Review and photos by
Jil McIntosh, CanadianDriver.com
In some arid countries, there are people who perform rain dances in the hopes that the clouds will release some moisture. I do not understand why they go to all that trouble: all they need to do is give me a convertible to drive. Right on cue, sunny skies gave way to a week of rain when I picked up a 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. Solely for the sake of our readers, I braved the sprinkles for the joy of driving with that fabric top down. (I hope you appreciate it.)
The Illinois-built Spyder disappeared temporarily for 2010, but it wasn’t for a makeover. Rather, as Mitsubishi Canada told me, the timing for the 2010 models would have seen them released here in the dead of winter – hardly prime-time for drop-tops – and so the company opted to wait for the next batch. There are a few minor changes from the 2009 versions, including a standard auxiliary input jack, and a suspension that’s 15 millimetres closer to the ground. The GS model receives trim packages that give it a more aggressive appearance, along with standard electronic stability control, while my model, the GT-P, now contains standard Bluetooth and a rear-view camera. The camera’s display shows up in the rear-view mirror when the car’s in Reverse, and it’s really appreciated on this vehicle, since the car’s tall rump tends to ruin the rearward view when backing up.
The GS uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, while my tester, the GT-P, carries a 3.8-litre V6. You can order it with a five-speed automatic, which adds $1,200, but mine had a six-speed manual. Oddly, while the company calls it a GT-P in all of its advertising, the car itself is badged as a GT V6 on the trunk.
The V6 makes 265 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and it’s a charmer. Engine-and-transmission-wise, this is one of the better vehicles on the road. The clutch is light and the short-throw shifter slips precisely into each gate; throttle tip-in is linear, the engine pulls hard through all the gears, and the exhaust rumbles deliciously through the twin pipes out the rear. Mitsubishi makes some great engines, and this is one of them.
Unfortunately, the wrapper isn’t quite as impressive; it’s a great engine trapped in a wobbly body. This is a good wind-in-your-hair boulevard cruiser, but it isn’t quite the driver’s car that Mitsubishi claims it to be. It lays on the torque-steer in gobs: hit it hard without holding on tight, and you’ll be changing a couple of lanes. I’d love to see this car with all-wheel drive, but then, its price would probably soar too high, and it’s already priced above the $31,399 V6 Mustang convertible.
If you’ve never understood the term “cowl shake,” the Eclipse Spyder will provide plenty of explanation. The windshield frame and the dash shudder as road imperfections work their way up from the wheels. The chassis feels loose and bumpy, and the car is creaky through corners, lurching rather than sharply snapping around them. I don’t feel a lot of confidence taking this car on hard curves; rather than an engineered convertible, the Spyder feels more like a coupe that’s simply had its roof lopped off.
It’s a shame, because this ragtop is one gnarly-sweet looker. The design is slick enough that when faced with a downpour on the highway, and not too many safe places to stop and put up the top, I drove into the rain. It simply slipped over the top of the windshield, and nary a drop landed inside. The semi-automatic top requires that you unlatch it at the header; from there, electric motors open the rear tonneau, fold up the roof, and stow it inside for a smooth top-down appearance. I didn’t notice much wind noise with the top up, but there was a small leak on the passenger side in heavy rain.
The roof folds into its own compartment, separate from the trunk, so you don’t have to worry about any cargo getting in the way once the top starts its trip down. The trunk is fairly respectable for the Spyder’s size, measuring 117 cm wide, 67 cm deep, and 38 cm high. Pack intelligently, and two of you can easily go away for a long weekend.
Technically, the Spyder has four chairs, but it’s really a 2+2. Small children might be happy in the flat-cushioned, bolt-upright rear seats, but that’s about all. The subwoofer for the premium Rockford Fosgate stereo, optional on the GS but standard on the GT-P, fills the space between the two rear seats. The stereo also includes a system, called “Topstack,” which automatically adjusts the volume if the top is up or down.
The front seats are fantastic. They’re heavily bolstered, heated, and with sueded inserts. The interior is as handsome as the exterior, and when ordered with the eye-catching orange paint as my tester was, the cabin is three-tone. The centre stack features simple, straightforward controls, along with easy-to-grasp air vents. Storage space isn’t as voluminous as on some vehicles, but small items can be stuffed into the glovebox, a small centre console box, or the tight-fit map pockets.
The list of standard features is fairly substantial: automatic climate control, heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with the aforementioned back-up camera, Bluetooth, power driver’s seat, and xenon headlamps.
The official published figures for the GT-P are 13.1 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp) in the city and 8.0 (35) on the highway. In a week of combined driving, I averaged 11.4 L/100 km (25 mpg Imp).
The Eclipse Spyder is definitely a compromise: you’ll get that sweet, sharp engine without the handling to back it up, and you’ll get four seats but with only two truly viable ones. Still, it’s relatively inexpensive for a ragtop, it’s one heck of a looker, and any time the roof goes down, the fun factor goes up – even if the skies don’t always want to cooperate.
Pricing: 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT-P
Base price: $35,998
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $37,448
Crash test results
Jil McIntosh is a freelance writer, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and Assistant Editor for CanadianDriver.com. Her personal website can be found at http://www.JilMcIntosh.com
Read more Test Drives on CanadianDriver.com