The Car Connection Mitsubishi Outlander Overview
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a mid-size crossover SUV that is among the most affordable to offer seating for up to seven. The Outlander is now in its fourth generation on sale in the U.S., after the 2022 model was introduced following a skipped year in 2021.
Rivals for the Outlander include the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4, among others.
MORE: Read our 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander review
The new Mitsubishi Outlander
Born out of a new relationship with Nissan, the Outlander shares most of its bones with the Rogue, including a platform and its powertrain. But the Mitsubishi comes with styling all its own, with a bold nose that incorporates six-element LED headlights around a large grille. It's a risky, unconventional look that pays off for the most part.
Under the hood is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 181 hp and is mated to a continuously variable transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on virtually all trims, with an optional all-wheel drive system that adds on several off-road oriented drive modes as well.
The Outlander is wider and roomier than the old version, with excellent second row legroom and headroom making it a comfortable backseat for adults. Markedly less comfortable is the standard third-row, which has shrunk down to a misery-inducing 18.7 inches of legroom without any space to fit your feet under the second row bench. Cargo room is only 11.7 cubic feet behind the third row as well, but it will likely spend most of its time tucked away which opens up 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Technology features are a strength on the new Outlander, with most models coming with a 9.0-inch touchscreen that features wireless Apple CarPlay. From the SE and above, each model also offers a wireless charging pad and a surround view camera system, at a price point that the competition cannot match. Front and rear automatic emergency braking come standard as well, giving the Outlander a very intriguing value proposition.
Mitsubishi Outlander history
The Mitsubishi Outlander was first introduced for 2003. At the time, it was only offered with a 140-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission. From 2004 through 2006, the Outlander got a 160-hp version that made it a bit perkier, but both versions felt adequate for around-town driving though they were somewhat overwhelmed with a full load or on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission was introduced in 2005, but not many models were equipped with it. Overall, this generation of Outlander models was quite unremarkable to drive, with a rather soft ride, decent but uninspiring handling, and well-appointed but somewhat cheap-feeling interiors. Safety features were also rather slim, with ABS and side airbags only standard on the top XLS until 2006, and electronic stability control not available.
Mitsubishi redesigned the Outlander for 2007, using the new Lancer platform as the basis for its crossover. It was initially offered with a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 168 hp and mated to a CVT or a 3.0-liter V-6 good for 220 hp and paired with a 6-speed automatic. It continued to offer a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
This time, the Outlander was a bit larger and offered a small third-row seat. In general, this generation of Outlander looked and felt substantially more sporty and upscale, and the Lancer's sporty driving character finally carried over. V-6 models weren't quite as fast as expected, and with a significant increase in weight, the 4-cylinder was overwhelmed, sounding even more coarse and boomy than in the previous generation—in part due to the CVT keeping the engine at one speed for extended periods of time.
Mitsubishi finally made use of the sporting heritage of the Outlander's Lancer cousin in 2010 when it added a GT model. It combined the V-6 with the S-AWC all-wheel-drive system from the Lancer Ralliart and Evo models. Snow, Tarmac, and Lock modes increased the vehicle control on various surfaces. It also received handling and suspension upgrades to improve performance all around.
For 2010, all Outlanders got a version of the Lancer's even more blunt, shark-like grille, along with a more car-like air dam. Interior enhancements included a padded dash for top-of-the-range models, an available navigation and entertainment system called FUSE that incorporated a voice-command interface. The XLS was later dropped, and a few more standard features were added to the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Mitsubishi had announced that it would turn the Outlander name into a sub-brand, much like what Subaru had formerly done with its Outback line. And in the 2011 model year, it followed that plan and introduced the Outlander Sport, a smaller, more car-like and fuel-efficient model with some of the same styling cues.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander made its debut with completely different styling, doing away with the shark-like front end and more wedge-like profile. Mitsubishi was selling the Outlander on more aggressive styling and driving attributes, but it has clearly positioned the latest model toward value. It offered a choice of either a 4- or 6-cylinder engine. A plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander, with a complex drive system that's capable of both series and parallel hybrid operation was released in 2018.
For 2016, Mitsubishi made more than 100 improvements just two years after its redesign. The company sharpened up the front-end styling, subbed in a new, more responsive CVT in 4-cylinder models, and added many refinement upgrades and cabin improvements, including the addition of lots of sound deadener. The suspension was tweaked and the body stiffened as well, and the seat-folding arrangement for the second row was made easier.
For 2017, the Outlander's interior has been updated with glossy black trim and an electronic parking brake rather than the traditional pull-up style. A host of optional higher-end equipment—a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, new active safety features, and a surround-view camera system is newly available. The base model is now offered with all-wheel drive, albeit a more basic system.