EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is back for 2007, adding another stylish, sporty convertible to the list of possibilities.

Despite its aggressive styling, Eclipse proves to be more of a top-down cruiser than an agile sports car, its beefy weight and mild suspension mitigating the urge to throw it into curves.

But it certainly is a sweet cruiser. With the top thrown back on a summer evening and the superb audio system turned low so you can hear the rich exhaust tone, Spyder supplies a sensory-pleasing driving atmosphere that keeps nudging you to take the long way home.

Of course, there are limitations to driving top down on a blazing summer day in Phoenix. Though once the sun dips below the horizon, so does the roof.

Based on the newly redesigned 2006 Eclipse coupe, the Spyder has grown slightly in all dimensions and includes an attractively updated interior with sporty, motorcycle-style gauges and comfortable, supportive seats. The top is fully automatic and nestles under a rear body panel when stowed, a feature usually reserved for more expensive rides.

The price tag remains well under $30,000 for the fully equipped GT with its powerful, sonorous V-6 engine, while the four-cylinder GS version starts at just over $25,000. That’s a lot of style and driving pleasure for the money. I had the GT with six-speed stickshift.

This car looks sharp, especially in profile and even with the cloth top up. The view from the rear is a bit much, though, with a bulbous rump that makes Spyder look like a good candidate for a South Beach diet.

Vehicle type: Two-passenger, two-door convertible, front-wheel drive.

Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 260 horsepower at 5,750 rpm, 258 pound-feet torque at 4,500 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Wheelbase: 101.4 inches.

Overall length: 179.7 inches.

Curb weight: 3,693 pounds.

EPA rating: 17 city, 26 highway.

Highs: Strong V-6 engine, upgraded interior, top-down pleasure.

Lows: Bulbous rear, useless back seat, road and wind noise.

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