If we're being pedantic, the 2007 Eclipse Spyder GT is not really a spyder at all: according to the strict definition, the two prerequisites of automotive arachnids are a midmounted engine and rear-wheel drive. The Eclipse fails on both scores, but we're not ones to split hairs.
Whatever it is, the Eclipse GT cuts a dash in the flow of traffic, with its sculpted front styling, muscular contours, and bulbous rear end making it stand out even before the top comes down. While the gaping air dam in the front fascia gives it something of a toothless mouth, most of the other exterior styling details--such as the flame-shaped headlights and integrated rear spoiler--are in keeping with the Eclipse's ergonomic design.
Like nearly every convertible ever built, it looks better with the top down than with it up. The Eclipse Spyder GT's fully automated retractable roof is a sight to behold in motion. The power tonneau opens like a huge jaw, which swallows the cloth roof and flips back into place without a trace. The whole procedure takes less than 20 seconds and leaves the Eclipse GT looking a lot more respectable.
Inside, the Eclipse is comfortable and tastefully appointed, but pretty barren on the tech front. The two-tone leather-and-suede seats in our car (part of the GT Premium Sport Package) felt reassuringly supportive, especially when we used their six-way power adjustability to wedge ourselves in good and tight. With very little rear legroom, the backseats in the Eclipse Spyder are seats in name only, and would more accurately be described as a lowered parcel shelf.
Up front, the interior materials are well integrated: a strip of soft rubberized oxblood plastic across the dash met with our approval, as did the glimmers of faux brushed-metal accents for the door handles and the gear-stick surround.
As there is no navigation system, hands-free communications interface, or even an auxiliary-input jack, the star of the cabin is the car's as-standard audio system, which takes the shape of a six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3-disc compatibility. This head unit is coupled to a 650-watt (max) Rockford Fosgate audio system complete with nine speakers, including an 8-inch subwoofer that sits in the center of the rear seats looking like the mouth of a Civil War-era cannon.
The Rockford Fosgate audio system is the star of the Eclipse Spyder's cabin.
Field and Sub Punch options differentiate the stereo
As well as tuner controls for bass, midrange, treble, and fade, the stereo offers two additional functions that we haven't seen on many other OEM units. First is a Field setting that enables listeners to select one of four preset EQ arrangements to suit their specific kind of music. Options include: Live, which delivers a full, clear, immersive sound; Stage, which is bass-heavy and more muffled; and Hall, which delivers cavernous acoustics and makes vocals sound like they are being broadcast from the bottom of a well.
The second unique feature is Sub Punch, which gives listeners the option to control--on a scale of 0 to 6--the depth of bass coming out of the almighty subwoofer. Mitsubishi paid for a whole TV ad campaign highlighting the Eclipse's speed-sensitive volume feature, although we have to admit that the only noise increase that we observed at higher speeds was the deafening airflow through the cabin with the top down, and a rattling sound from the roof with the top up.
An 8-inch subwoofer sits between the rear seats and can be controlled via the stereo's Sub Punch settings.
The stereo controls take the shape of four hard buttons underneath the CD aperture, which can be used to cycle through radio stations, CD tracks, and folders for MP3 discs. The main display in the cabin is an LCD in the style of LCDs of old: a blocky, monochrome readout nestled in a pod on top of the dash. Unsurprisingly, no ID3-tag information is available. Other tech features on our tester included heated front seats and power air conditioning (both courtesy of the Premium Sport Package).
Baseball shifter is a hit
Being front-wheel drive, the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT will doubtless elicit charges of not being a real sports car. It has a pretty solid defense, however, in the shape of its 3.8-liter 24-valve V-6, which drums up a more-than-adequately-sporty 260 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4,500rpm. Our tester came with the six-speed manual (a five-speed automatic is also available), controlled with a miniature-baseball-topped shifter, that enabled us to snick through the gears with a precise and gratifying mechanical action.
The short-throw shifter sports a baseball design and is a pleasure to operate.
From behind the wheel, the Eclipse feels sluggish off the line, thanks to its hefty 3,671-pound curb weight: a pretty dismal 0 to 60 time of nearly 7 seconds is not going to give it any bragging rights against many other convertible compacts.
Once in motion, however, it's a different story. Torque feels abundant from very low down, and a squeeze of the gas pedal at anything above 2,000rpm causes the Eclipse GT to start forward--in the words of Hamlet's Horatio, "like a guilty thing upon some fearful summons." Put more prosaically, it hauls ass. Accelerating from 60mph to 80mph in fourth gear is an absolute delight, while those of a more intrepid nature will enjoy holding third gear until it approaches the redline, and the car flirts with 90mph.
We have to admit to being somewhat surprised to find that the 2007 Eclipse GT comes with a traction-control system, as we managed to unintentionally spin the front wheels on multiple occasions when pulling off from the lights and when changing up from first to second. Torque-steer was also conspicuous when attempting more spirited starts from standing. Despite its front-heavy (58/42) weight distribution, the Eclipse displayed passable handling through winding mountain roads, although it is conspicuously less nimble than its two-seater competitors such as the 2006 Mazda Miata and the 2006 Pontiac Solstice . Turn-in from the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was precise at low speeds and when accelerating through bends, but felt light when driving at full-tilt on the highway. The EPA rates the Eclipse Spyder GT at 17mpg city and 26mpg highway.
ABS, EBD as standard
The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT has its fair share of standard safety features. ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) comes as standard, as do power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, and front and rear stabilizing bars. Driver and passenger get dual-stage frontal airbags as well as front seat-mounted side-impact airbags. One of the car's few electronic safety devices is the occupancy-sensing system, which turns off the passenger airbag when an adult is not seated in the seat. As of this writing, the 2007 Eclipse Spyder had not been rated for crash and rollover safety by the NHTSA.
Our Spyder GT tester came with a base price of $28,269. To this was added the $1,730 GT Premium sport package (leather front seats;18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power driver seat, alloy pedals, heated front seats, and heated side mirrors); the Accessory package (alloy fuel door, wheel locks, sport floor mats); and a destination charge of $625. Also available, but not present on our tester, is a $1,620 Aero package, which gives the Eclipse Spyder front corner air dams, sport side sills, and rear wake modifier. All told, it racked up to $30,933.
We enjoyed our week with the car, and found a fun cruiser with a good deal of style. The Eclipse Spyder GT will fit the bill for those who want a stylish soft-top 2+2 with a look-at-me audio system and a comfy ride. Boy racers looking for a bit more punch from a V-6 cabriolet and a purer sports-car experience for less than $40K, however, might want to look elsewhere--starting with a test-drive of the Nissan 350Z roadster or the 2007 Pontiac G6 GT Convertible.