SAN FRANCISCO: I
thought I would miss the whine of the turbo four-cylinder that made the Mitsubishi Eclipse
such a blast to drive. But here it is, a year after Mitsu replaced the Eclipse's turbo
with a 200-horsepower V6, and I don't miss the whine at all.
In fact, now that Mitsu unveiled its new Spyder version of the second-generation
Eclipse, I don't know what I saw in the previous model. Actually, the Eclipse has always
been one of my favorite sports cars, and the new generation Eclipses just about eclipse
I drove the 2001 Eclipse Spyder GT for a week, and I fell in love all over again.
Engage the brake, release two levers over the windshield and push the button. The whirr of
the motor that folds away the three-layer soft-top with a glass rear window is so sweet.
It takes about 15 seconds, and afterward, you're ready for some serious open-highway
driving. Putting the top up is just as easy, of course. And I've never experienced levers
that are easier to pop back into place.
I cruised to Nags Head for the weekend to catch up with my buddy Gene, and there's
nothing like driving a new ragtop among the bikini-clad beauties along the Outer Banks.
Stares and double takes were commonplace as I cruised along the beach roads in Nags Head.
But it's more than just a redesign in the outer sheetmetal. The Eclipse has an all-new
safety cage, chassis and front suspension that make its more rigid and less rattley. This
cuts down on road noises, which are usually loud in a convertible. I used my phone with
the top down, and I had no trouble hearing. No need for an air shield in this car.
Bigger tires on the GT and a 2-inch longer wheelbase than the previous Eclipse provide
tight cornering. I didn't push it like a Le Mans driver might, but it handled well enough
through the corners around Benvenue Country Club.
The wind blowing in my face apparently allowed me to forgive a slight shake while
taking the curves at high speeds. But the Eclipse performs almost flawlessly when you are
easygoing behind the wheel. With a convertible, why get stressed? Why push harder than you
have to? Take it easy, and the car is yours.
Inside, the cockpit is bigger and well laid out. Changing radio stations and
temperature controls, and even reaching the vents for the air conditioner is fairly easy
while driving. As in most convertibles, there's not a cavernous trunk. But the Eclipse
Spyder offers 7.2 cubic feet of cargo area. That's 2.1 more cubic feet than the previous
Eclipse and mounds more space than the new Toyota MR2 Spyder.
Of course, the Eclipse Spyder is a 2+2, meaning it does have a back seat. Pushing the
front seats back to a comfortable driving position leaves little leg room in the back. But
this car is built for one two at the most. Anyone is the back seat should consider
themselves lucky that they're even sitting inside this awesome car.
Optional side airbags for the front seat passengers are new this year. Good. Anti-lock
brakes also are optional. Bad. ABS should be standard on all cars nowadays. Until that
happens, I will continue to criticize this over sight. Everyone wants more whoosh from the
airbags, but safety features like anti-lock brakes are the real life-savers.
Mitsu offers a new five-speed manual, which I tested, and a new four-speed Sportronic
automatic, which offers the best of both worlds of manual and automatic transmission. I've
driven cars with these hybrid trannys before, and I think I'll stick with the five-speeds
or six-speeds, whatever the case may be.
I don't believe I've ever driven a ragtop that I didn't write glowing reviews about.
But I have to admit that some are better than others. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder falls
into the better than most category. Easy to drive. Rigid frame. Top goes down
effortlessly. What more could you ask for? How about a starting price of $25,000. Add a
few options, and its up to $28,000. But come on, it's a convertible, and your worth
it. By J. Eric Eckard © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Mitsubishi Home Page
Byline: By J. Eric Eckard © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: "Come on, it's a convertible, and your worth it"
Topic: 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT Convertible
Word Count: 772
Photo Caption: 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT
Photo Credits: Mitsubishi Internet Media
Series #: 2000 - 35
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