The sky was deep porcelain blue. The Galiuro Mountains east of Tucson were a velvety brown scrub. My winter wan forehead was searing towards adobe red under a merciless Arizona sun.
I thought at the time that I was test-driving Mitsubishi's new-for-2001 Eclipse Spyder. I realize now that I'd been lured unawares into a curious piece of performance art in which this fetching car and I were the only moving elements in a static, bubble-like "spacescape" defined by serene desert, timeless mountains, and open air.
Beyond the obvious celestial connotations of its name, the Eclipse Spyder betrays more than a hint of the Starship Trooper aesthetic that is at once anachronistic and futurist. Based on the successful redesign of the hardtop Eclipse, the convertible Spyder version of this affordable sporty coupe retains the part-industrial/part-organic strakes and gills in its bodywork, to which Mitsubishi has given the suitably Jabberwocky description "geo-mechanical."
Personally, the adult in me finds all these fins and epicanthic folds a bit rococo and distracting — not to mention the hours with a toothbrush to perform a decent detailing. I will gladly abide them, however, for the sake of the near miraculous makeover of the new Eclipse's interior. What was once a collection of semi-recumbent pods for driver and three passengers has matured into legitimate, sporty seating for four that pays dividends in both comfort and visibility. Empirically, the interior gains 1.5 cubic feet overall compared to the previous Spyder version. The extra rear legroom is laudable out of all proportion to its nominal increase by a mere one inch. There is more trunk space, too, so that the total of 7.2 cubic feet now rivals that of some small sedans.
I especially like the command-and-control position of the driver's seat and the collection of instruments and controls arrayed conveniently about. Taller drivers (six foot-plus) among my colleagues at the Spyder's media debut tended to cast suspicious glances at the upper edge of the windscreen that met them at forehead level; but this five-and-a-half footer appreciated for once being able to maneuver seat height, steering wheel position and backrest angle for clear views to front and sides as well as into the instruments binnacle in the dash. Best of all, the pushbutton controller for the automatic top is at ideal fingertip reach. Flip two "ski-boot-type" latches at the front of the heavily lined cloth top (with solid glass rear window, no less) and, zizz, flip, the sky is, quite literally, the limit.