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2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder ReviewThe Good
The 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder sees a styling refresh that has gotten positive reception overall, as well as its usual positives of a sporty V6, smooth transmissions, fine road handling, and a power top.The Bad
The '09 Eclipse Spyder performs poorly on anything other than smooth, dry surfaces, and the base engine is inadequate, especially with the automatic, but perhaps worst of all is the convertible top's extremely inhibited rear visibility.
The CarGurus View
Buying an Eclipse has always been an exercise in sacrifice, and the Spyder only emphasizes this. There are many options with better performance, more utility, and a lower price, but if the styling is to your taste, none of that matters. For performance's sake, the V6 is necessary, but it also creates an imbalanced situation in a car that already suffers from sketchy handling.
At a Glance
2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and to commemorate the event, it has received a slight exterior refresh, including a blacked-out center grille/bumper/intake combo as well as a similarly blacked-out lower bumper section in back that visually lightens the entire rear. The rear wing has also been redesigned. Additionally, the SE and SE-V6 trim levels have been deleted and the GT model gets standard stability control and a dual exhaust setup that delivers a power increase.
The Eclipse Spyder is available in two trims, GS and GT, both of which get a powered top with heated rear glass and the option of two engines and transmissions for this two-door sport convertible. This front-wheel-drive's design is centered on its sport aspirations and competent if inconsistent suspension.
GS and GT trims each get their own engine, with the GS trim powered by a 2.4-liter, 162-hp inline four cylinder and the GT getting a 265-hp, 3.8-liter V6. Both trims receive a standard manual transmission, a five-speed for the GS and a six-speed for the GT, with a four-speed automatic optional on the GS and a five-speed automatic optional on the GT. The difference in speed and power between the two engines is noticeable, although neither lacks power when mated to the manual transmission.
However, with the automatic, the 2.4 is a bit sluggish at highway speeds, requiring absolute flooring of the accelerator to achieve passing power. That said, the Sportronic mode is a welcome addition, giving manual control over gear selection in the automatic. Manual-equipped GSs get EPA estimates of 19/26 mpg, while GTs with the manual achieve 16/25, a slight drop over the coupe, due to 200 extra pounds of curb weight. Mitsubishi recommends premium fuel for the 3.8.
Both engines are quite noisy at high RPM, but only the 2.4 ends up sounding ragged when taxed, and this intrudes into the Spyder's cabin.
Ride & Handling
The Eclipse’s short wheelbase and firm suspension make for a confident ride on smooth pavement and a shaky ride in nearly all other conditions. While grip is substantial and body lean minimal, the Eclipse’s composure over rough surfaces leaves a lot to be desired, especially with the 18-inch wheels, although the added weight of the Spyder top helps it provide a better ride than the coupe, with better composure overall. That said, drivers have noticed slight chatter when the Spyder encounters rough road. Interestingly, the GS has been noted by reviewers as being better balanced than the GT.
Something very surprising is the Eclipse’s rather large turning radius, unexpected for such a small and sporty vehicle. Brakes are strong and pedal feel is firm, though. Watch for torque-steer under hard acceleration with the GT, although this is a smaller problem for the Spyder than the coupe.
Cabin & Comfort
Sadly, neither 2006’s complete redesign or this year’s slight refresh has addressed one of the biggest complaints regarding the Mitsubishi Eclipse, which is an interior peppered with cheap, hard plastics. Taller drivers may find an issue with headroom, while shorter drivers may find pedals and even some controls a long reach.
Seats, however, are both comfortable and supportive, if a bit low, and low doors make entry and exit a bit of a chore. Predictably, rear seats are symbolic at best, suitable only for children or inanimate objects. This problem is more noticeable in the Spyder, where shoulder room is further compromised, than in the coupe. Additionally, road noise intrudes on the cabin, especially from the tires, and this is especially noticeable with the Spyder, although wing windows do a good job of controlling otherwise annoying wind buffeting.
Complaints aside, the interior Eclipse's styling has been continually well-received, despite being four years old, and the controls are generally well-placed and convenient. An illogical choice was to place the audio display on top of the dash, too far from the controls, creating a dangerous driving situation when making adjustments.
The Premium Sport package available for the GT offers leather upholstery, heated front seats and mirrors, a 6-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, aluminum pedals, a wind deflector, and unique alloy wheels. GSs have the option of the Leather Package which provides leather upholstery and heated front seats and mirrors.
Standard safety features include dual front, front side, and front curtain side airbags, antilock, four-wheel disc brakes, daytime running lights, and a tire-pressure monitor. GT trims additionally receive an anti-skid system.
NHTSA ratings for the 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse are not currently available.
What Owners Think
Owners have always been pleased overall by the looks of the Eclipse and both the major redesign in 2006 and the refresh this year have been well-received. When it comes to performance, the Eclipse has never been a great value for the money, and its fit and finish have been nothing to brag about. However, especially with the GT’s V6, performance isn’t poor, and the handling is a big positive, as long as you’re on dry, smooth pavement.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.