertibles I’ve driven this year. It’s a blast to drive, and in a real pinch you can squeeze a couple of people in the back seat to drive down to the local Dairy Queen. Although there is a rear seat it’s more useful for storage than people, but makes the Eclipse a better choice than an out-and-out 2-seater drop top. One thing I’d definitely change on it if, it were possible, are the side view mirrors – they’re too close to the driver – moving them forward so you look through the little side windows would be the ideal placement for them. The Eclipse Spyder is a solid, well-built car with an incredible warranty, how can you go wrong? It’s fast with no shortage of power and has an incredible sound system.

Rear Seat Test: 4 out of 10
“There’s room back there for a human?” “Getting in is a lot easier than getting out” “My big butt won’t fit in those tiny seats”

Pricing for the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT
As tested: $30,178 [$34,585 Cdn]
The 2007 Eclipse Spyder GS starts at $28,389 [$31,998 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Premium – 91 Octane]
The 3.8L V-6 is rated at 16.4 mpg City [14.3 L/100 kms] and 25 mpg Highway [9.3 L/100 kms]
I averaged 23 mpg [10.6 L/100km] combined in spirited driving.

As low maintenance as Katie Holmes, with the looks of Jennifer Aniston
Excellent fit and finish, with gobs of power and a nice long warranty
Unbelievable stereo system
Did you see the price?

Barely usable back seat for people, pets are OK – if they’re co-operative
Door map pockets – surely you jest!

Would I Spend My Money On It?: 
Yes! I think this is one of THE best convertibles out there. Not including the huge price advantage, I think this just edges out the Mustang as my favorite convertible.

Immediate Competition:
Chrysler Sebring & PT Cruiser, Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5, MINI, Pontiac G6, Toyota Solara, Volkswagen Beetle & Eos

By The Numbers-
Powertrain: 3.8 litre, SOHC, 24 valve, MIVEC V-6; FWD, 6-speed manual transmission
Horsepower: 260 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 258 @ 4,500 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.7 seconds

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (Heated Seats / Sunroof, etc)

7 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
4 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
9 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
10 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy

138 Total / 150

Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain & Gail Shankland

Also Published at: PaddockTalk