New & Used Mitsubishi Outlander: In Depth
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander - First Drive, March 2013Enlarge Photo
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The Mitsubishi Outlander is a family-friendly compact crossover that has the option of a third row in some trims. The Outlander is presently in its third generation in the U.S., and it was redesigned for 2014 to better compete with the Toyota RAV4, Dodge Journey, Honda CR-V, and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The Mitsubishi Outlander was first introduced for 2003. At the time, it was only offered with a 140-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. From 2004-2006, the Outlander got a 160-hp version that made it a bit perkier, but both versions feel adequate for around-town driving though somewhat overwhelmed with a full load or on the highway. A five-speed manual transmission was introduced in 2005, but not many models were equipped with it. Overall, this generation of Outlander models is quite unremarkable to drive, with a rather soft ride, decent but uninspiring handling, and well-appointed but somewhat cheap-feeling interiors. Safety features are also rather slim, with ABS and side airbags only standard on the top XLS until 2006, and electronic stability control not available.
For 2007, the Outlander was completely redesigned, on the same platform as the new Lancer and Evolution models, and gained either a 168-hp, 2.4-liter four, with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic, or a 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, with a six-speed automatic. As before, front- or all-wheel drive were offered.
This time, the Outlander was a bit larger and offered a small third-row seat in back; don't count on putting adults in this seat, ever, but it might fit the bill if you very occasionally need space for a couple of extra kids. In general, this generation of Outlander looks and feels substantially more sporty and upscale, and the Lancer's sporty driving character finally carries over. V-6 models aren't quite as fast as you'd expect, but they're reasonably perky and capable of towing a small trailer. With a significant increase in weight, the four-cylinder is again overwhelmed, sounding even more coarse and boomy than in the previous generation—possibly because of the characteristics of the CVT. There's also a fair amount of road noise in the Outlander compared to competing vehicles, but the payback is superb steering and handling. Off-roading isn't so much in the Outlander's vocabulary, though it does just fine on muddy roads or plowing through snow.
For 2010, a new Outlander GT model was introduced. Finally tapping into the Outlander's performance potential, the GT adds the smart S-AWC all-wheel drive system from the Evolution and Ralliart models (with Tarmac, Snow, and Lock modes), combined the V-6, along with suspension and handling upgrades that make the Outlander everything short of a canyon carver. Throughout the Outlander lineup for 2010, the models get a version of the Lancer's even more blunt, shark-like grille, along with a more carlike air dam, plus some interior enhancements including a padded dash for top-of-the-range models along with an available navigation and entertainment system than employs a voice-command interface called FUSE. The XLS was later dropped, and a few more standard features were added to the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Mitsubishi had announced that it would turn the Outlander name into a sub-brand, much like what Subaru had formerly done with its Outback line. And in the 2011 model year, it followed that plan and introduced the Outlander Sport, a smaller, more carlike and fuel-efficient model with some of the same styling cues.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander debuts completely different styling that does away with the 'shark-like' front end and more wedge-like profile. Four- and six-cylinder engines will still be offered. And thanks to an aggressive weight-loss plan in the structure that includes more high-tensile steel, the Outlander is more nimble and fuel-efficient. A base 2.4-liter four-cylinder now includes variable valve lift as well as timing, making 166 hp and feeling quite perky and at ease with the continuously variable automatic transmission. GT models pack a 224-hp V-6 that’s disappointing in that it’s considerably thirstier, asks for premium fuel, and doesn’t develop all that much torque until you rev it. The paddle-shifters and six-speed automatic spice up the driving experience a bit, though. As one of the lowest-priced vehicles offering three rows of seating, the Outlander can fit up to seven and includes a good driving position (with tilt/telescopic steering) and good headroom and legroom for adults in the second row. It’s also one of the most compact three-row vehicles, though, so think of that third row only as a backup plan for carpool duty. Safety firsts for Mitsubishi in the Outlander include Adaptive Cruise Control (with three distance settings), Lane Departure Warning, and a Forward Collision Mitigation that will, at lower speeds, first signal that an obstacle or other vehicle is ahead and then brake the vehicle fully to a stop.
Mitsubishi was selling the Outlander on more aggressive styling and driving attributes, but it’s clearly repositioned the new 2014 model, in its new form, toward value—and offering one of the strongest sets of standard equipment for the money, among compact-to-mid-size crossovers. And if it’s three-row models you’re considering, the new model is the features-for-money champ. Base ES models don’t include Bluetooth or alloy wheels, but if you can look past that they include automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a six-speaker, 140-watt audio system, among other things. Leather, a sunroof, and a power tailgate are available on the top models.
A plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander will be introduced for the 2015 model year, offering all-wheel drive and a complex drive system that's capable of both series and parallel hybrid operation.