When The Crisis hits the only sensible thing to do is to give in immediately... Moping around the house, snapping at the wife and kids doesnít help and casting a wayward eye at female colleagues is downright dangerous. (No, Dearest, Just kidding. I would never do that.) Follow my example and capitulate sooner, rather than later; the Mid-life Crisis is not psycho-babble. Just admit you are weak and self-indulgent like I did. The truth may not set you free--but it sure is fun! In short, get yourself down to your local Mitsubishi Dealer and check out the new 2003 Eclipse Spyder.
You youngsters know there are sportier cars available--even in this price range. The souped-up Golfs, the Acura RSX Type S, the Toyota Celica and the 2003 Tiburon coupes come to mind. I did drive the last three and they are excellent hardtops. But letís get serious, when The Crisis hits, believe me nothing beats going topless. When Iím tooling around town, sunglasses on, my longish, gray hair, swirling in the wind, Richard Gere watch out! *NOTE FROM DEAREST: Richard Gere Watch Out?! What are you going to do, run him over?...
The car I own is a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. It is the six-cylinder GTS model with 210 horsepower and 205 ft/lbs of torque. Vrumm! Vrumm! (I sure do miss HOME IMPROVEMENT, donít you?) Patriot Red in color (remember this is a Crisis Thing and nothing says it like Red). It has a 5-speed manual transmission (I may be getting old but Iím not dead). It has side and front airbags, sexy alloy wheels and big 17 inch tires *NOTE FROM DEAREST: bigger IS better... Other neat items like the six-disc changer and leather seats make for a pretty good package. But all is not perfect in Fantasy Land, letís get more specific.
The biggest visual difference between the 2001-2002 models and mine is a redesigned front nose. It has inset fog lights and a more aerodynamic grill opening (with of course no ďgrillď --but at least the black hole is a little smaller and looks somewhat less like a Chevron cartoon car.)
FIRST CONSUMER ALERT: Check the color match between the fiberglass nose and the surrounding metal on the hood, etc. Often the colors do not match. Their metallic blue is way off and even the mismatch on my Red is noticeable in bright sun. One dealer said it could be fixed if I put a Bra on. (I wasnít sure how that would help even though I could lose a little weight.) As with many new cars the metallic paint has been done very well and was delivered with none of the microscopic scratches that have driven me crazy in the past. (Yes, Dearest, I know itís a short putt.) Speaking of golf, a set of clubs will fit in the trunk, if barely, which is more than can be said of some of the Teutonic micro-convertibles.
One of the most controversial aspects of this car is the general styling theme--I think itís called Geo-Mechanical or some sort of PR hype. Either you like it or you donít. In my case it was the first thing that attracted me to the car. At least it is saying something--exactly what Iím not sure--but it is different from so much of the sheet metal out there. Have you noticed how dull and look alike most cars have become--or am I just getting old and cynical. *NOTE FROM DEAREST: Take a guess, folks... One of my knocks on the Acura is how boring it looks. They have tried to make it look like its bigger brothers but the problem is theyíre so dull they would bounce off soft butter. Now the Celica is indeed saying something, but something like: Thereís Life on Mars and Theyíre landing! Theyíre landing!
So, look at the Eclipse, look at the razor edges, look at the shoulders around the wheel openings, look at the short hood and trunk and look especially at the ripples of the ABS on the waist. Mine certainly never looked like that. *FROM DEAREST: At least heís got that right... If you like it, I think youíll really like it--or youíll just plain hate it. I really donít like the spoiler. It serves no function except as a handle to help; open and close the heavy trunk. Now, I want to know exactly what kind of car is on my tail. One of lifeís great automotive questions--To Be Or Not To Be (Passed)-- can only be answered with good information. The spoiler blocks the view to the rear even with the top down. Maybe thatís how it got its name. Hmm... it seems to be attached by four simple bolts. Iím tempted...
Here again a big controversy jumps out at you when you get in--the Dashboard. Unlike the exterior I would find it hard to believe any one would like it. This is Geo-mechanical `a la Buck Rogers. This dashboard is so ugly only its mother could love it. (Mrs. Dash, presumably.) It must have been designed by a student who just got a new set of drafting tools. There are more circles, curves, bulges and vast expanses than you would find at a beach for senior citizens. There are seven circles staring at you--five of them with heavy, double eyelids. They seem to belong to some malevolent monster staring at you. I really think one of them blinked when I missed a shift. On some models they have made a two tone effect--black and blue-- in the bulges. It doesnít help. Now itís a cold day at the beach.
Otherwise the interior is OK--and just that. The Celica and especially the Acura seem a little more richly appointed. The leather--in my case a grayish tan (taupe?) which they call Sand Blast (no doubt keeping with the Beach motif)--is of average quality. One would think that with the price of beef in Japan the leather would be a little more supple. Maybe Iíll rub it with some beer. (No, no, officer, I havenít been drinking, just my seats.)
SECOND CONSUMER ALERT: If you are over twelve years old the back seat definitely will be hazardous to your health. One dealer called it an emergency back seat. I think he meant there might be an emergency if you tried to use it. Not only is leg room scarcer than on a bargain flight to London but Houdini would have trouble just getting in. This car, especially in the Coupe model, would be a wonderful car for any Chiropractor who needs to drum up business. The back seat of the Spyder, while no bigger, is a bit more accessible. The intended victim can fairly easily step into- or out of- the back while standing up. . This maneuver is best done with the top down. The rear seat has anchors for child seats but only a very firm disciplinarian would put kids back there with the top down. It gets a tad windy. Up front however that wind is not bad, probably because to the steeply angled windshield.
The top is automatic. Two latches are opened, and with the press of one button, the windows are lowered and the top comes down. Pretty nifty, and better than some more expensive cars, with their manual.
THIRD CONSUMER ALERT: I for one, do not have x-ray vision and driving with the top up is a little more adventuresome than this old body can take. The visibility out the tiny rear window is miserable. Itís no problem now but, yes, it does get cold in California in the winter. Come December, parkas will be issued.
The seats are comfortable with good support and the driving position-- with the seat all the way back--gives me good distance from the steering wheel. I like the Italian Position (while driving). Like many modern rag-tops you are sitting quite low and the car has high sills. This leads to the so-called ďbathtubĒ effect which reduces the open-airiness a little. With the power seat raised all the way the effect is reduced somewhat.
The six-disc changer works fine--meaning I did not have to read the manual. If truth be told I have not tried to eject any of the six discs I put in since I only have six I like. *DEAREST: Weíve got a real music lover here. Anybody beyond Flatts and Scrugg is too highbrow... There is a little compartment under the arm rest which holds the CD cases with room for three or four more. The sound from the 210 watt seven-speaker Infinity sound system is quite good--and best appreciated at a red light or under 30 miles an hour. Otherwise you get a lot of wind in your music as well as your hair--but a small price to pay to assuage The Crisis.
If you have read about this car elsewhere you know that performance too is a matter of some controversy. Some love it and some feel it is not sporty enough. To each his own, and in part it may be an age issue. Since I am old enough to remember when the MG-TC or the Austin Healey were hot sports cars *DEAREST: Letís be honest, try the Stutz-Bearcat...I like the compromise the Eclipse offers. Yes it could have a little more road feel and the steering could be a little less light but it corners surprisingly well and it doesnít float. The big tires give a good grip and it is very stable at speed. It is comfortable and at home on the freeway even with the top down.
The best part is the motor and the transmission. They do make a 4 cylinder model and a SelectTronic transmission in either the four or six. Note: I did not try either combination. If you are serious about buying this car you owe it to yourself to at least try the big engine with the 5-speed. You may prefer a different combination. For me the power afforded in every gear and especially the low end torque sold me on the car. In my opinion the difference is price is well worth it. It does take premium fuel.
The Acura and Celica may be faster from 0-60 but I do most of my driving from 0-40 and the Eclipse is the master here. The low rev torque gives you great leeway in your shift points and the car does not have to be pushed at all to perform wonderfully. The throaty exhaust note adds to the experience. Remember, when in the Crisis Situation, self-image is everything.
I have been shifting for myself most of my life and the transmission in the Eclipse is the best Iíve used. It has a smooth, short throw with just enough resistance to make you feel needed. When needed, shifts from 5th to 3rd or 4th to 2nd are a joy. I know the Acura has an available 6 speed. In my opinion six speeds would be counterproductive on this car given its low end power.
If you need a convertible in the under $30,000 range there are not a lot of choices on the new car market. *FROM DEAREST: That is the silliest use of ďneedĒ I have ever heard of... The Miata would be one which might appeal to the younger set. It had too much roadster in it for me and would not be as good a freeway car. (It also has no back set at all.) I dismissed the Mustang and most definitely the Sebring as not fitting my Crisis Situation. So, the list is a short one but despite the lack of competition the Eclipse, even with its ďConsumer AlertsĒ does fit the bill for me. Is it the Fountain of Youth--no, but the spray feels good. Is it even a perfect convertible--no, and there are better ones out there, but a lot more expensive. If, however it is true that we go around only once in this life, the Eclipse is good car to go around in...
*DEAREST, Oh well, at least he wonít get AIDS...
Amount Paid (US$):
NewModel and Options:
2003 Eclipse Spyder GTS