- Styling—especially new front end
- Smooth, strong performance from V-6
- Superb steering and handling
- GT feels like a sport sedan
- Boomy, slow four-cylinder
- Road noise
- Nearly useless third-row seat
- Steering wheel doesn't telescope
The Mitsubishi Outlander has a sportier look and feel than most crossover utes—and it gets better for 2010.
Mitsubishi's Outlander compact crossover vehicle goes into 2010 with an all-new front end, a refreshed interior, and the introduction of the top-of-the-line Outlander GT model, plus next-generation technology features.
A subtle set of design changes takes the Outlander in a more carlike direction on the outside for 2010, with fewer rugged SUV cues and the sharklike "jet fighter" snout inherited from the Evo. Along with the front-end changes, the 2010 Mitsubishi 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 gets a new multicolor LCD instrument display. Altogether, the Outlander now looks sportier on the outside and doesn’t feel nearly as cut-rate inside.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, making 168 horsepower, is standard on ES and SE models of the 2010 Outlander, but we'd probably discourage it for most buyers as it brings barely adequate performance with its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and generates too much engine noise while accelerating. The 3.0-liter V-6 engine that's featured on XLS and GT models has a completely different personality, producing 220 horsepower delivered through a responsive, easy-shifting six-speed automatic with steering-wheel paddles. It has a lot more power to spare and gets fuel economy approaching that of the four on the highway. ES, SE, and XLS models of the Outlander remain offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or 4WD (with a center diff lock), while the new GT is the first Outlander to inherit an application 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.
No matter what the model, the Outlander has good, communicative steering. And like the Lancer, with which it shares some of its underpinnings, the Outlander handles better on the road than some of the more trucklike or rugged utility vehicles, with the nice, firm braking of a performance car. But the ride is quite firm, and it can be choppy over railroad tracks and the like. Also, at 3,780 pounds, the GT is just too heavy to be called agile (even though aluminum roof panels and other measures help keep the center of mass low). 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.
About a foot shorter in overall length than most mid-size sedans, the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander has good space for five, though its available seven-passenger seating—including a small third row—is a little optimistic. Even small children will feel the squeeze in back, but the second row slides fore and aft and reclines for good comfort, and the third and second rows fold to create an impressive, continuous cargo space of nearly 73 cubic feet behind the front seats. Cargo space is plentiful behind the second row, at 36.2 cubic feet but limited behind the third, at 14.9 feet. In front, several testers find the Outlander's driver’s seat and seating position to be about right, though the steering wheel doesn't telescope, which might be an issue for shorter drivers. The backseats feel a little thin and flat, as they do in most other vehicles in this class, but they fold and tumble to a flat cargo floor. The Outlander has a rear tailgate configuration that’s somewhat complex and clunky, but we can see owners finding it handy; the fold-down tailgate can support 440 pounds. Materials remain a bit of a disappointment, even though they're again improved for 2010. Up close, there's quite a lot of hard, dull plastic, though the upper dash now includes soft coverings and chrome-finished controls in some trims.
The Outlander has done extremely well in crash tests; it gets nearly perfect "good" scores from the IIHS for frontal offset and side impact, as well as in the seat-based rear-impact test. Its only blemish is an "acceptable" score in the new IIHS roof-strength test. It earns top five-star ratings in the federal government's frontal impact and side impact exams. All Outlanders come with front side airbags, side curtain bags covering the first two rows, front active headrests, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes.
The base 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander ES model has the four-cylinder and keeps it simple, though it includes air conditioning, keyless entry, and a 140-watt, six-speaker sound system. At the top of the lineup, the luxurious XLS picks up fog lamps, steering-wheel audio controls, remote start, cruise control, and automatic climate control, plus the new FUSE hands-free link system, controlling audio and calling functions with voice commands. The GT includes, along with other appearance extras, rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, leather seats, bi-xenon HID headlamps, and a more powerful 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with nine speakers and a huge 10-inch subwoofer. The only major option is the $3,000 Premium Navigation and Leather Package, which adds a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a rearview camera system, and a 40GB hard-drive nav system with music server, real-time traffic, and carpool lane guidance.