It's sunny, warm, great weather for an open-top car. And only one of America's top five selling convertibles already is out as an early 2003 model.
The 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder gets a mild refresh, with revised styling in the front, new taillamps and new wheels.
The top trim level, the Spyder GTS, has a slightly revised V6 with improved performance now. This model also comes with a new leather interior and more standard features than before, including a 210-watt, AM/FM sound system with six-CD changer and audio controls on the steering wheel.
Much of the appeal of the Eclipse Spyder is its sporty styling which makes this subcompact two-door look as if it's in motion, even when it's parked. This is especially true when the fabric top is down.
Inside the Eclipse Spyder, the driver area has a cockpit feel, with round, almost pod-like gauges at the right and left sides of the instrument panel, framing the steering wheel.
Radio controls and display are odd, though, because they're not grouped together.
Audio knobs and buttons are in the middle of the dashboard, halfway up the center stack. The display showing what station is playing is on top of the dash, separated from the knobs and controls by air vents. So I wound up looking at two places whenever I tuned the radio.
Styling aside, the best part about the Eclipse Spyder GTS test car was the eager-to-please 210-horsepower, 3-liter V6.
JUST THE FACTS
2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GTS
BASE PRICE: $23,817 for base, four-cylinder GS; $25,897 for base GT with V6; $28,267 for base GTS; $29,547 for GTS with automatic transmission.
AS TESTED: $30,102.
TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger, subcompact convertible.
ENGINE: 3-liter, 24-valve, single overhead cam V6.
MILEAGE: 20 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: NA.
LENGTH: 176.8 inches.
WHEELBASE: 100.8 inches.
CURB WT.: 3,395 pounds.
BUILT AT: Normal, Ill.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $555.
I didn't need to flog it to get the car moving. With mild pressure on the accelerator, the car moved in sprightly fashion. Shifts from the four-speed automatic transmission were smooth.
If I slammed down the accelerator aggressively, the Eclipse Spyder would actually zoom forward in a rush and my passengers would be pushed back into their seatbacks. But shifts were not quite as smooth during this kind of driving.
The V6, with new variable intake system that provides greater responsiveness across different speeds, is in the 2003 Eclipse GT and GTS models. Torque is 205 foot-pounds at 3,750 rpm. But unleaded premium is the recommended fuel for this powerplant.
The Eclipse Spyder also continues with a base, 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which uses regular unleaded.
In the test GTS, the V6 exhaust note was constant and came across as a boy racer sound. The only time I didn't notice it much was when I got to highway speeds and wind and road noise overtook the engine sound.
The fabric convertible top on the Eclipse Spyder is fully lined inside and is easy to put down and bring back up.
Just undo two latches at the top of the windshield, push a button and the Eclipse becomes topless. A manual boot, or cover, for the folded top is provided, too.
As you expect, visibility is terrific when the top is down.
But it can be difficult to back out of parking spaces with the top up because the fabric top blocks the area to the right rear of the car.
The top also sits low and close to the heads of rear-seat passengers, making the already cramped back seats -- for two -- more constrained.
But I appreciate that the car's rear window is glass.
The front-drive Spyder handles smartly. Curvy country roads were fun, and the car handled back-and-forth movements in a slalom well.
There wasn't a single chirp from the V-rated, 17-inch tires during these maneuvers, and the car managed abrupt handling changes with an easy predictability.
The power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering has a bit of lightness and is quickly responsive, too.
Overall, the ride is more on the firm side than cushioned.
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