2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: Driven

April 4, 2011

Mitsubishi's idea, last year, of previewing its Outlander Sport by making it the first model ever that could be remotely test driven, live—via a virtual system that promised way more than a tilt-and-pan virtual showroom tour—was the first of its kind. And it's definitely one of the coolest launch ideas of this past year.

The messaging, in a way, prepared us for an unexciting yet tech-laden vehicle; it sounded like the kind of marketing gimmickry that's applied to vehicles that aren't much fun to drive.

In both respects, that's not the case. The Outlander Sport doesn't boast much (if any) more onboard tech extras than most other vehicles in its class, but thankfully it's not at all bland from behind the wheel. For a 'tall small' whatchamacalit, the Outlander Sport shows surprising athleticism, with the excellent steering that we've come to expect in all of Mitsubishi's smaller vehicles.

More than a hatchback, or not quite a hefty crossover?

It makes sense when you consider that the Outlander Sport is, according to Mitsubishi, a lighter, shorter version of the Outlander crossover vehicle—about a foot shorter but the same in wheelbase, with nearly the same overall width and height. But to us, it drives quite differently. A lot of the heft is gone from the experience, replaced by better responsiveness, and it feels a lot more like the Lancer sedan, which also shares some underpinnings. Its 3,100-pounds weight and excellent steering contribute to the light-and-nimble feel, no doubt, and drives a class smaller than most compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or even the Kia Sportage—but it also doesn't feel as anesthetized as the Scion xD or xB in their standard tune.

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