Winter time also usually means putting the sportscar away and drive something more practical, and hopefully with all-wheel drive.
However, a few years ago, I spent a week with the 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder in the dead of winter. This car is ideal for summer-time fun, but how did this soft-top convertible fare in below freezing temperatures and snow?
Before I tackle that, lets take a closer look at its other details. Starting with the looks. Designed by Dan Simms, a young, talented designer who is actually a great person to talk to since he is a proper car enthusiast at heart. I personally think Simms and his design team did a great job because both the coupe and Spyder convertible versions look
great. The Eclipse has neat styling details like large, funky headlamps and tail lamps and the brake light neatly integrated in its unique looking rear spoiler.
While the aesthetic appeal of the Spyder suffers when you put the roof up, it is no worse than most other soft-top convertibles in this area. At least, it did its job and kept the snow and ice out of the cabin.
However, its roof is not perfect, since the glass rear window in the convertible-top is about as big as a post office mail slot. However, that is only an issue when you’re driving it with the roof up, and if you’re buying this car, you will most probably be driving with the roof off as much as you can. However, since I was testing it in December-January (2010-2011), I only had the roof down a total of three times in seven-days, and even that was due to me being adventurous.
Putting its roof down has to be one of this cars most impressive features. The roof is powered and folds away quickly and neatly under a hard cover. All you have to do manually is unlatch it from the windshield rail, then push a button and the job is done. ASC, the company making this convertible model for Mitsubishi did such a fantastic job of aligning the roof to the A-pillar, you never have to fiddle to get the clips in place. Honestly, I have driven cars costing twice as much to not have as good a folding roof system as the Eclipse Spyder. So a great job done here, but what about the car as a driving machine? After all, sportscars are meant to be driven.
Well my test car had everything going for it on paper. It had the lusty 3.8-liter, V6 engine, which thanks to its intelligent valve timing system produces a potent 265 hp and 262 lb/ft of torque. It also sounds wonderful when pushed, with an almost exotic car rivaling exhaust note.
As for the transmission,while a five-speed automatic is available, my tester came with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is what I prefer – not only because a sportscar is more fun with a manual, but also its manual is simply fantastic.
The Eclipse GT V6 is quick too; 0-100 km/h takes just 5.8 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 220 km/h. So it is a car you can get into trouble with very easily if you’re being naughty.
It handles reasonably well too, despite its front-wheel drive layout (rear-wheel drive would have been better though, all that torque going through the front wheels result in monumental torque steer). However, my test Spyder came with all-season tires rather than proper winter tires, which made handling a little bit more entertaining (I’m being polite here) than I would like at times, and since the Spyder version doesn’t handle as well as the coupe, it became even more of a handful. Lesson here is, invest in winter tires, they are worth the extra expense.
As for the Spyder’s chassis rigidity, I felt there was way too much body flex, and over uneven surfaces it shakes your teeth out. This however is expected from convertibles in this category. The Eclipse Spyder is no better or worse than most of its competitors.
The Verdict: The V6 engine offered in the Eclipse is certainly good enough to make you forgive most of its foibles. Spend some time with it, and you will learn to drive around its deficiencies and really enjoy it, even in winter. There is plenty to enjoy too, since you do get a good looking interior that stayed warm (special thanks to the wonderful heated seats) and its awesome Rockford Fosgate sound system provided the entertainment when I was not pushing the loud pedal.
Things I would have improved about the interior include the quality of the plastics used to make it (it does look and feel cheap and the fit and finish on certain panels is not that great) and while the seats are comfortable they lack support when you are going quickly around corners.
So there was room for improvements then, but trust me, you could have done a lot worse when choosing a convertible.
Last year, Mitsubishi stopped producing the Eclipse and there is no replacement model. This is sad news, because despite its flaws, the Eclipse always was a very entertaining car to drive. I had these cars numerous times over the years, in Coupe and Spyder form, and I always enjoyed them. The car market-place feels a little empty without it.