- Drives more like a small sport sedan
- More aggressive styling than most small crossovers
- V-6 brings brisk performance
- Excellent steering and handling
- Four-cylinder is slow and loud, but not much more frugal
- Steering wheel doesn’t telescope
- Noisier interior than typical
- Ridiculously small third seat
Though the first-generation Outlander was often overlooked, the updated 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander has emerged as a well-rounded vehicle--and one of the sportiest-driving small crossovers.
The Outlander is Mitsubishi's compact crossover utility vehicle; it was completely redesigned for 2007, with the new model slightly longer, taller, and wider than the previous edition. A small third-row seat is now offered on the Outlander.
The rudimentary engine on base ES models of 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander is a 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and CVT automatic, which provides barely adequate performance with quite a bit of engine noise when accelerating. All other models get a 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that is much smoother, delivers its power through a responsive, easy-shifting six-speed automatic with steering-wheel paddles, and has more power to spare overall. The V-6 gets several mpg less in city fuel economy but has the same rating (25 mpg with front-wheel drive) on the highway. All models come with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
The Outlander shares some of its underpinnings with the Lancer sedan, and like the Lancer, it has very good, communicative steering. It handles better on the road than some of the more trucklike or rugged utility vehicles, and it has the nice, firm braking of a performance car. The ride is firm and can be choppy over railroad tracks and the like, but a nearly full load makes it more settled.
The Outlander's design is very space-efficient, fitting comfortable seating space for five into a package that's more than a foot shorter than a typical mid-size sedan. Officially, there's seating in back for up to seven--if they're very small children--but the second row slides fore and aft and reclines. In back, the third and second rows of seating fold to create an impressive, continuous cargo space of nearly 73 cubic feet behind the front seats. At the back, the fold-down tailgate can support 440 pounds. Up front, the seating position is great and the instrument panel is very attractive, looking like it might fit in a sporty coupe, but up close, the mix of dull plastic and matte-metallic surfaces doesn't feel as good as it looks from a distance.
Four different models of the Outlander are offered: base ES, LS, SE, and XLS. The base model has the four-cylinder and keeps it simple, though it includes air conditioning, keyless entry, and a six-speaker sound system. At the top of the lineup, the luxurious XLS picks up fog lamps, steering-wheel audio controls, remote starting, a Bluetooth hands-free system, cruise control, and automatic climate control.
Options include a navigation system with a 30GB hard-drive-based music server, a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, or a DVD rear-seat entertainment system.
All Outlanders come with front side airbags, side curtain bags covering the first two rows, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes. The Outlander does extremely well in all crash tests, with top five-star ratings in the federal government's frontal impact and side impact exams, along with "good" ratings from the insurance-supported IIHS in frontal impact, where it earned a "Top Safety Pick" award.