With its soft top down it is impossible to gaze into the compact rear seat of this 2-plus-2 convertible sports car and not wonder: What’s the big hole between the rear seats?
The better to lure young drivers to the 2007 Eclipse Spyder GT, would be the reply from folks at Mitsubishi. It’s a front-blasting subwoofer, placed there to bolster a nine-speaker, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. The subwoofer also serves as a statement from the manufacturer: This car is aimed at young males, not just gentlemen of a certain age looking for an image boost, or select women drivers who seem inexorably drawn to convertibles.
Today’s test case, the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT, could not come at a better time for Mitsubishi, which has struggled with corporate scandal, an executive exodus, and, frankly, a weak presence on American soil. The new Eclipse — as a coupe or convertible — is the lead vehicle in Mitsubishi’s campaign to find its way back. It’s a good choice.
For those not looking for oomph, but strictly the wind-in-the-hair cruise that a drop-top offers, there is a GS model, at just over $25,000, with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and 162 horsepower. In these days of high gasoline prices, keep in mind that 162 horsepower was once an admirable figure from which to launch a sports car. So if high performance is not what you seek, then by all means “settle” for fun if not exhilaration.
However. If you are ready to rock and roll, and pay about $3,000 more to just get onto the dance floor, then the as-tested GT is a car worth putting up against such significant competitors as the Mazda Miata, Ford Mustang convertible, and Pontiac Solstice, or its edgier cohort, the Saturn Sky.
I have not yet driven the coupe version of the Eclipse, but I am sure it will be more stable than the drop-top. So the question becomes, how much rigidity do you lose by opting for the convertible?
Remarkably, I found this one, with model-specific bracing fore and aft, to be quite stable. Sure, there was some cowl shake, but nothing like that exhibited by some other convertibles I have driven recently. Actually, the shake came more from response to bad roads than it did from driving that involved smooth cornering, lane changes, hard braking, or fast starts.
No shake and shimmy to go with the rock and roll is a good thing.
The test car, with its 3.8-liter V-6 up front, did feel a bit front-heavy, especially in hard cornering where what is billed as a 60/40 front-to-rear weight balance exhibited understeer.
While the base GS gets a standard five-speed manual transmission, our test GT had a six-speed manual ( five-speed automatic is optional) that was close in its connections and quick in its clicks. It handled the 260-horsepower/258 lb.-ft. of torque transfer from the V-6 with liquid smoothness.
Inside was a tale of two seating arrangements: spacious front seats bolstered in firm leathers, and small back seats best left for when you have to get the toddlers somewhere. Trunk space, too, was minimal, so a trip in the convertible would best be reserved for a couple who can leave the rear seats available for luggage, not rug rats.
Twin gauges seem to float on stalks behind the steering wheel, and climate and audio controls are easy to reach, understand, and use.
The car’s top goes down in about 20 seconds and gets tucked beneath a hard tonneau cover, giving a smoother look to what is already a gracefully rounded car. It looks far better than the old tops that would sit like a bonnet, perched above the rear seats.
Standard safety equipment includes dual side air bags, antilock brake system, and traction control — a nice package for a car in this price range. Power windows, door locks, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and 17-inch alloy wheels are also standard.
Our test car got bumped up in price by $1,730 for a GT premium sport package that included 18-inch wheels, leather seats, power driver’s seat, heated front seats and side mirrors, and alloy pedals.
Mitsubishi is looking to get back on the American auto road map and points to Nissan as a company that managed to resurrect itself.
If the various iterations of this car — and the company’s new SUV, the Outlander — can catch the public eye, Mitsubishi will have a chance.
Royal Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org