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Mitsubishi Eclipse, 2007: The Weekly Driver Car Review

Driving a nicely performing convertible with the top down on a sun-baked day is about as good as it gets. But the varying functionality and quality of convertible tops can easily diminish the experience.

With the 2007 Eclipse Spyder, Mitsubishi is attempting to squelch the concerns of convertible buyers who may constantly wonder just how long their vehicle’s ragtop will work properly.

After restyling and adding improved safety features to the Eclipse coupe for 2006, the convertible version became available for the first time this month (March, 2006). And it’s impressive.

With the flick of two side easy-to-maneuver latches and then the pressing and holding a button just above the transmission box, the convertible function works fast. The entire up or down process — windows, rear glass mirror, cloth top and cover — takes less than 20 seconds.

My test drive for the week was the 2.4-liter, 162-horsepower GS model with a four-speed automatic transmission. And it has a lot to offer other than its efficient, electronic convertible top.

Grouped in the sports/performance category, the Eclipse has a spacious interior, it’s well-healed at nearly 3,500 pounds and it’s a nice competitor in an attractive category that includes the popular Toyota Solara and Ford Mustang.

As a heavy vehicle for its class, the Eclipse feels sturdy and confident on the road. It corners with a firm response and with its nicely contoured seats, front passengers have a secure, capsule-like feel.

In some tests, shorter drivers felt they had to reach for pedals. But the Eclipse’s front-seat room is welcome. The only exception is that the vehicle’s low-level feel hampers entry and exit. Two rear seats are small, but not afterthoughts as is in the case with other manufacturers’ offerings in the class.

My test vehicle’s automatic transmission was responsive, although not fast. Understandably, automatic transmissions dominate the market, but the sportiness of the Eclipse seems more conducive to driving with its optional five-speed manual transmission. The GT model comes with the five-speed manual standard, and that must dramatically improve the driving experience, particularly considering the GT’s 3.8-liter, 263-horsepower engine.

The now year-old Eclipse exterior styling is sleek. My test vehicle nicely matched its exterior “Liquid Silver Metallic (gray) with a charcoal gray interior, giving the vehicle a nice road presence.

The instrumentation panel and console is nicely designed with a sharp, angular designed easy-to-use knobs, button and switches.

Standard features for the GS model include: 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, CD player, 50-50 split rear folding seat.

My test vehicle also include several options. The Deluxe  Leather package includes heated leather front seats, heated exterior mirrors and an outside temperature and compass display.

Another option is the 650-watt, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with AM/FM radio, 6-CD/MP3 player. There’s also an eight-inch subwoofer that’s positioned conspicuously in the middle of the two rear seats.

Unfortunately, the subwoofer has about the same total surface size as the rear mirror, which represents the Eclipse’s largest shortcoming.

The Weekly Driver: 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse

Safety Features – Dual front airbags (standard); front and side curtain airbags.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) – 22 mpg (city), 29 mpg (highway).

Warranty – Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles, Corrosion, 7 years/100,000 miles; (24-hour) roadside assistance program, 5 years/unlimited miles.

Base Price – $25,984.

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