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To say that the Mitsubishi Outlander--a vehicle that's entering its seventh model year since its last redesign--is one of Mitsubishi's best and brightest products goes far to illustrate what a dire situation Mitsubishi currently has in the U.S. market.
For 2013, with a redesigned 2014 model waiting in the wings, the Outlander hangs in, managing to look surprisingly fresh-faced in terms of features, performance, and presentation. Thanks in part to a mild restyle—and the introduction of a sharp Outlander GT model—in 2010, Mitsubishi has kept this crossover up to date with some soft-touch surfaces and modern info screens inside, in addition to the Outlander's generally faultless proportions and details. The Evo-influenced shark-like snout helps give the design some punch, too.
Size-wise, the Outlander is a compact crossover ute by U.S.-market sensibilities; yet judging by its interior it has a lot in common with mid-sizers—including its third-row seat, which is simply too small for adults but doable for kids.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) remain the motivation for base ES and mid-level SE models, but it's not a combination we can imagine going to anything but cost-conscious fleets. It's a pretty miserable combination—both in quickness and in noise and vibration. Outlander GT models come with a 230-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that's pretty much the four's opposite—smooth and refined, although not all that punchy at the low revs either. The six-speed automatic makes it quick and responsive and includes shift paddles. And the combination really isn't that much worse for gas mileage.
Outlander SE models come with either front- or four-wheel drive, with the latter system including a locking center differential. On the other hand, the Outlander GT gets a version of the all-wheel-drive system of the Lancer Evolution and Ralliart models, complete with a user-selectable traction program with choices between Tarmac, Snow, and Lock traction modes. It's a sophisticated, road-oriented system, with an Active Front Differential and electronically controlled center diff, bringing an almost uninterrupted flow of torque around tight corners. In GT form, the Outlander's hydaulic steering systems also remains one of the best among crossovers—and if we needed a three-row utility vehicle on a budget the GT might be one of our top picks from a driving standpoint.
The Outlander has good front buckets and space for adults to get comfortable on the second-row bench seat; but the tiny third row will be tight even for small children. The second row is on tracks and slides to increase legroom or cargo space. A unique 'clamshell' tailgate, with a smaller portion that folds downward, will support more than 400 pounds for loading or sitting. And with both the rear rows of seats folded, the Outlander supplies 73 cubic feet of hauling room.
While the 2013 Outlander includes all the safety features you'd expect to find in this class, its safety ratings aren't much to boast about. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the Outlander mostly 'good' ratings, although it earns 'acceptable' in roof strength; and in federal NCAP tests the Outlander has earned four stars (out of five) across all categories.
For 2013, the Outlander gets a few more features, including new heated exterior mirrors on all models plus new standard heated front seats and FUSE Bluetooth connectivity on SE and GT models. Automatic climate control has been added to the SE's feature set, and SiriusXM satellite radio is now a standard feature in the Outlander GT. Base Outlanders have standard air conditioning, keyless entry, and a 140-watt, six-speaker sound system, while top-of-the-line GT models are luxury models purely by their feature set, with automatic climate control, a FUSE hands-free link system, 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.
We haven't driven an Outlander in several model years, but this model has changed very little otherwise, so read through the pages of our last full review of the Mitsubishi Outlander for more detail.
- Three rows of seating
- Better steering than other crossovers
- Available V-6
- GT's sporty look
- Base engine lacks refinement, power
- Tight third row
- Lack of safety scores
- Steering wheel doesn't telescope