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.