2010 Mitsubishi Outlander: More Volume, Less Displacement

December 29, 2009

More volume, less displacement.
That's the creed of today's crossovers.

To wit: The 2009 Mitsubishi Outlander has a roomy interior, a thumping audio setup and now a smaller 168-hp four-cylinder mill. Built by the folks who made the funky high-roof Dodge Colt Vista, it has a Hoover upright-like continuously variable transmission. There's a fix. Pull an oar. Two alloy paddles let you pick six fixed ratios.

The all-wheel-drive SE tester, with traction control, performed well in snow. It has three selectable modes: two-wheel-front-drive, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel lock. Mitsubishi says two-wheel, front drive is the most economical, all-wheel-drive offers sportier cornering and foul-weather grip, and lock powers all four wheels through deep snow.

A tailgaters' delight: the split-opening rear lid. The upper section forms a foul-weather canopy; the drop-down bottom section creates a useful bench, as did many noggin-busting 1950s station wagons. However, Mitsubishi's take, which includes a gap filling lower panel, is a gear-loading homer.

Ride is softer than some SUVs, which on our choppy roads is welcome. Nonetheless, the initial resilience gives way to firm kicks and jolts. Road noise is extant; the suspension whispers.

Expect moderate body roll, when tackling twisty roads. Mix quick, boosted power steering with standard electronic stability control and you get secure handling.

The interior is drastic plastic. Hard petrochemical dash cover and door panels look and feel cheap. Some pieces squeak. Front racing-shell buckets and mid-row seats are comfortable.

Guiding you: good and bad instruments. For example, the deeply recessed speedometer is difficult-to-read dayside--better at night. EPA estimates: 20 mpg city, 25 hwy. Measured: 18 mpg overall, during cold weather.

In conclusion, there are quieter CUVs than the $26,000 ($29,000 as tested) Outlander. Yet, like its subwoofer, it delivers a sporty punch.

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