- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

MODEL: Mitsubishi Spyder GT
VEHICLE TYPE: Two-door convertible
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $25,727
MILEAGE: 20 city, 27 highway

Now that warm weather has arrived, a young boy's thoughts turn to convertibles.
Well, even not so young boys get the soft-top bug with the disappearance of winter's chill. What better time for Mitsubishi to begin shipping its redesigned Eclipse Spyder? This is a drop-top maturing from a sassy teen-ager to a young adult as it evolved from its past iteration to its most recent.
Tagged a 2001 model, the new Spyder was designed in Southern California and is being assembled in Illinois. It's a perfect example of all that's right with Mitsubishi today.
Riding the wave of a 35 percent increase in sales last year from 1998, Mitsubishi is enjoying a 20 percent improvement in brand awareness and a 38 percent increase in people shopping the brand. Per vehicle incentive costs are down an average of $300, and today a new Mitsubishi sits on a dealer's lot less than 40 days on the average, rather than the 160 days it did just a year ago. Life is good at Mitsubishi.
Although the new Eclipse coupe is head and shoulders above the last generation, that fact doesn't prepare you for the drastic improvement in the Spyder. It isn't just better, it's exceedingly better. Tightly constructed and rock solid, the redesigned Spyder is quick and quiet. Illustrating the Spyder's quantum leap, the top operates with precision. A simple flip of the two latches connecting it to the windshield header releases the top, which then uses twin electric motors to smoothly lower it into a well behind the rear seat.
Mitsubishi tested this top by raising and lowering it 9,000 times in temperatures from 20 degrees below zero to 180 degrees above. The top itself is composed of three layers: an acrylic outer layer, a rubber center layer and the cotton inner layer. With the top raised, the Spyder is nearly as quiet as the coupe. With the top lowered, wind buffeting and noise are minimal.
Whether zipping along Interstate 95 or winding through the desert roads near Tucson, Ariz., where Mitsubishi conducted its press preview, the Spyder is a disarmingly handsome machine. It garnered an enthusiastic thumbs up from a current Spyder driver and shrieks of excitement from a pair of high school girls in a Mazda RX-7 convertible during a three-hour Arizona sprint. As with the new coupe, the new Spyder is more sculpted than its predecessor. The added definition has dramatically increased the character of this 2+2. And, for a hundred bucks extra, the dealer can replace the standard fuel door with one of aluminum. It's well worth it.
Offered as a GS and the more upscale GT, the Spyder comes with either a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the GS or a potent 200-horsepower, 3-liter V-6 in the GT. My afternoon was spent with a GT. My test GT was armed with the standard five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic with a manual mode called Sportronic is available as an option. Snicking through its gates, the five-speed is a wonderfully precise gearbox. One complaint voiced by a couple of drivers that day was the shifter may be located a bit too far aft. Acceleration is relentless and remarkably smooth. Even with the top lowered, the engine purrs rather than roars as it steadily revs upward. Zero to 60 mph is a slingshot requiring less than seven seconds. According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the five-speed Spyder GT will get 20 miles to the gallon in town and 27 on the highway.
A totally independent suspension and sticky 17-inch tires scheme to deliver a pleasant over-the-road ride and spot-on handling. Tenacious in its road holding, the Spyder whips around curves with exuberance. The GT has anti-lock disc brakes on all four corners. A traction-control system is optional.
An inch of extra legroom increases the quality of life for rear-seat passengers in the new Spyder. Meanwhile trunk space has been increased by more than 2 cubic feet. Not only is this a larger car inside, it is more comfortable and better equipped than the last generation. The ergonomics are improved and the standard audio system is terrific. Side-impact air bags are offered as an option in addition to the standard dual front air bags.
Mitsubishi is already shipping the new Spyder to dealers. While they will trickle into showrooms in the beginning, the flow will improve as production ramps up. Base price of the GS will be $23,347, while the GT will bring $25,237. Standard features on the GT include power windows/door locks, seven-speaker Infinity AM-FM stereo/cassette/CD player, cruise control, anti-theft alarm system, remote keyless entry, dual power outboard mirrors, tilt steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning and more. The delivery charge will add an additional $490 to the bottom line, making the GT's final price without options $25,727.


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