By on March 11, 2014

2014-Mitsubishi-Outlander-2

A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in:

  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Planned Parenthood gift certificate
  • Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Anything except a Dodge Caravan

Several readers submitted well-formulated responses, but the volume of possibilities was dizzying. Mitsubishi may have had a similar problem when redesigning the 2014 Outlander.

At most automakers, product planning is a tough job. Keep things too similar between generations and you risk falling behind. Stray too far from a successful formula and you end up with the second generation Scion xB. Every mistake is an expensive one.

But what about Mitsubishi? The previous generation Outlander was one of the cheaper, sportier rides in the segment and featured unique touches like magnesium shift paddles, a trick two-piece tailgate and an aluminum roof. Per data from TTAC contributor Timothy Cain on Good Car Bad Car, Mitsubishi’s best year for the Outlander was in 2003, with just over 34,000 sold. Crossover sales grew exponentially over the ensuing years, but only 7,750 Outlanders found homes in 2012.

With so few customers to alienate, almost any change would boost sales. So did Mitsubishi double down on sportiness or some other niche? Not really – at least not yet. A PHEV is coming, but for now we are left with a page borrowed from the 2012 Civic’s playbook – decreased MSRPs and a still-cheap interior.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due. Prospective buyers can make their own value propositions, but the Outlander is undeniably affordable. A base-trim ES, which includes a 166 hp 2.4 liter SOHC four-cylinder, a CVT, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and auto-off headlights, costs $23,820 including destination ($200 less than last year). For $24,620, the SE adds in 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity entry, push-button start, heated front seats, a 6.1 inch touchscreen display with a rear camera and the FUSE hands-free system. Super All-Wheel Control, better known as “all-wheel drive” to everyone outside Diamond Star forums, is optional on the mid-level SE and standard on the top-shelf GT ($28,620).

Choosing the GT also yields a 224 hp 3.0 V6, a “Sportronic” six-speed automatic transmission and enables the privilege of ordering the $6,100 Touring package. For over 25% of the base price, this package includes radar-based cruise control, leather seats, a lane departure system and other gadgets.  Apparently, no amount of money can improve the integration of these toys though. Cheap touches like a slap-dash ignition-hole cover on push-start models, left a poor impression.

Regardless of trim level, the Outlander did well in NHSTA and IIHS crash testing. The “good” score on the IIHS small overlap front test, a rarity right now, should be very marketable compared to competing 2014 models.  Fuel economy is also competitive – 25 EPA city, 31 highway, 27 combined for units with FWD, the inline four and a CVT. This efficiency is certainly aided by a curb weight as low as 3,274 pounds in the FWD ES trim.

An increased use of high-strength steel in the crash structure gets some credit for the lithe curb weight, but where did the rest of the savings come from? The recently-reviewed Cherokee weighs about 700 pounds more with just FWD, and even a Dodge Dart weighs 3,348 pounds with the 2.4 and an automatic. Both the Cherokee and Dart are lauded for being relatively quiet vehicles though. Can the Outlander make this claim?

NO. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY DECIBELS WE EXPERIENCED WHEN CRUISNG AT 70 MPH, BUT MY WIFE AND I HAD TO TALK LIKE THIS. Road noise is pervasive, but the inline four will likely be the bigger issue for most drivers.

Show me a raucous, performance-tuned engine, and I’ll smile.  Show me another Outlander with the 2.4, and I’ll groan – like the MIVEC. From the parking lot to the freeway, the engine constantly made itself known. More sound-deadening is a must.

Interior fit and finish also need another round of polishing. It may have just been an issue with the dealer’s specimen I drove, but a constant dash rattle was a disappointment. My wife’s car has 86,000 miles and rattles. My car has 145,000 miles and rattles. This car had 21 miles and rattled. That isn’t progress.

As expected, the 2.4 and CVT provide a driving experience best described as “imitation vanilla”. While not inappropriate for a crossover, most competitors offer more polished, anodyne experiences. Acceleration around town was acceptable, but highway passing required planning. Good visibility in all directions was a positive, and maneuverability in and out of tight spaces was good. Still, I don’t disagree with TTAC alum Michael Karesh describing the suspension as “under-damped”. I also found the electric steering to require constant adjustments on-center, even at city speeds.

Driving dynamics may not be a big deal in this segment, but aesthetics can be. I’ll leave the critical analysis to our in-house styling expert, but a schnoz this unique needs to be mentioned. The shark-nosed Outlander (2010-2013) drew neutral-to-positive responses from everyone I spoke to. The 2014 generally left those same people puzzled. Mitsubishi needs to stand out from the herd to survive, but this may not be the best way to attract attention.

The seventh inning stretch of the review has been reserved for the most important part of the car – its interior space. Don’t stretch too far though or you’ll likely strike a passenger. With 183.3 inches of length, the seven-seat Outlander is shorter than all other seven-seaters save the 2014 Nissan Rogue (182.3’’). For a point of comparison, the five-seat Chevy Equinox (187.8’’) is longer than either.

I had no issues with front seat space, though seat padding was thin and my back disagreed with the contours. I have a trim build and average height, so larger individuals might have more issues.

Tumbling the second row isn’t as smooth as some competitors, but it does slide fore and aft easily. That’s good, because you’ll need to slide those seats forward for even children to fit into the third row. A photo of me stuffed in the third row exists but did not come out well. Picture a grown man in a Cozy Coupe and you’ll get the idea.

Comparing manufacturer-calculated interior space is tricky business, but the 2014 Outlander loses space even compared to its predecessor.  Folding the second and third rows yield a flat floor with 63.3 cubes of space, but the 2013 featured 72.6. The ’14 can only hold 10.3 cubes with the seats up, so this isn’t likely to be the right car for livery duty in a large family.

For some buyers, all of these warts will be covered by the generous warranty – 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. Will Mitsubishi will be here to replace recalcitrant CVTs over the coming decade? Maybe. Most companies would have already left the market rather than launching a new crossover and compact car. Perhaps the risk-averse should look elsewhere, but they likely already have.

If you want a cheap, safe crossover with a long warranty, the Outlander should be on your list. How much are you willing to overlook for as little as $23,820 though? Maybe the PHEV will quell the noise and improve interior finish, but current buyers have a lot of provisos to consider.

Mitsubishi is probably drowning in possibilities though, so what is my advice worth? In my debut article, several commenters advised to just let my wife pick whatever she wants. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t that crossover.

When first published, this article incorrectly described the 4-cylinder engine as being a carryover from 2013. Commenter Mitsu_fan straightened me out. Displacement is unchanged, but the 2014 Outlander features a newer SOHC design relative to last year’s DOHC. My apologies for the mistake.

 

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53 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE FWD...”


  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My favorite Aunt and two of my cousins (her son and daughter) each have one of the previous generations of these, all AWD. They seem to love them, I have never set butt in any of them. I know they paid next to nothing for them, and all three have been bulletproof. My anecdote for the day.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Sometimes I’ll see the weird Matrix-like 1st generation one. I think those had a terrible reliability reputation. And weird colors. And failing clear coat.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I was very startled when my email indicated this article was written by Derek and Doug DM. But now I see that was just a trick to get me to read!

    Anyway, I had guessed the Outlander sucked before I read any reviews, and now I’m certain.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      Wouldn’t we all rather see Doug and Derek kvetch over something like this rather than read me offer a weak impression of Karesh? :)

      As for your comment about the Outlander sucking – personally, I won’t go that far. It has more deficiencies than most other new cars I’ve driven recently, but the feature list in generous at every trim level. It could be a pretty good deal for the right buyer despite the rough edges.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “Tumbling the second row isn’t as smooth as some competitors, but it does slide fore and aft easily. That’s good, because you’ll need to slide those seats forward for even children to fit into the third row. A photo of me stuffed in the third row exists but did not come out well. Picture a grown man in a Cozy Coupe and you’ll get the idea.”

    When our second child came due, I dutifly drove our well-loved/used ’00 Toyota 4Runner around town looking for a seven passenger SUV (she was one of those ANYTHING but a minivan types). Settled on the ’06 Nissan Pathfinder SE with tan leather. Great SUV but terrible seven passenger cruiser. My ’95 Cobra Convertible has more room in the back seats than these afterthoughts. And when filled, luggage that would normally be in the way back was now too big to fit inside the vehicle, completely defeating the purpose of the thing. Some things are just better left to a minivan.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I would avoid the Outlander both new and used. New: Resale, Used: Not a known reliable brand with an iffy future.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    That cheap ignition hole cover came in handy for a friend. He tried the start button and hated it. The dealer was able to install the key ignition in that hole, and left the premium looking inoperable start button in place. He thinks it’s an additional anti-theft deterrent, though the Mitsubishi nameplate probably works as well.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a brilliant story.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      LOL. I’m not sure why he disliked it, but keyless ignition is probably the best automotive convenience feature to become mainstream in the past decade.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        Agreed – between keyless entry (i.e. touch the inside of the door handle) and keyless ignition, my keys never need to come out of my pocket. Solves all those GM ignition switch issues too…

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I sat in a Focus titanium with keyless ignition at the Detroit auto show and was shocked to see one of those “plugs” over the ignition hole on the steering column. Say what you want about my Dart, but it doesn’t have anything this glaringly cheap on it.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Chrysler’s solution to this is fairly brilliant — the start button essentially has a sawn-off electronic key on the back of it, with special programming. If you push it in and turn, it pops out, revealing the key slot that’s used both on non-keyless models and as a failsafe if the keyless fob battery dies.

        Also can be removed if for some reason you want to temporarily disable the keyless start (say, for a fleet car where people might lose the keys).

  • avatar
    Feds

    Having done the crossover shuffle recently (and ended up in a brand new ’13 Grand Vitara, so take my opinion for what it’s worth)…

    The Outlander really feels narrow relative to the competition. I don’t know how they all measure out, but the outlander feels cramped in the middle row, and the rear seats seem to be there solely so mitsu can list it as a 7 seater.

    Since I was only looking for the ability to fit 3 kids across the back, I tried really hard to look past the pinched space so I could buy an off-lease v6/4xd with paddle shifters. However, push coming to shove as it does, I decided to roll the dice on something that has 4 cylinders running north/south instead of something with 6 running east/west, and a 6-speed auto on top of it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Buy a Kia/Hyundai SUV with the same warranty, and you’ll get better value and a better car. And the company will still be here after 2015, which Mitsubishi probably won’t.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      Unless they, you know, crash into something. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/v/class-summary/small-suvs

      • 0 avatar
        IndianaDriver

        I checked your link and see what you’re saying. 2 of the top 4 small SUVs for crash safety are from Mitsubishi – better than a lot of the top names like BMW, Toyota and Honda. The Hyundai and Kias are way down the list.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Consumers don’t actually care about safety at their top goal. Volvo and Mitsubishi are at the bottom of the sales heap, both at acute risk of leaving the US market soon.

        Most cars today are ‘safe enough’ for people. Besides, they figure accidents are 50% under their own control.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    My wife loves her ’05 Outlander–if we had the money and the storage space, we’d have a fleet of them. It’s been that good a car for her. I’m no fan of anything Japanese, but even I see how reliable this little car has been, and I get why she’s so into it. Mitsubishi had better not pull out of the U.S.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Do they still use that engine they developed with Chrysler? 5 years ago I test drove Outlander. But ended up in Highlander. I actually like the Outie save for the, when I heard “engine with Chrysler” that was the big red flag. And also the interior, the dash, the knobs – all didn’t do well. But it was brilliant design with falling tailgate, plenty of space, good road manners, and price was glorious. I could get loaded 4 cyl for something like 18K after all discounts dealer wanted to give me. And now, it is blend thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Mitsubishi and Hyundai would like you to believe that the engine they use is in no way related to that joint venture “World” engine co-developed with Chrysler, but if you look at them you can tell they are still the same or similar. Hyundai took the next step and added direct injection, something Chrysler hasn’t done. Having said that, Chrysler did add the “multiair” hydraulic valve actuation system to their 2.4L and it resulted in a decent power/MPG bump. I don’t think Mitsubishi has done anything to their engine.

      These “World” engines have proven to be fairly reliable if somewhat noisy. They have a chain driven oil pump/balance shaft module, piston cooling jets on certain configurations, oil coolers on some applications and a fairly robust chain drive system for the cams. If you can stand the noise, I wouldn’t worry about the engine failing.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Had an 04 Lancer Sportback, which was very similar to that early Outlander. Bought new for nearly 4k under sticker, it was interesting. The 2.4 with 4spd auto moved well, but was pronounced in its actions and noises. The cheap interior was the worst, awful seats, cheap plastic and carpets. I drove it a lot. My back hasn’t forgiven me.

    But mechanically, it was fine. 77k miles in 2 years and only out of service once. Simple car to work on and maintain. But would I buy another? Not unless they dramatically improved their interiors.

    Looked at used 08 Outlander GT before buying our Mazda 5. Nice enough, but still cheap. Drove very nicely, but still noisy with V6 .Seats were terrible, even in leather and that cancelled the deal. Wife just not comfortable.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    “Uninhibited by the premise of the question…” and Lorenzo’s story had me laughing. I don’t know what they’re doing with the front styling either. The old one was both good and recognizable. Of all the things to spend money on, that wasn’t the wisest one.

  • avatar
    koreancowboy

    I have a cousin that’s had like 84 of these.

    Ok, not 84 per se, but it seems like every time she gets another car, she goes back to the Outlander.

    I guess that means that she loves them.

    • 0 avatar
      pb35

      That’s the weird thing about Mitsus, people that are into them are REALLY into them. My sister had them all in the 80s/90s, Mirage, Diamanté, Montero. But her neighbor was a Mitsubishi mechanic.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If you are getting a Mitsubishi that doesn’t have an “Evolution” badge on it, you’ve got to spring for the Rockford-Fosgate stereo.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think you hit the nail right on the head. With this offering, Mitsubishi has tried to squeeze itself into a segment in which it cannot compete. In that segment, practicality, ease-of-use and comfort are the qualifiers, and based on the time I spent sampling one of these, it accomplishes none of those things. It’s honestly not much of a value, especially since resale values will plummet. And the fact that the V6 requires premium fuel is damning.

    I honestly think Mitsubishi would have done better with a niche vehicle, similar (in spirit) to the previous-gen. This one isn’t likely to impress anyone…at all…

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      Good thoughts, Kyree. The middle of the segment is the thickest part of the fight. Based on what is available today, it’s hard to see how the Outlander is going to hold it’s own for more than the first year or two

      • 0 avatar
        Mitsu_fan

        Next year it gets updated sheet metal, a new telematics system and infotainment system along with sound deadening and revised software for the lane keep assist system. After that, the PHEV model will be here along with a new outlander sport.

    • 0 avatar
      Mitsu_fan

      Premium is not required, recommended. It runs on regular…

  • avatar
    tobiasfunkemd

    I own a 2011 Outlander SE AWD, built for the US market. It is, as a daily daily driver, mostly inoffensive. The Rockford Fosgate sound system drowns out the whine of the CVT, and the space is functional, except for the cruel joke that is the third row seat. The AWD and value proposition won me over, but it is, in every sense of the phrase, a stand-in, readily replaced at the first opportunity. I’ve had my eye on the CX-9 for a while, and it might be time to make that move. For what it’s worth, I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil and see a sh*t-ton of these on the road daily, which is fascinating since I almost never saw them in the US.

  • avatar
    DepreciatedDerelict

    Dan!

    Look at you on TTAC, how the fame is beginning to accumulate!

    Let see if you can figure out who I am by my recommendations:

    1: Body on frame

    2: Running boards, the larger the better. Actually I think this is the top selling point. You. Know. That.

    3: Center console space, your gonna need room for all that equipment loading and unloading.

    4: Transmission with straight cut gears. You need that whine for intimidation!

    So I guess I am recommending a 76′ Suburban with a Muncie rockcrusher. Your gonna have to teach the wife to double clutch. That is the only downside I see.

    Or screw it and craig’s an Aerostar.

    If anything else you know the team that can help.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      Running boards? Muncie rockcrusher?

      Are you back from the dead, Maj. Help?!

      • 0 avatar
        DepreciatedDerelict

        You know it!
        Always lurking! and Ready to give the best advice…

        In reality, you have to push heavy all the influence you got for the Mazda. You know you want to foster the automotive enthusiast in your baby, and the Mazda would be the best solution. Think about it, if you buy the Mazda twenty some years from now your baby will probably be posting on TheTruthAboutSpaceships: ‘Time Capsule Review: Madza CX-5′ and your baby will then go on about how fondly he/she remembers it and how lucky of a choice his/her parents made when purchasing said vehicle. Without that vehicle the baby will say, he/she would have never gotten into the hobby of these 4 wheeled antiques. Then the article will probably finish with something the 2014 mind cannot comprehend.

        -Maj. Help

        • 0 avatar
          Daniel Latini

          If the orbiting, Android-powered robot overlords allow him/her to write about 4-wheeled antiques, I hope he/she chooses to write about the Pop’s old Miata, not some crossover.

  • avatar
    Mitsu_fan

    The engine is not a carry over engine or transmission from last year… The engine is the new 4J12 engine that uses an SOHC design and improved efficiency. 2013 models used the 4B12 model that featured DOHC designs. The cvt is new and features a redesigned oil pump for improved efficiency.

    I know you don’t care to be correct because it’s a mitsubishi, or whatever, but I really wish media would stop reporting the 4-cyl drivetrain as carry over. It is not and 2 minutes of research proves this…

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      No hate intended Mitsu_fan – my wife and I went to a dealer as legitimate, potential customers. We tried the car, and I decided to write about it later.

      Anyway, you’re right about the 2.4. My contact described some minor valvetrain updates but didn’t mention anything as significant as a new design or the switch from DOHC to SOHC. Still, I should have caught that.

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve amended the story accordingly.

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    *generic angry South Park mob voice*
    Why dont they just make a Lan Evo wagon?
    Why dont they just put the 4B11t in the outlander?

    That being said, Mitsu is a huge company, its almost as if they dont care to succeed in US. Maybe they shoukd revisit the DSM idea, if nothing else, it churned out some interesting cars.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I suspected this crossover was dull as dishwater when it choose a retro 2000 redesign. Who still does retro, especially retro of the year 2000? I think you did a good job of confirming that. At first, when I saw the picture I thought you had decided on the Mitsu, whew!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Probably a good value for folks who are skeptical of Kia/Hyundai. I see a few Endeavors around which are based on the Gallant. What always struck me about those is the nose and front fenders seem grafted on. The fenders are so minimal you can see the upper arms and struts in a wide gap above the wheel well as clear as day when the vehicle is parked.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I had no idea manufacturers were stuffing three rows into cars this short. 183.3″ is only about 5″ longer than a Focus sedan. What is the point of three rows in a vehicle this size?

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      The point with the third row is to sell more cars. More specifically to sell more cars in Europe, where they have been doing this with compact minivans for ages (VW Touran, and Opel Zafira have been huge in this market).
      I’m quite happy that Honda still refuses to put a third row in the CRV (which is even shorter at 178 inches ) so that they still have both trunk space and a useable rear seat.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        More specifically then, why is a 3rd row in a relatively small car a selling point for anyone? As you point out by contrasting these cars to the CRV, the 3rd row is unusable and you lose trunk space.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I think the people who buy these cars hope (fear?) to take their kids friends with them on trips or something. People with more than 2 children don’t buy one planning to use all the seats every day as far as I’ve seen. But as I understand from the article, there are people out there who buy 7 seater cars when they are expecting their first child (unless she is pregnant with quadruplets?)

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    I own a 2009 Outlander V6 FWD. The V6 with 6spd makes an enormous difference in this car. The 6 is much smoother and quieter than the 4. Fuel economy might not be 30+, but I do get a solid 25 hwy. What is surprising about this generation of Outlander is the interior space. The 2nd row moves fore and aft, and reclines. Interior materials are cheap, yes. But in XLS trim you get proximity entry, HIDs, ridiculous Rockford/Fosgate sound. It was a great value as a used car. It’s more comfortable/powerful/quiet(V6) than the CRV/Rav4 and a ton cheaper.

  • avatar

    For me the outlander isn’t a patch on the CX5


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