Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. reaches the halfway point of its new product introduction plans with the release of its third-generation Eclipse Spyder sports tourer.

Debuting as an '07 model, the new Spyder hit dealer showrooms in March and serves as an expansion of Mitsubishi's venerable Eclipse line, which was revamped last year with the release of the all-new, fourth-generation '06 Eclipse coupe.

Originating in Mitsubishi's Cypress, CA, design studio for North America, the Spyder serves as a halo for the brand, designed for active reward-seekers.

The coupe and convertible share nearly the same dimensions, components, powertrains and options, save for the Spyder's necessary chassis strengthening and its ASC Inc.-supplied 3-layer convertible top.

Both models are built at MMNA's Normal, IL, assembly plant.

Both share the same MacPherson strut arrangement up front and low-mount, multi-link rear suspension. Trim levels are the same, as well, with the base GS model featuring a 162-hp, 2.4L 4-cyl. with either a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

GT models step up to a torquey 3.8L V-6 with 260 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque and a choice of 6-speed manual or optional 5-speed automatic transmissions.

The topless silhouette of the 4-passenger Spyder is much more flattering than the coupe's sloping behind and is more in tune with the Eclipse's capabilities.

While the Eclipse coupe is positioned to compete against the more athletic Ford Mustang GT and Nissan 350Z, the Spyder's relaxed, open-top nature allows it to place less of an emphasis on outright performance and more on stylish cruising.

The Spyder is spirited and fun to drive, but a lightweight handler it is not. The porky 3,737-lb. (1,705-kg) curb weight (GT model) is close to that of some midsize sedans and several hundred pounds heavier than its closest competitors.

The power-folding cloth top, which fetures a full headliner and glass rear window, is released by two headliner-mounted latches and is concealed under a sleek, hard tonneau cover. The new top is operated hydraulically for quieter operation, compared with the previous Spyder's electronically-actuated unit, and can cycle up or down in about 19 seconds.

Trunk volume with the top up or down is 5.2 cu.-ft. (147 L), a decrease from the previous Spyder's 7 cu.-ft. (198 L).

Added steel reinforcements in the Spyder's dash, floorboards, rear package shelf and side sills increase weight but also significantly increase rigidity — cowl and steering column shake are minimal and only noticeable on severe road imperfections.

A compliant suspension setup, with revised spring rates for the heavier convertible, and standard 17-in. alloy wheels shod with all-season tires also hamper the Spyder's cone-carving abilities. Still, they provide a confident, well-rounded ride devoid of excessive harshness.

Inside, the Spyder shares the coupe's organic, “wave form” shapes with “techno” details, such as exposed metallic fasteners.

The '07 Spyder is the most refined version yet, with acceptable levels of wind noise and a throaty exhaust note, which are the only sounds to intrude into the cabin with the top raised.

Seating is supportive yet comfortable, with adequate shoulder, leg and head room for larger drivers. The Spyder has standard driver and passenger front and side airbags and standard antilock disc brakes.

Pricing begins under $26,000.