In the three years since the second-generation Mitsubishi Outlander first went on sale, Mitsubishi has gone through a sort of identity crisis here in the U.S. market. While the Japanese automaker’s compact Lancer models—especially the high-performance Evolution and Ralliart—have been generally well received, Mitsubishi’s larger vehicles, including the larger Endeavor SUV, Galant sedan, and even Eclipse sport coupe, have lost their way in the market.
With a modest but transformation refresh for 2010, Mitsubishi is bringing the Outlander’s styling closer to that of the Lancer on which it’s based. A subtle set of design changes takes the Outlander in a more carlike direction on the outside, with fewer rugged SUV cues and the sharklike ‘jet fighter’ snout inherited from the Evo. Along with the front-end changes, the Outlander gets new aero work in front, a mesh grille, a new rear fascia, redesigned hood and fenders, and on most models chrome-accented side-sill extensions. Inside there are some much-needed soft-touch materials including, for the top trims, soft double-stitched synthetic leather padding where elbows go and for some of the dash. The vents and dials also get new bright accents, and all but the base model get a new multi-color LCD instrument display.
Altogether, the Outlander now looks sportier on the outside and doesn’t feel nearly as cut-rate inside. But there have been quite a few other performance and tech improvements made to the Outlander this year, and the model that brings it all together is the new top-of-the-line Outlander GT. Only offered with the 3.0-liter V-6, which now makes 230 horsepower, the GT is the first Outlander to get a version of the Super–All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system used in the Evo and Ralliart. The system includes Tarmac, Snow, and Lock modes, selected with a knob on the center console, to cater the system’s responses to specific conditions, with an Active Front Differential and electronically controlled center diff, for more seamless distribution of torque between the wheels (other Outlander models still offer a 4WD system offering 2WD and Lock modes).
The GT is the sportiest of Outlander models, trimmed with aluminum pedals and a blacked-out grille. but the one thing it doesn’t come with is the Evo’s excellent Twin Clutch automated manual gearbox. Instead, it gets a standard six-speed automatic that incorporates Sportronic manual control, with a manual gate in which the system actually holds individual gears all the way to full throttle. We also like the Outlander GT’s paddle shifters, which are mounted alongside—rather than on—the steering wheel, making them easier to locate in tight hairpins, for instance.