Eclipse Spyder stylish makeover
could use more 'Evolution'
By John Gilbert, special to SNS
DULUTH, Minn. (SNS)
– When Mitsubishi recreated its Eclipse with a brand new model for
2006, I had a few mixed feelings about it. Now Mitsubishi has
completely redone the Eclipse Spyder for 2007, and I still have a few
In self-examination, I don’t think it’s me – the
Eclipse and its convertible Spyder brother seem to be caught between
the old traditional Mitsubishi and an attempt to remake the company’s
automotive arm into a trendy, youthfully popular element.
The Eclipse is stunning in its looks, and Mitsubishi
did well to stick to the very popular concept car that it had
previously shown around on the major auto show circuit.
So the Spyder, which is the third generation of
turning the Eclipse into a convertible, shares the same
front-wheel-drive handling and performance as the Eclipse coupe.
Front-wheel drive is a curious thing these days.
Around the winterless areas of the country, and including the offices
of all the major car magazines, the tradition is to criticize any car
with front-wheel drive as being incapable of high-performance or a
fun-to-drive quotient. We here in the Great White North know better.
People who risk occasionally
getting caught in snowstorms from November until April are aware
that front-wheel drive has tremendous benefits in icy driving
conditions. When rear-drive advocates say traction control systems
make rear drive equally good in winter, they betray an ignorance
to the fact that sophisticated traction control also can be
installed on front-wheel-drive vehicles, thus making them even
Winter drivers among us will accept the fact that
you can’t hang the rear end out when you corner too hard, and trade it
for great foul-weather traction, supplemented by making a FWD car
handle as good as possible.
So the Eclipse handles well, and so does the Spyder.
You feel the front-wheel drive through the steering
wheel, which means you can get an early tip-off if you happen to
over-drive it into a turn, or you can stay on the power and simply
steer through a turn where you’d have to lift off with rear-wheel
The Eclipse Spyder, like its coupe predecessor,
comes with a very strong 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, or a very
strong 3.8-liter V6. Both are dual-overhead-camshaft, multiple-valve
engines, both with excellent power.
The four has 162 horsepower at 6,000 RPMs, and an
equal 162 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 RPMs, and comes with a
five-speed manual or a four-speed optional automatic with Sportronic
The V6 has 260 horsepower at 5,750 RPMs, and 258
foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 RPMs, with a standard six-speed stick,
or an optional five-speed Sportronic automatic, and drive-by-wire
electronic throttle control.
Lots of power, and Mitsubishi’s MIVEC – which stands
for Mitsubishi Innovative Variable Valve Timing Electronic Control,
and we can only be thankful they skipped a few initials – propel the
Spyder with either the four or the six with plenty of quickness.
MIVEC can adjust valve timing and lift as if the
engine was changing camshafts as you rev up the single-overhead cam
engines past 4,000 revs in the V6 or 4,300 in the four.
Personally, I prefer my Mitsubishi performance cars
to have small engines that over-achieve, whether by turbocharger or
tightly refined technology. That is not to say that the 2.4 or 3.8
engines are inferior in any way. They seem very strong and very good
in brief introduction in the Spyder. But there are historic and
current reasons for my preference.
The management and promotion arms of Mitsubishi are
fairly new, since the Japanese company has undergone some major
alterations in recent years.
And maybe I have more of a historical perspective
on Mitsubishi vehicles than some of them do.
At the introduction, held in San Diego a couple of
months ago, Dave Schembri, the executive vice president of sales
and marketing for Mitsubishi Motors of North America, traced the
Eclipse’s roots from the old Cordia, to the Starion, then the 3000
GT, then the VR-4 Galant, and up to the first Eclipse.
"Unique and purposeful design," Schembri calls
it. "At the Detroit Auto Show introduction, the new Eclipse looked
like a work of art. It looks great from every angle, and every
line. As a representative of the manufacturer, I say that, but
just being a car guy from Detroit, I also can say it."
Schembri also said Mitsubishi is using different
marketing. Instead of targeting young singles and first-time buyers,
the way every other manufacturer is doing these days, Mitsubishi is
going after "Generation E – meaning everyone," he said. "Our target is
attitude and lifestyle more than age and income.
We hope to attract anyone with an active lifestyle,
an extroverted personality, and who might want to reward themselves
with the right car. This is a car that is love at first sight and fun
to drive. We call it the ‘attainable exotic.’ "
Priced at $25,889 for the Eclipse Spyder GS, and
$28,769 for the GT, the Spyder offers a four-door convertible,
although the back seat is strictly for small people and/or short hops.
Product manager Mike Evanoff said that the Spyder is
a "move forward, with a link back" to the Eclipse’s history.
That was about where I raised my hand. I once raced
a Dodge Colt, made by Mitsubishi, in a couple of Showroom Stock road
races, and I owned a high-revving Colt wagon, and later owned a 1979
Colt GT, which was a wild little thing that could screech the tires in
the first three gears even while delivering 41 miles per gallon – all
with outstanding 1.6-liter Mitsubishi four-cylinder engines.
My son owned a Cordia, and our whole family lusted
after the 3000 GT/Dodge Stealth.
The first Eclipse used that 1.6-liter engine, and
the upgraded models, whether Eclipses, Plymouth Lasers, or Eagle
Talons, used turbocharged versions of that little engine, and
Since the new Spyder is trying to be loyal to the
tradition of the first Eclipses, I asked, why the transition away from
the strong little engines, of 2.0 liters or smaller, to comparatively
large, boulevardiering type 2.4 and 3.8?
An answer was that American buyers want more torque,
and instantaneous power at low end, so larger displacement handles
that as an evolution up from the smaller engines of the predecessors.
Aha! The magic word was "evolution." So my next
question is that since Mitsubishi makes a world-class compact sedan,
named the Evolution, and it has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four with
all-wheel drive, why not simply intall that drivetrain in the Eclipse
and Eclipse Spyder?
When you think about it, the Evolution is a winged
model of the Lancer, which is a competent but unexciting compact sedan
– the most unassuming of Mitusbishi vehicles. Successful as that is,
would the same drivetrain, placed under the most exotic, most stylish,
and most…assuming of vehicles be an instant worldwide classic?
Hmmm, said Mitsubishi officials. Not a bad idea, a
couple of them said. Now, I can’t believe Mitsubishi executives and
engineers honestly hadn’t even thought of or considered such a
combination. But we will take them at face value, and keep an eye on
their unspoken future products.
As it is, the Spyder is a strong and stylish car.
The Spyder is only 200 pounds heavier than the coupe, which is
remarkable, considering that the body required considerable
reinforcement, with new floor and rear cross-members to increase
rigidity without the coupe’s roof structure. The car is 55 percent
stiffer in torsional rigidity than the previous generation Spyder.
The top is a three-layer cloth deal, with a rear
window and defogger. Built by American Specialties and delivered
intact to the Normal, Ill., Mitsubishi plant, the top stows under a
flip-up tonneau cover at the rear, and it goes down in under 7
seconds, then that cover snaps shut tightly to make a seamlessly neat
Nice features include an instrument pod that was
inspired by road-racing motorcycles, and a standard Rockford Fosgate
audio system with 650 watts, and nine speakers including a subwoofer,
and capability for playing six CDs, or MP3.
The subwoofer is centrally mounted in the backrest
of the rear seat, aiming forward like a huge, sonic cannon. It has the
capability of digitally changing sound styles for different types of
music, which can be programmed among six choices, and it has a good
sound equalization system to compensate for having the top down.
Mitsubishi anticipates that Spyders will account for
25 percent of all Eclipses, and that 75 percent of Spyders will be
picked with automatic transmissions. Stylish, exotic-looking, a lot of
neat features and benefits…All in all, it’s a very strong and
moderately priced convertible that is the perfect stopgap.
At least until we can find a little turbo
all-wheel-drive as the perfect "evolution" of the breed.
Editor's note: John Gilbert writes weekly auto reviews. He can be
reached at email@example.com.