The second-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible is more of a touring car than the zoomy model it replaced.
In fact, likely to the dismay of the generally young crowd who liked the old Spyder, the 2001 model seems like a rival to general-market convertibles such as the Ford Mustang and Chrysler Sebring. Mitsubishi seems to be aiming the new Spyder at an older, more upscale crowd.
Tight Rear Seat
The new front-drive Spyder is larger than the rambunctious old model, with a longer wheelbase for more interior room and a better ride. However, the rear-seat area still is suitable only for tots and small parcels.
That's not to say that this second-generation Eclipse convertible is too soft to provide driving enjoyment. Rather, the jagged edges of the previous Spyder are gone, along with such things as its zoomy turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.
The same holds true for the similar Eclipse coupe, which debuted as a revamped 2000 model without the turbo engine or all-wheel drive offered for its predecessor. Both Illinois-built Eclipses use the above-average platform of the Mitsubishi Galant sedan.
The first-generation Spyder had smooth styling. The new model has the same controversial "geo-mechanical" design as the coupe, with ribbed body sides that look as if taken from a Pontiac Grand Am.
No convertible is cheap, but the base Spyder GS model should be affordable to many. It's priced at $23,407 with a decent 5-speed manual transmission and 4-cylinder engine, which generates 147 horsepower. The price jumps to $24,407 if you get a GS with a responsive 4-speed automatic.
The higher-line GT model has a 200-horsepower V6. It costs $25,407 with the manual and an extra $1,000 with the automatic. To accompany the V6, the GT has a stiffer suspension and bigger tires for surer handling.
Even GS standard equipment includes air conditioning, 7-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system and power windows and door locks. But only the GT model is offered with anti-lock brakes, traction control (with the automatic transmission) and side airbags.
While refined, the Spyder with the 3.0-liter V6 provides nearly the acceleration of the old turbo Spyder—especially with the manual transmission, which works with a decent clutch. However, a downshift to third gear is needed for a fast 65-75 mph passing time. The old turbo engine provided a nice power rush, but the V6 is quieter and smoother.
The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder provides lazy acceleration off the line with the automatic, but has good torque for stop-and-go driving and provides decent overall performance. Both engines have a single-overhead-camshaft design and four valves per cylinder.
Fuel economy isn't a major consideration for many Spyder buyers, but the 4-cylinder model provides a few more miles per gallon than the V6: an estimated 22 city, 30 highway with the manual transmission and 20 and 27 with the automatic, which has Mitsubishi's Sportronic Sequential Shifter to let a driver manually control gear selection.
Few Shakes and Rattles
The new Spyder has a more rigid structure than the old model. The result is far fewer shakes and rattles, although my low-mileage test car had a pronounced door rattle that didn't match the Spyder's generally solid construction.
The Spyder is fun to drive, although it feels more like a touring car than a sports car. The steering has an artificial feel at highways speeds, but is quick. And the well-engineered suspension allows agile handling and a nice ride.
The brake pedal is rather soft, but stopping distances are short, although only the GT has a 4-wheel disc setup that is more efficient during demanding braking conditions.
Roomy Up Front
There is good room for two 6-footers up front, but long doors can make it difficult to get in and climb out when the car is in tight parking areas. Front seats are comfortable and supportive during spirited driving.
But the over-styled dashboard has such things as audio readouts in a gimmicky center dash pod.
The trunk spoiler looks good from the outside, but some drivers may soon tire of seeing its view-blocking design through the rearview mirror. Rear visibility is poor with the top up, partly because the back window is small.
Snug, Efficient Top
However, the snug-fitting power top has a heated glass—not plastic—back window and goes up and down quickly. Its three-layer fabric allows a fairly quiet interior for a convertible.
The small trunk has a high opening that calls for extra effort to load and unload cargo, but its lid rises high on hydraulic struts that don't eat into cargo space.
The new Spyder isn't as entertaining as the old model, but generally is a better car.