2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 8, 2015

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander isn't nearly as sporty as previous generations of the model, but it's now a decent choice for big families on tighter budgets.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander, is pitched toward families like never before. The emphasis is on efficiency, comfort, and a functional but somewhat anonymous appearance, as the brand says farewell to the bold designs and performance character we've come to expect from Mitsubishi over the past decade or so. The result, while not exciting, is actually very good.

Compare the 2015 model to the previous generation, and it's easy to see. Gone is any notion of bold styling with its shark-nose front end, performance-tinged interior, and wedgelike personality—replaced with something that feels restrained in the name of practicality. What's left here isn't necessarily sporty, but it does lean in the direction of elegance–and its interior is simple, modest, and tasteful.

Inside, the Outlander is well above par in almost every respect, compared to other roomy compact crossovers. As one of the lowest-priced vehicles offering three rows of seating, the Outlander can fit up to seven and includes a good driving position (with tilt/telescopic steering) and good headroom and legroom for adults in the second row. It’s also one of the most compact three-row vehicles, though, so think of that third row only as a backup plan for carpool duty. That said, the seats fold flat, the cargo floor is rather low, and the second row slides fore and aft to fine-tune legroom. However, at a time when almost every model tries to emulate luxury models, the Outlander cabin isn’t going above and beyond in design or materials, but it does feel warm and accommodating.

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Now Mitsubishi may aspire to reach more value-minded families with the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander, but it'll need to be those who aren't all that interested in fashion-forward design. Driving enjoyment, too, is no longer as much of a priority. The former Outlander was also, we dare say, a better drive. Although heavy, especially in top GT form, this former version was tuned (deceptively) for the back roads.

The 2015 Outlander may feel relatively nimble, thanks to an aggressive weight-loss plan in the structure that includes more high-tensile steel; and it might be a bit faster, by the numbers. But with a softer suspension and other changes aimed at refinement, it's not more fun to drive than previous generations. If you know the likes of the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, the driving experience for the Outlander is fully competitive, if not a bit more refined. A base 2.4-liter four-cylinder now includes variable valve lift as well as timing, making 166 hp and feeling quite perky and at ease with the continuously variable automatic transmission. GT models pack a 224-hp V-6 that’s disappointing in that it’s considerably thirstier, asks for premium fuel, and doesn’t develop all that much torque until you rev it. The paddle-shifters and six-speed automatic spice up the driving experience a bit, though.

On the plus side, Mitsubishi has put a lot of effort into aerodynamics; there’s a seven-percent reduction in the coefficient of drag (now a low 0.33) and things like roof grooves and a top rear spoiler help smooth airflow at highway speeds. In its Eco Mode, the Outlander reverts to sending all power to the front wheels unless needed for traction. The payoff: Both ES and SE models with the CVT and front-wheel drive earn a rating of 25 mpg city, 31 highway—numbers that according to Mitsubishi are best-in-class among seven-passenger vehicles.

Mitsubishi has also gone to a electric power steering system, redesigned the rear-suspension geometry, and gone to somewhat softer springs—plus loads more noise insulation—so the cabin feels tight and quiet, though there’s a bit more roll and body motion than we remember from the previous version. Again it’s about par for the class, unless you’re looking at the sportier entries like the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5. One thing the Outlander does have is enough toughness for minor off-roading or deep snow; the AWD system that’s offered on mid-grade ES and sporty GT models includes a front e-diff and a ocking center diff but no low range

Firsts for Mitsubishi in the Outlander include Adaptive Cruise Control (with three distance settings), Lane Departure Warning, and a Forward Collision Mitigation that will, at lower speeds, first signal that an obstacle or other vehicle is ahead and then brake the vehicle fully to a stop. Otherwise the Outlander is shaping up to be one of the top-rated vehicles in its class for safety, having achieved both a five-star federal rating (with all-wheel drive) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ status—including a top 'good' result in the new small overlap frontal test.

Mitsubishi was selling the Outlander on more aggressive styling and driving attributes, but it’s clearly repositioned the new generation, in its new form, toward value—and offering one of the strongest sets of standard equipment for the money, among compact-to-mid-size crossovers. And if it’s three-row models you’re considering, the new model is the features-for-money champ. The 2015 Outlander is offered in ES, SE, and GT models, and we tend to think that the best value in the lineup is found in the middle SE models. Base ES models don’t include Bluetooth or alloy wheels, but if you can look past that they include automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a six-speaker, 140-watt audio system, among other things. ES models add push-button start, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and a touch-screen system with the FUSE HandsFreeLink system and a rearview camera—and an interface that’s superior to what’s offered in most other rivals. With the V-6 GT you can get leather, a sunroof, and the power tailgate.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Styling

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander will appear a little bland to most shoppers, although some might like appreciate the clean simplicity of its styling.

Seeing the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander next to the previous generation tells the story with ease. Gone is any notion of bold styling with its shark-nose front end, performance-tinged interior, and wedgelike personality–replaced with something that feels restrained in the name of practicality.

What's left here isn't necessarily sporty, but it does lean in the direction of elegance–and its interior is simple, modest, and tasteful.

Inside, ‘simple’ is the word to describe the rather low-set instrument panel, which some may see as too plain or others mind find refreshingly straightforward. There aren’t a lot of buttons, and the layout and trims are spare, but not unattractive. At a time when almost every model tries to emulate luxury models, the Outlander cabin isn’t going above and beyond in design or materials, but it does feel warm and accommodating.

Going by its silhouette, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is pleasantly proportioned, if ordinary. Mitsubishi says that the new flowing front-end appearance—with the grille down below the bumper and merely an insert above—is as it is for aerodynamics, and to set a new, efficiency-minded look. However we think the softly contoured, smoothed-over look doesn’t seem nearly as exciting or commanding. The side profile is especially clean though, with a single, distinct crease running just below the beltline. In back, we think that the rounded corners and clear taillamp lenses look a little retro-1990s—and we’re not sure if that’s intentional or not.

On the plus side, Mitsubishi’s aerodynamics improvements have yielded a seven-percent reduction in the coefficient of drag (now a low 0.33) and things like roof grooves and a top rear spoiler help smooth airflow at highway speeds.

New for 2015, the front grille has been updated, and upper-trim models receive new leatherette and cloth-trimmed seats, as well as a leather-wrapped shift knob.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Performance

Although the Outlander has shed its sporty look, it still performs as well or better than most of its key rivals -- especially those also offering three rows of seating.

The 2015 Outlander may feel relatively nimble, thanks to an aggressive weight-loss plan in the structure that includes more high-tensile steel; and it might be a bit faster, by the numbers. But with a softer suspension and other changes aimed at refinement, it's not more fun to drive than previous generations.

You get front-wheel drive in all Outlander ES models. SE and GT models get a step-up system called S-AWC. Here you get an electronically controlled center coupling, combined with an open rear diff, but it’s unlike some AWD systems in that it has a separate active front diff to help get the right torque split for the conditions, which helps power through some exceptional conditions, like when one wheel is on ice.

Mitsubishi's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine here makes 166 hp and is more refined and stronger where it counts—in the low and mid revs—and a about 200 pounds of weight loss versus the previous generation, the base four-cylinder Outlander is now well-suited to everyday commuting conditions.There's no turbocharger, but it does include MiVEC (continuously variable valve timing with lift), adjusting the intake valve timing and height. This engine makes 166 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque, and it comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

If you know the likes of the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, the driving experience for the Outlander is fully competitive, if not a bit more refined. GT models pack a 224-hp V-6 that’s disappointing in that it’s considerably thirstier, asks for premium fuel, and doesn’t develop all that much torque until you rev it. The paddle-shifters and six-speed automatic spice up the driving experience a bit, though.

Premium fuel is recommended for the V-6, though. The single attribute that may tilt you in favor of the V-6 is that this model is rated much higher for towing—3,500 pounds, versus 1,500—which makes it able to tow a small boat or camper (if not all that quickly).

There’s an electric power steering system that’s precise, and rather firm, considering the mission. The suspension layout is pretty typical for a crossover, with MacPherson struts and a new multi-link rear geometry.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Comfort & Quality

Provided you don't ask much of the available third row, the 2015 Outlander is a very comfortable family vehicle.

The 2015 Outlander is a surprisingly comfortable vehicle for both first- and second-row passengers, and the added value of a third row makes it a solid replacement for families needing more than a sedan. And, this current generation of Outlander has an excellent driver seating position–something that was woefully lacking until last year's redesign.

Interior trims vary a bit between models; the ES and SE get what’s called a ‘standard accent’—a matte-metallic trim for the dash and doors—while woodgrain interior trim is optional with the Premium or Touring Packages.

The Outlander has more noise insulation in the floor, dashboard, and headliner for 2015, and combined with the somewhat more compliant suspension and improved aerodynamics amounts to a very quiet, refined cabin.

There’s an underfloor storage box that has enough space to hide a couple of laptop bags out of the way, as well as open side boxes just aft of the wheel wells—giving smaller items a place without rattling around too much.

Mitsubishi boasts that the Outlander’s third row is nearly five inches wider than before, with 2.4 inches more legroom, yet as one of the most compact models with three rows of seating on the market, the Outlander performs no spacial magic. Even getting into that third row is something only kids will try; and even pre-teens may be looking at their knees. Think of it only as a pinch-hitter third-row seat, for when you suddenly need to bring a couple more kids back from practice.

Seat-folding involves many more steps than you’d expect—including lifting and flipping forward the lower cushion, removing the second-row headrests, clicking an unlock lever, and then releasing the seatbacks to flip those forward. Yet the effort is definitely rewarded; the Outlander has a lower cargo floor than other vehicles in this class, and it’s nice and flat (and 13 inches longer than the outgoing Outlander, Mitsubishi says).

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Safety

You'll get excellent occupant protection in the 2015 Outlander—as well as some active-safety features that go above and beyond.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is among the best-protecting vehicles of any type, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, with top 'good' results in every category, including in the new small overlap frontal test—to achieve the agency's vaunted Top Safety Pick+ status.

Federal results for the Outlander are nearly as good—with four stars for frontal impact and five stars in the side-impact category. With slight differences in the scores, that amounts to a five-star overall rating for all-wheel-drive models and four stars for those with front-wheel drive.

Several new active-safety features—ones that aren’t found on very many vehicles without a luxury badge—are now available in the Outlander. One of the is Forward Collision Mitigation, which operates in two stages (near and far) and uses 77-GHz radar—first to warn the driver of an obstacle or other vehicle up ahead, then to actually brake the vehicle to a stop is you’re moving around 20 mph or less. Adaptive Cruise Control uses that same radar system and lets you maintain one of three different following distances to the vehicle ahead. Then there’s Lane Departure Warning, which uses a windshield camera system to follow lane striping and give audible warnings above 40 mph.

All three of those features are part of the Touring Package on ES or SE models. And regardless of the trim level, all models now have Hill Start Assist, which helps maintain poise when starting out on a steep slope.

Otherwise, it has everything you might expect—or even be willing to step up to. The Outlander includes four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, and a total of seven airbags—including a new driver’s knee airbag. The side-curtain airbags have rollover sensors, and the ABS is a newer-generation unit that considers yaw inputs separately from the stability control system—useful when going from gravel to pavement, for instance.

Additionally, Mitsubishi has adapted its so-called RISE body structure to absorb more energy in the engine compartment for front impacts, while deforming less in the passenger compartment—and also absorbing more of the energy at certain paths at the floor.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Features

If you go by value for the money rather than extravagance, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is has an impressive roster of features.

For 2015, the Mitsubishi Outlander adds hands-free Bluetooth connectivity as a standard feature across all models. Those models include the base ES, mid-level SE, and dress-up GT trim levels, and we think the SE offers the best bang for the buck.

Audio systems start with the base 140-watt system in ES models—capable of displaying a limited number of character and information but sounding fine and having a simple layout with traditional volume and tuning knobs. The SE and GT get a new touch-display audio system with 6.1-inch color display. It relies on touching areas of the screen for pretty much everything—although a more intuitive layout and larger screen ‘buttons’ make it a step ahead of the systems offered in both Toyotas and Subarus. Above that, a navigation system with seven-inch touch screen is optional; it includes Eco Routing, 3D map views, and HD Radio traffic data, and can also pull up album art for audio through connected devices or inserted via an SD card.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander SE models get heated front seats, FAST-Key passive entry, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, a touch-screen audio system with rearview camera, FUSE HandsFreeLink, HD Radio, and a USB port. On these models, you can get the S-AWC 4WD system, or get a Premium Package (leather upholstery, power sunroof, satellite radio, power driver’s seat, power tailgate, and woodgrain finish) or a Touring Package (those features plus navigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, and Lane Departure Warning).

At the base ES level, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander includes heated side mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, rear-seat heated ducts, automatic climate control, a multi-information display, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power accessories, and a six-speaker, 140-watt sound system. The only catch in the ES’s appeal is that there’s no standard Bluetooth, and it comes with steel wheels and plasticky-looking hubcaps—but that could be remedied with a visit to your favorite aftermarket shop, perhaps.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Outlander GT gets the V-6, with the six-speed automatic, steering-wheel paddle-shifters, and all-wheel drive, plus HID headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The Premium and Touring packages are also offered here.

Unlike some of the systems on the market (in the Subaru Forester, for example), the Outlander’s mechanism doesn’t allow for a memory setting (for low garage clearance). It’s packaged along the side of the cargo area, though, and out of the way of the hatch opening.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Fuel Economy

If you need three rows of seating, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is actually one of the most fuel-efficient on the market.

Mid-size crossovers frequently earn better fuel economy figures than their truck-based SUV cousins, and the Outlander is no exception to the rule. Even with all-wheel-drive, it achieves 25-mpg in the city.

Next year, for the 2016 model year, a new Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) will arrive, providing both all-wheel drive and the capability to function as a series or parallel hybrid, depending on which is most efficient at the time. It will combine a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with two 60-kW motors, and an electric-only range of more than 30 miles (with full charges taking about 4.5 hours on 240 volts.

V-6 Outlander GT models aren't as efficient as lower-trim models, and premium fuel is recommended. Considering that these models don’t feel all that much quicker—even though their paddle-shifters and six-speed automatic might make them feel sportier—they’re not worth getting for anyone who values fuel efficiency.

Both ES and SE models with the CVT and front-wheel drive earn a rating of 25 mpg city, 31 highway—numbers that according to Mitsubishi are best-in-class among seven-passenger vehicles.

Add all-wheel drive and you lose a mile or two per gallon, but you might be able to make some of that up by engaging the Eco Mode, which runs the system as a front-wheel drive vehicle until there’s actual slip of the front wheels. With either engine, Eco Mode softens throttle response and uses the air conditioning compressor more conservatively. And all models get a smart alternator that helps improve efficiency in combination with the electric power steering.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 4WD 4-Door GT

2015 Outlander GT-Best Value Out There

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Our 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT is our third Mitsubishi-since 1987! If this Mitsubishi is as reliable as our first two, and I have no reason to think otherwise, I will be more than pleased. Most professional... + More »
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The Mitsubishi Outlander 2015 offers the combination of style, performance and safety at an affordable price. It has an efficient motor MIVEC 2.4L, 4 cylinder for for a better fuel consumption. The Outlander... + More »
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Having had the outlander 2014 GX5 model I have no complaints whatsoever with the exception of fuel economy, it's supposed to give average 50 MPG, the best I have been able to achieve is 37 MPG on the motorway... + More »
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