It looks as if Mitsubishi has found the sweet spot for sporty convertibles. If you want a four-passenger droptop for less than $30,000, there are half a dozen economy car-based, front-wheel-drive alternatives, but none offer as pleasing a combination of sportiness, style, practicality, and performance as the new Eclipse Spyder, which is offered in either four-cylinder GS or V-6-powered GT trim. With a striking exterior, a neat and comfortable interior, excellent seats, and a superior folding top, it's a splendid cabriolet at a low price.
Generally, economy-convertible buyers are better off with base engines, and this is certainly the case with the Eclipse. Once you accept the fact that the Spyder is not a sports car but is instead an attractive alternative to daily-use sedans, any desire for maximum performance can be tempered by the real virtues of adequacy, not excess. The GS's 2.4-liter four provides 162 horses and an equal amount of torque, and it is more than satisfying, providing plenty of thrust, lively acceleration, and decent fuel economy. It seems to suit the character of the car a little better than the GT's 260-hp, 3.8-liter V-6. Extra power gives stronger acceleration but at the cost of nose-heavy feel, far too much torque steer, and a tendency to spin the front tires on takeoff-even with a light foot on the throttle. Tip-in is too quick and too sensitive, despite the grip of the 235/45VR-18 tires offered with the GT premium package. GS and standard GT models are equipped with generous seventeen-inch, all-season rubber. The ride of the heavy 3500-pound-plus car is supple with either tire size, both of which respond well to steering inputs.
Spyders are optimized for daily driving, in that the trunk space stays the same whether the top is up or down. The roof itself is a multi-ply affair that goes up and down quickly-in less than twenty seconds-with power assistance, protected from the elements by a hard tonneau cover. The topless Eclipse is a homogeneous and satisfactory accessory in convertible country.