EXPERT REVIEW

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Hell begins with small wrongs, many of them self-inflicted. For example, there is the matter of managing time. I’ve never been good at it, primarily because of greed.

It is not the kind of avarice that engenders pelf. Instead, it is the delusional sort in which I constantly lie to myself about what can be accomplished within a given period.

I try to do too much — and wind up doing very little. Schedules are ruined. Appointments are postponed or canceled.

That is what happened to me on a recent drive to Philadelphia in the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT. I was supposed to arrive at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday in time for dinner with two lovely women of the automobile industry. It was a beautiful day, and I had a fast and nimble car. I figured I could leave my home in Northern Virginia and make it to Philadelphia with time to spare. I set about doing other things. I left my driveway at 3:30 p.m.

In retrospect, my thinking made no sense. But delusion obscures clarity and renders the impossible possible. I thought the roads north would be reserved for me and the tight little Spyder GT — on a day and at a time when Interstate 95 and its many tributaries normally are jammed with traffic. I entered the roadway without a backup plan, or an exit strategy. I got stuck.

At least the weather and the Spyder GT’s essential design should have provided ample warning. Yes, it was a bright, clear day — in the middle of winter. The Spyder GT is a roadster with an automatically retractable cloth top. But, despite the sunshine, it was too cold to lower the car’s roof.

And so there I was planted in the middle of the Capital Beltway, and later in the petrified traffic of Interstate 95, in a fast roadster with its top up and its engine idling, a motorized purgatory in which the Gods of Surface Transportation were making sport of me.

There was nothing to do except appreciate the irony, and be grateful that the test car came with Mitsubishi’s optional five-speed automatic Sportronic Transmission instead of the Spyder GT’s standard six-speed manual setup. There is nothing more frustrating than shifting the gears of a sports car, essentially going from first to second and back, in traffic that isn’t going anywhere.

Two-and-a-half hours after leaving Northern Virginia, I made it to Delaware, where I enjoyed a bit of a free-flowing reprieve. The Spyder GT’s 260-horsepower V-6 engine came back to life. Its front-drive wheels turned and pulled the small car ahead with vigor.

I was thinking: “Free at last!” But the gods were not done punishing me. Indeed, they seemed determined to add insult to injury by filling the roads going into Chester, Pa., and Philadelphia with chain-laden souls condemned to wander in the passing lanes on the left. There was no getting around them. They were implacable, impassable obstructionists.

I got to the restaurant in center-city Philadelphia at 8 p.m., 90 minutes late. My hosts were forgiving. But even then the gods weren’t done messing with me.

One of the valet parking people admired the Spyder GT: “Hey, that’s the new one!” he said. “Nice ride. You must be having a good time driving that one!”

“Oh, I’m having a helluva time,” I said, privately vowing never again to fool around when I have miles to go and appointments to keep.

– – –

Nuts & Bolts

2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

Downside: The completely revised 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse roadster, like the completely reworked Eclipse coupe launched as a 2006 model, is a bit of a porker. It weighs nearly two tons.

Head-turning quotient: Very attractive, especially the interior.

Ride, acceleration and handling: All were excellent once I found a road where I could experience them. The car’s weight seems to melt away at high speeds. It just runs! But, alas, in the real world of oxymoronic rush hours, that experience is more akin to fantasy than it is to anything else.

Body style/layout: The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive two-door, four-seat roadster. But the two rear seats are useless. There are two package/trim levels, the base GS and the top-line GT.

Engines/transmissions: The Spyder GT gets a version of the Eclipse coupe’s 3.8-liter, 24-valve V-6. In the new Spyder GT application, that engine develops 260 horsepower at 5,750 revolutions per minute and 258 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. A five-speed Sportronic automatic, which also can be shifted manually, is optional. The Spyder GS gets a 162-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a standard five-speed manual. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

Capacities: Essentially, the new Eclipse Spyder has seating for two front-seat passengers. Only masochists will opt to sit in the rear. Cargo space can accommodate two soft overnight bags. Fuel capacity is 17.7 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 23 miles per gallon mostly sitting in traffic jams on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95.

Safety: Front/rear ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock protection and electronic brake force distribution. Side air bags.

Price: The 2007 Eclipse Spyder goes on sale in the United States next month. Spyder GS prices start at $25,984. Spyder GT prices begin at $28,864. Both prices include a $595 destination charge, according to Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Purse-strings note: Expect dealers to ask for premiums on this one, or to at least load their cars with options that can boost the overall price by at least $2,000.

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