At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, Mitsubishi revealed retooled 2003 versions of its popular Eclipse Spyder convertible and equivalent Eclipse coupe, which is covered separately in this Buying Guide. Both body styles went on sale at dealerships soon after the Midwest event.
Based on a brief glance, the 2003 renditions of Mitsubishis sport-oriented duo dont look much different from their predecessors. But peer a little closer, and the modifications become more evident, if subtle.
According to Lead Designer Dan Sims, the restyling was moderate in scope, though the new urethane front fascia borrowed heavily from the SST concept vehicle. Both the headlights and taillights have been revised, and molded front bumpers now include cavities for integrated, optional fog lamps. At this point, Mitsubishi sought further refinement but not a major styling change for the popular Eclipse.
A new GTS edition is now available in coupe and convertible body styles. As described by Mitsubishi, the GTS is the most potent, performance-ready, fun-brokering Spyder to date. Both the GT and GTS use a 210-horsepower V-6 engine, while the GS continues with four-cylinder power.
Promoted as refined grand tourers, the Eclipse Spyder convertible and hatchback coupe were last redesigned for the 2000 model year. Mitsubishis Spyder is one of the best-selling convertibles on the market. Both body styles are manufactured in Normal, Ill.
Except for front-end modifications, the overall appearance of each Eclipse is similar to the 2000 2002 models. A revised grille inlet sits within the new front fascia. New composite taillights use three lamps that show through clear lenses. New, five-finned, 17-inch wheels go on the GT and GTS models, while the GS Spyder runs on 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. All Eclipse Spyders are 176.8 inches long overall, ride a 100.8-inch wheelbase and stand 52.8 inches tall to the top of the fabric roof. Two new body colors Ultra Red and Alloy Green are exclusive to the Spyder. Color-keyed ground effects panels go on the GT and GTS convertibles.
New cloth seats and a sportier instrument panel are part of the 2003 revision. The instrument panel, glove box, center armrest and seats are uniformly colored. Both the coupe and Spyder seat four occupants, but room in the backseat with the split, folding seat is tight for adults. Cargo space in the coupe totals 16.9 cubic feet, but the Spyder has only 7.2 cubic feet because space is needed for stowing the fabric top.
All models have air conditioning, a 210-watt Mitsubishi/Infinity CD stereo system, power windows and door locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an engine immobilizer anti-theft system. Extra features on the GT include a power antenna and Premium Sport fabric upholstery. The new GTS convertible includes a leather-trimmed interior, steering-wheel audio controls and an in-dash six-CD changer, side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and fog lamps. Leather upholstery is available as an option in the GS and GT models.
Under the Hood
The RS and GS coupes and the Spyder GS use a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 hp when mated to a five-speed-manual transmission. The power plant cranks out just 142 hp when driving the optional four-speed automatic. The 3.0-liter V-6 in the GT coupe makes 200 hp and 205 pounds-feet of torque. The V-6 has variable induction in the GT Spyder and in all GTS models, which boosts output to 210 hp.
Mitsubishis Sportronic Sequential Shift automatic transmission in GS, GT and GTS Eclipses has a separate gate to permit manual gear changes by tipping the shift lever fore and aft. This permits the driver to keep the transmission in a lower gear through a turn or to make quick downshifts when approaching a corner.
Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are included in the GTS coupe and convertible. These features are not offered on the other models. The GTS convertible also includes traction control when it is equipped with an automatic transmission.
Even though the new GTS coupe does its job well, it comes across as a little lifeless compared to Eclipses of the past as if it were toned down too much. The GTS handles capably and is easy to drive, but it doesnt feel quite as sporty as it looks. But it still corners crisply and steers with a satisfying level of precision, imparting a solid sensation and feeling light on its feet.
The Eclipse coupes ride quality is great on smooth roads, and most bumps arent all that bothersome. Acceleration from a standstill and for passing is excellent, and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly but less so in manual mode. The seats are highly supportive, but they lack snug side bolstering. The rear spoiler impairs rearward visibility.