After driving the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder back from its media press launch earlier this week, I can announce that spring has sprung and I have started making my summer to-do list. A couple of hours behind the wheel of this red, wedge-shaped beauty was all it took to shake any lingering winter blues.
Mitsubishi has gone back to its roots somewhat, with styling cues reminiscent of the original 1996 Spyder, which was a sales success. The subsequent model’s design never captured buyers’ imaginations. The Eclipse is developed off the same platform as the Galant sedan.
Mitsubishi predicts that demand for sports coupes will continue to grow and judging by the products some manufacturers are bringing to the market, it appears to support that opinion. An initial allotment of 440 Spyders is planned for the Canadian market in the first production year.
The Eclipse Spyder comes with two engine choices, each offering a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. An inline 2.4L 4 cylinder engine, with Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control, or MIVEC, producing 162HP and 162 lb/ft of torque, powers the base model and comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. A 4-speed automatic is optional.
A GT model comes with the 3.8L V6 engine, with MIVEC electronic valve controls. This engine rolls out 260hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, while a 5-speed automatic is optional.
Although the interior layout is listed as 2+2, as with most sports coupes, take that with a grain of salt. The lack of any rear seat legroom turns the back seat, even though equipped with a pair of shoulder harness seat belts, to a storage area for parcels or other form of cargo. This is probably not a bad idea as folding cloth roofs usually take up a good chunk of the trunk space anyway. No one expects a convertible to be a practical choice, but thank goodness we manage to let loose and indulge the senses every once in a while.
Operating the roof is a cinch, with a push of the button on the dashboard; it is fully retracted in about 19 seconds. The addition of the integrated hard tonneau cover over the stowed roof is a vast improvement in utility and appearance over the removable unit found on earlier models. With carefully placed cross members, Mitsubishi engineers have increased the vehicle torsional rigidity, which was evident in the absence of cowl shake. This is something that can haunt many convertibles, especially ones developed from hardtop models.
Power and balance are impressive in the Spyder. This is a big six-banger and it gives off a throaty exhaust note that was tuned to add a bit more sensory stimulation for the driver with the top down. The only downside of the exhaust tuning is a 3-hp reduction from the 263 horses found on a similar engine in the Eclipse coupe. Power application is pretty much linear and the power output comes close to matching many V8 power plants. The suspension tuning provides a nice balance of good handling and comfort even over rough or uneven roads. The one downside of a front wheel drive layout with this much horsepower, is the expected torque steer you feel as the car tries to move sideways under acceleration, just hold on tight to the steering wheel.
The interior of the V6 GT-Premium I drove was nicely appointed with leather seating surfaces, leather covered steering wheel and a nifty leather covered shifter with baseball style stitching. The centre point of the dashboard is a 650 watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, which made it abundantly clear that I was about 15- 20 years outside of Mitsubishi’s target market for this car.
Prior to 2006, all of Mitsubishi’s Canadian operations were an offshoot of the US operation and as such product choices and pricing were based on the American market. Mitsubishi’s Mississauga, Ont., head office, now reports directly to Japan and products pricing is now negotiated directly with the parent company. The most obvious effect of the reorganization is the lowering of the Spyder’s list price by $3,200 to a new figure of $31,998 for the 4 cylinder model. The V6 model now lists at $36,998, reduced from $41,000 for the previous model.
The Eclipse Spyder is now available at any one of the 54 Mitsubishi dealers across Canada. Not bad for a manufacturer that, although present in just about every other world market, has only had a presence in Canada the past three years. This model is sure to draw more attention to the brand as its category is not as crowded as the other areas that in which Mitsubishi competes.