Car Review: 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT

I rented a car for the week while here in Tampa. On the website, I opted for whatever “convertible” model they were going to give me. Various people thought I was bound to get a Chrysler Sebring convertible, which you must admit, isn’t the most masculine model out there, especially if it’s turquoise. Even my girlfriend called me a “fag” at the thought of me driving around in one of those. But, much to my surprise, the rental company hooked me up with a new 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT, not turquoise.

Granted, it’s only marginally less-effeminate than the Sebring, but being an ex-Eclipse owner, I was interested to put the new model through its paces.

A cursory glance at the specs sheet shows the 3.0L V-6 powerplant offers 210hp at 5750rpm with 205lb-ft at 3750rpm. And, behind the wheel, it’s not hard to feel the torque start to kick in around 3200rpm. It’s a little weak off the line, but it gets up to 5000rpm pretty damn quickly after shit starts moving. That brings us to the transmission.

The car I got has the 4-speed auto, with the “Sportronic” feature, which basically allows you to manually shift withouth using a clutch. This is nothing but a gimmick, in my opinion. You want to change gears at your own pace? Learn to use a clutch, damnit. Plus, it’s confusing for someone who knows how to drive a standard, because up-shifting is simply pushing the “shifter” up, and down-shifting… well, you get the idea. The ability to manually shift put me in a “standard” frame of mind, and I found myself trying to down-shift from fourth by pushing the “shifter” forward… which, in this paradigm, equates to my trying to get into fifth gear, which doesn’t exist. At least a couple of times, I found myself inadvertently down-shifting from third into second when I was actually trying to get to fourth. What a pain in the ass. One good thing about the “Crapmatic” mutant transmission, however, is that it’ll down-shift for you (a la any other automatic tranny) as your speed decreases in case you forget. Oh, boy, what fun.

Rounding out the other tangibles: The ride is much smoother than the previous-generation Eclipses (mine was a ’98), so you don’t feel every goddamned pebble on the road, but the suspension is tight, and there’s minimal body roll during cornering. I guess this is one concept they decided to keep from the older versions, which cornered as if on rails. Unfortunately, however, as a convertible, the body isn’t as tight as I would have hoped, and there’s way too much lateral “cowl shake”, even on roads that are only slightly bumpy. The “soupcan” muffler that comes standard on this car provides a pretty loud engine tone, but I’d prefer it was deeper and less “ricey”, if you get my meaning. The stereo is better than average, but the rear speakers are weak, and all of them distort at louder volumes. The interior looks and feels like it came out of any low-end hatchback with cheap plastic controls; nothing provides what I’d call acceptible tactile response.

All in all, not a bad car, but not a great car, and it definitely doesn’t provide the performance you would expect at the price. Starting at just over $27k, the 2004 Eclipse Spyder GT is not worth the cost. Even if I had the money to burn, I’d still stick with my ’99 Acura 3.0 CL.