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Second Drive: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

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While Mitsubishi has struggled to stay relevant with its larger vehicles—like the Mitsubishi Galant sedan and Endeavor SUV—it's managing to offer some excellent choices ranging from compact to mid-size. The automaker has infused its lineup of 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer and Outlander variants with a unique mix of sport and practicality.

And for 2010, Mitsubishi has injected just a little more high-performance character from the Lancer Evolution into its Outlander utility vehicle—without affecting its inherent practicality or comfort.

That was our take after driving the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT for the first time earlier this year in the wide-open areas around Palm Springs. But a few weeks back we had the chance to take the Outlander GT on a follow-up drive in normal day-to-day city conditions, and came to admire this vehicle's size—just large enough to fit comfortable accommodations for five, and an abbreviated (very abbreviated) third row, but compact and maneuverable enough for feeling comfortable on tighter streets.

With rearward visibility the only remaining issue, the Outlander is very city-friendly, with a nice view outward from the front seats and, refreshingly, a beltline that won't make shorter drivers feel claustrophobic. Yet the front seats in the Outlander are more generously sized than most you'll find among compact crossovers, and feel great for taller drivers like this one—firm and supportive enough for a highway haul, yet bolstered just a little bit around the side to help out on the twisty stretches of road. The two-piece tailgate takes a bit of getting used to, but we see how it would ease loading for larger items. About the only thing missing, as we reported before, is a telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel.

The most significant change given to the new Outlander GT model—in addition to all the cosmetic changes like the most aggressive snout and air dam, redesigned fenders, chrome accents, and soft-touch surfaces inside—is the addition of the Evo's Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel-drive system, with an active front differential and electronically controlled center diff, along with a slew of electronics that pair the system with the stability control system to ensure smooth delivery—and enable almost 100 percent of torque to be sent to the rear wheels when needed.

With a good set of winter tires, the Outlander GT should be one mean skiers' or snowboarders' vehicle.

Up in the mountains above Palm Springs we had dry, well-surfaced roads, but on a slightly damp steep stretch of road in the Oregon Cascades, we tried to upset the system's composure. Thanks to the tenacity of the grip and the fleet-footed nature of the system, that proved difficult even there. Leaving it in Tarmac mode and going deep into the accelerator just before mid-corner—as you're not supposed to do—the system very gently intervened, reapportioned torque to the wheels with more grip, and simply went where we pointed the steering wheel, with no sliding, no drama. Tap into the gas just out of the corner and the system will allow you the slightest bit of oversteer—a very unusual luxury for driving enthusiasts in a utility vehicle. All the while, its center of mass feels lower than it should be for such a tall vehicle—perhaps due to the aluminum roof and upper panels.

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