The small Mexican village of Cancun is a well-known party destination for young adults on spring break, offering a multitude of things most excellent. Eye candy in bikinis and surfer shorts (take your pick) sip on margaritas made with hand-squeezed lime juice and 100 percent agave tequila at a fraction of the price of the libations they choke down up North. In Cancun, sunny, 85-degree days on the beach end -- or start, depending on your perspective -- with never-ending dance parties so crowded you're not sure who you're dancing with. Sprawling hotels offer deals on everything from deep sea fishing to golf, and ancient ruins are just a day trip away for the brainiacs and history buffs in the group. Paradise on Earth.

After a week of excessive partying and far too little rehydration, however, realization dawns for all but a select few who were truly meant to reside in the beautiful but energy-sapping locale: Cancun is a fabulous place to visit, but most people wouldn't want to live there.

So goes our story of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT. For those who were truly meant for this car and vice-versa, it is a dream come true. "Attainable exotic" is more than a buzz phrase pushed by Mitsubishi's marketing guys. For the rest of us, however, we're thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit and would certainly like to go back one day, but it's just too much of a good thing for our modest lives.

Let's start out with the paradise that is the Eclipse, upon first glimpse. Gleaming curves dominate, at the same time voluptuous and muscular, starting up front with a catfish-like nose and sweeping up to a high, rounded bottom. Like many of Mitsubishi's vehicles, the Eclipse is in tune with the tuners -- the brushed aluminum gas cap, auto-off halogen headlamps and crystal-clear taillights are just a few hints of the vehicle's big ol' nod to the aftermarket community.

By far, the best thing about this vehicle is the giggle-factor that goes along with how easy it is to light up the 35/45VR-18 tires. Starting up in first, even with the smallest depression of the gas pedal, results in the kind of rubber burning that would have made you a role model peeling out of your high school parking lot. Shift into second, and the tires skip again, emitting yet another satisfying screech. For those bold enough to turn off the traction control in the rain, the tire skip can even be reproduced when shifting into third gear. Not that we'd know what it's like to turn the traction control off in the rain, of course, that would be imprudent. Just don't ask this Autoblogger's sister about how easily the car slid across the rain-soaked lanes rounding the tight turn getting onto I-375 from Jefferson in downtown Detroit.

Obviously, there's a disparity between the power of the engine and the ability of the transmission to transfer that power into movement across the pavement, which is one of the things that got a little old for us. But the fact of the matter is that the 260 HP 3.8-liter MIVEC V6 stuffed under the hood of the Eclipse is no small thing.

What's a MIVEC, you ask? We could try to explain it, but Mitsubishi says it better than we can:

"Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control (MIVEC) Engine
The Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control (MIVEC) engine offers fuel economy in city driving conditions without sacrificing performance.

How does MIVEC work? At lower speeds (less than 3,500 rpm), the MIVEC engine intelligently adjusts itself to offer crisp throttle response to accelerate you through the intricacies of city driving. As engine speeds increase, MIVEC takes on its sportier side and spreads the power delivery throughout the rest of the RPM range by allowing more air into the combustion chambers."

The result is an engine that is both fuel-efficient and responsive to the performance preferences of the driver, resulting in a 0-60 time of just 6.7 seconds (the coupe hits it in a respectable 6.3, by the way) while maintaining gas mileage of 18/27 for our tester's manual transmission and 19/28 for the Sportronic five-speed automatic transmission that is also available.

The engine may just be a little too much muscle for what the car can take. In addition to the peel-out factor, the engine's power causes the front-heavy vehicle to feel like an under steering snow plow when launching around a corner or applying heavy brake pressure. Otherwise decent handling helps, but the vehicle's heft doesn't improve the situation – the coupe was criticized by auto journalists for being overweight, and with the extra weight that goes along with engineering a convertible to be safe, the 3,500 lbs. is even more of a factor. For those just looking for a tire-squealing good time, however, the Eclipse delivers, and then some.

In addition to the power, the great thing about this vehicle is the fact that it's a convertible. The only thing better than the "LOOK AT MY CAR" styling of the coupe is the inherent thrill of inviting people to actually behold the god or goddess driving the exquisitely molded piece of art to the heavenly soundtrack provided by the precision-tuned exhaust. The convertible top's design strays from the roofline of the coupe Eclipse, but no matter -- the vehicle's profile has its own distinct styling that is different, not necessarily better or worse. On our tester, which was a gorgeous Satin Meisai Pearl color, the top was the same hue as the light blue of the body color, and from what we hear (or didn't hear, more precisely), the folding top is the product of some pretty advanced manufacturing processes that leave the vehicle interior fairly quiet even at high speeds with the top up.

Even with all of our praise about its aesthetic and acoustic benefits, we did have some laments about the top.

First, the most important point to this end is extremely limited visibility, even for a convertible. Backing out of parking spaces with this vehicle is taking your life into your own hands. Maybe it's Mitsubishi's way of encouraging drivers to put the top down, but with all the money the automaker spent on the top, one would think that the design would be a tad safer.

Second, Mitsubishi didn't make sufficient alternate arrangements for interior lighting when it could no longer be offered overhead, making it difficult to pull over and read a map or look for the French fry that just disappeared between the seat and the console.

Finally, the top may be quick to fully open or close (about 20 seconds is what we estimate), but unlike many other convertibles such as the MINI or Saab 9-3 convertible, one has to be at a dead stop in order to operate the thing. It is convenient, however, that all one has to do to open or close the top is yank a few handles above the windshield and hold down a button.

The interior is also one of the places where Mitsubishi's enamoration with the aftermarket community is apparent, from attractive blue LED interior lights and drilled aluminum racing-style pedals to a cool button that electronically opens up the glove box.

Tuner influence is most visible, however, when one looks into the backseat to observe quite possibly the largest subwoofer available in a vehicle straight from the factory. Taking up the back of what would be the entire middle seat, the device's 8" woofness pumps out more bass than a DJ bumpin' booty music after hours. It accompanies nine speakers belonging to a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate-sourced stereo system with Digital Signal Processing, and sports a 6-CD/MP3-compatible in-dash changer optionally controlled by steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

While the sound system itself is appropriate for the Eclipse's likely audience of 20-something males, the lack of intuitiveness in the controls is disappointing. Mitsubishi does get props for including the "must-have" feature of steering wheel controls, but they're set on the back of the steering wheel in such a manner that some minor contortionism is the only way to really use them. Add to that the fact that the radio console itself stretches across the dashboard, making it next to impossible to reach those controls without leaning into the passenger's lap a little more than is socially acceptable.

Further examination of the interior reveals hard painted plastic where we'd like to see brushed aluminum accents, making us wonder how long the paint will hold up against trigger-happy radio users. On the bright side, we were thrilled to find that the seat warmers that were part of the premium package have two temperature settings and in addition to warming one's buns, the seat back provides warmth as well.

The Verdict

Even though it might not have been our cup of tea after the first few runs, we're assured that the focus groups Mitsubishi's marketing guys no doubt splurged on have paid off. This vehicle couldn't be more perfect for its target audience. Big booming stereo, trail blazing looks, tuner-inspired touches and an engine with some pretty sick power are what's important to this group – potential drivers are likely less concerned with a little snowplowing and the kinds of interior quirks that drive us batty than they are with raw power and dashing good looks.

Mitsubishi has had a hard time selling the Eclipse, true, but that may be because it's competing in such an odd segment. Its competitors, which include the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, just don't appeal to the same audience. Taking it out of context a bit and comparing it to the likes of the MINI Cooper S convertible and the Saturn Sky Red Line may make more sense. Comparably priced at $28,000, Japanese reliability, Mitsubishi performance and Eclipse styling may just give this ride the edge it needs, though the handling and interior quality of the MINI and the more classic looks of the Sky will certainly give the Eclipse a run for its money.

The Eclipse Spyder is a head-turner, all right, and we're confident that the sun gods smiling down on year-round residents of Cancun are the same ones applauding the rightful owner of a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT for his/her fortune in finding what the rest of us search for our entire lives: the perfect automobile for them.

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