by Clint Burgess

Summer is upon us, and there's nothing like riding in style in a convertible. Soaking up the rays on a warm summer day, feeling the wind whip through your hair, hugging the S-curves and driving off into the sunset -- it's a feeling that's hard to match. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is just the car to get you out with the top down, the pedal to the floor and the open road ahead.

The 2005 Eclipse Spyder model is one tasty treat. This convertible is more than just a car with a drop-top; it's an attitude waiting to reveal its sleek and sensual side. (I'm still talking about the car here, guys.) Since it first came on the market in 1996, the sporty Eclipse has been turning heads and fulfilling consumers' need for something to be seen in. After all, convertibles are for showing off -- we all know that. Since its debut, Mitsubishi has solidified itself in the psyche of the American car-buying public as a must-have. The design of the car is severely aerodynamic, conveying a sense of power and speed. This little number also possesses qualities of finesse and style. Starting at a price of $26,000, the Spyder is worth every penny -- and maybe a few more.

Some of what makes the Eclipse Spyder a favorite among convertible enthusiasts is its roomy interior and superior handling. The Spyder comes in three packages. Unfortunately the base model is only equipped with a four-cylinder and lacks a bit on the power side of the spectrum to really get things moving. However, the mid-level package GT model comes with a V-6 and all the torque you can handle. This model offers a 200-horsepower engine and can be configured for a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. If you can handle a little more power for a higher price tag, the GTS model offers a 210-horsepower engine and also includes anti-lock brakes and side airbags. But you don't have to throw down extra dough to get the goods on this ticket to summer time fun. Standard features include keyless entry, rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels and an anti-theft system -- which you will need because, this car is built for driving like it was stolen.

Mitsubishi did things right with this convertible. It has all the things sports cars should have, making it a favorite among consumers. But the Spyder isn't just a sports car. There is plenty of room to seat four adults comfortably, and the leather package in the GTS model adds a nice touch. The interior setup on the dash has prompted Mitsubishi to refer to this part of the vehicle as "the cockpit." And if all the dials, chrome trimming and pretty lights don't justify the name, I don't know what does. In a car in which appearance is most of the allure, the Eclipse Spyder offers good value, all packed into a well-built vehicle. This car is substantial: Unlike other sporty convertibles, it doesn't feel like it could be blown off the road by a passing semi-truck.

But for those considering a drop-top, make sure it is exactly what you want before buying. They're more expensive to insure -- and coupled with the sports car status of the Spyder, it's going to be of interest to car thieves. There are also safety standards to take into account: The Spyder only offers side airbags on the GTS model, and there's no roll bar. So choose carefully: safety or fun?

But once you've decided, as far as mid-priced sports cars are concerned, the Eclipse Spyder offers a considerable amount of car for the money.

Coeur d'Alene Street Fair @ Downtown Coeur d'Alene

Sun., Aug. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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