Review: 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
review 2011 mitsubishi eclipse spyder gs

By all accounts, the original Mitsubishi A6M Reisen, also known as “Zeke” or “Zero”, was a pretty decent little warplane. For a year or so, it had the edge on the porky old Brewster Buffalos and Grumman Wildcats operating, which is to say retreating, in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The Wildcat was replaced by the Hellcat, and by the time the fabulous P-47 Thunderbolt arrived it was game over for the Zero. The “Jug” was virtually indestructible, while the Zero offered virtually no protection to either its pilot or its fuel tanks. It was apparently quite profitable for Thunderbolt pilots to fly head-on at the Zeros and just shoot at them until the Mitsubishi fell out of the sky, its return fire completely ineffective. (P-47 info edited — JB)

Still, the Zero was a decent little plane.

Every Mitsubishi built since then, of every type, shape, variety, and description, has been a complete piece of crap.

Whew! Sorry about that! I was channeling our dear departed founder for a moment. I mean, not every Mitusbishi ever built has been junk. There was the Sapporo, which was, um, junk. And the Starion, but that was junk, too. The 3000GT? Impossible to fix and heavier empty than the aforementioned Mitsubishi Zero or a Corvette carrying the two fattest people from your local Wal-Mart. The DiamondStar cars? My friend Mark Mitias famously christened them “DSM-Disposable Speed Machines”. The Lancer Evolution? Nice to drive, satisfying to use on a racetrack, but made from tin and cardboard.

Maybe every Mitsubishi ever built has been junk. Still, I’m sympathetic towards them, and it makes me sad to see that the webpage for the Eclipse Spyder looks like this:

Look at the people-and-mileage infographic in the upper right-hand corner. You know where you see infographics like that? Right. At the rental-car counter. Where Mitusbishis go, not to die, but to live their lives. That’s where I found my test Eclipse, fetchingly dressed in “Carbon” paint and carrying a sticker price of $26,495 post rebates. Hertz Los Angeles charged me almost $200 to rent it for a day and a half; although I was on a press trip, I had some personal business which required that I slip the PR leash and travel without restriction or oversight. Thus the Eclipse.

First impressions: it isn’t bad-looking in its own way. The chrome spoiler isn’t as offensive as it is on the Infiniti G-Spots and the swell of the hindquarters has a somewhat mesmerizing effect for me. Let’s check it out, top-down in Beverly Hills:

There’s one unintended consequence of the styling and the big cloth top: backing out becomes an exercise in sheer bloody courage. Fruitlessly attempting to manipulate the car around the parking lot next to Kat von D’s “High Voltage Tattoo” studio, I ended up just closing my eyes and doing a full-throttle reverse into the unknown. I had not previously informed my passenger that such a maneuver was forthcoming. They say you never hear the bullet that kills you. After that, I kept the complicated top down at all times for visibility and safety, even in light rain.

In many ways, the Eclipse Spyder is a little time capsule, a look back into What Them Japanese Cars Used To Be Like. Let’s see. Charmless four-cylinder, rough but short on power? Check. Four-speed automatic with somewhat leisurely shift times? Yup. Lowest-bidder plastic interior? Uh-huh.

The sound system, branded “Rockford Fosgate” to reach that critical retired-minitruckers-who-remember-the-Punch-45-amplifier demographic, wasn’t bad, although the subwoofer mounted between the negligible rear seats seemed inadequately protected and quite prone to being poked with pencils, pens, broken bongs, shivs, and the other accoutrements of the modern Mitsubishi buyer, who is primarily identifiable by his sub-600 credit rating and fondness for the music of “Sublime”.

Speaking of, let me tell you what else is a bad idea: driving a convertible top-down through LA with a passenger who is both drunk and fluent in Spanish. I know the language in print but couldn’t keep up with her enough to know what kind of trouble we were getting into. “Hey, (plural form of Spanish word for person who is unnaturally intimate with his mother)!” she yelled at four vatos in a LeSabre. “(Fornicate) (your) (sister, or possibly taco dressing) (with) (a goat, or airplane propeller, or small dog native to certain regions of Mexico).” Time to floor the Eclipse’s too-loud-pedal and get the hell out of there, with a brief visit to the next lane courtesy of some vintage-style throttle-steer.

“I want to see the Hollywood sign!” she then said in perfectly clear English. Cue the terrifying midnight climb up roads no wider than a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, complete with blind corners, huge potholes, and streets that turn out to be driveways or vice versa. At last, the sign appeared in the foggy sky, unaccountably ominous for its proximity and mute familiarity. We stopped at the widest available point in the road and stepped out to take a look.

“Hey, muchacho, you gonna leave the car running like that?” she inquired.

“Who’d steal it?” I replied.

We could close the review right there, really. Of all the cars for sale today, this is definitely one of them. That’s about it. I’m not going to pull a Scott Burgess here. By “pull a Scott Burgess,” I don’t mean “get lapped by Jack Baruth in a Grand Cherokee while I’m driving a Chally 392 on a racetrack,” although that may have happened recently. I mean, “get all weepy-eyed about a less-than-great car just because the top goes down.” If I want to write a nice article about a car that is fundamentally a piece of disposable junk with a very pleasant convertible option, I’ll take the Kaiser’s shilling and fluff the Boxster a little bit. I hear there are more trips to Germany available for those of us who are willing to get our e-knees dirty in that regard.

I cannot recommend the Eclipse Spyder to anyone. There are better choices available for the same money, including the distantly related Chrysler 200 convertible. For the same money, you get a six-speed automatic and a few more refinements. You lose the fabulous ass, but that can be sourced elsewhere. The Mustang convertible costs a bit more but has a far stronger engine and is likely to be worth real money in a few years compared to either the Eclipse or 200. A MINI Cooper convertible is slower but nicer inside and carries a lot more credibility with the fabulous-ass crowd themselves.

The Eclipse nameplate had its moments, back in the early days of the sport-compact battle, but those are long gone. Like its winged ancestor, this Mitsubishi falls short on refinement, power, protection, and capability. It’s not necessarily crap, but it’s very far from being good. I’m afraid that the Eclipse has lost the war.

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2 of 110 comments
  • IronEagle IronEagle on Jul 20, 2011

    Great review. My 95 Talon TSi AWD will show you though...once it's running again...only been down 11 months now lol.

  • Mmnaworker2 Mmnaworker2 on Feb 21, 2012

    The DiamondStar cars? My friend Mark Mitias famously christened them “DSM-Disposable Speed Machines”. The Lancer Evolution? Nice to drive, satisfying to use on a racetrack, but made from tin and cardboard. We never made the Lancer evo in the U.S.A. If you think the past cars were crap,just wait....we are going to build the Outlander Sport in late is going to be an awesome piece of crap !!Let me be the 1st to say this.We(UAW workers) are not happy the way Mitsubishi is building this car.From the used equipment to the cheap thin steel,more plastic,..etc. We have tried to build good reliable cars,and we have to a point.We can only build to the quality that is handed to us from above.We would love to build world class cars,mitsubishi has other ideas.all we can hope is the Outlander Sport is better than what i see from inside the plant.

  • CEastwood Seven mil nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight for oil changes and such and the thicker heavy duty gripper gloves from Wally World for most everything else . Hell we used to use no gloves for any of that and when we did it was usually the white cloth gloves bought by the dozen or the gray striped cuff ones for heavy duty use . Old man rant over , but I laugh when I see these types of gloves in a bargain bin at Home Cheapo for 15 bucks a pair !
  • Not Previous Used Car of the Day entries that spent decades in the weeds would still be a better purchase than this car. The sucker who takes on this depreciated machine will learn the hard way that a cheap German car is actually a very expensive way to drive around.
  • Bullnuke Well, production cuts may be due to transport-to-market issues. The MV Fremantle Highway is in a Rotterdam shipyard undergoing repairs from the last shipment of VW products (along with BMW and others) and to adequately fireproof it. The word in the shipping community is that insurance necessary for ships moving EVs is under serious review.
  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.