Mitsubishi Outlander Review
CUV’s are nothing more than oversized station wagons on stilts. If you think about it– and not many American motorists have– CUV’s don’t work like a truck OR handle like a car. I wouldn't say they’re the worst of both worlds, but others have. In fact, the modern CUV may just be a marketing-driven gimmick designed to take one last shot at emigrating gas guzzlers before they get down from their perch and do something really sensible, like buy a car. No wonder Mitsubishi’s website says the Outlander doesn’t like labels any more than I do.
“Stylish” certainly fits. The Outlander's sheetmetal is sports sedan crisp with just enough static lines and ground clearance to assure the macho-minded that “Outlander” isn't the ancient Scottish term for “mall rat.” The CUV’s front end translates the usual SUV design cues into a host of smooth textures, understated lighting pods and clean surface transitions. The rear follows suit with ample glass, logical lines and an integral diffuser in its snazzy rear valence. It’s all very chi-chi.
Thankfully, the Triple-Diamond Boys left the SUV genre’s hose-it-down heritage outside the doors. The Outlander offers a symphony of touchy-feely polymers, panel gap precision and Audi-esque minimalism. Clock the way the Outlander’s beat box integrates into the dashboard’s horizontal sweep. Seamless. Even the nasty stuff– like the imitation aluminum trim surrounding the motorcycle-chic gauge cluster– looks cool.
Tick the right boxes and the Outlander’s got the right box of tricks. The optional 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo (named after the Firebird Esprit-driving TV detective) has more than enough power to make your dental fillings shake and shiver. It’s a Sirius piece of kit. The sat nav system can store 1200 songs, keep track of your Bluetooth and guide you to your dentist. And you can order a drop-down DVD system to keep the kids amused.
Clearly, Mitsubishi decided to go down the high content route for their latest foray into Crossover County. Even the base Outlander’s luxurious velour-trimmed body huggers are a welcome surprise at this price point, providing all-over comfort for humans both large and small. While the second row slides forward, there’s only one failsafe way to avoid Amnesty International’s condemnation of the Outlander’s “compact jump seats”: opt for the cheaper two row model.
The Outlander’s trick flap-fold tailgate is its party piece. The gate’s flush-fitting lower half unfolds from the bumper for slide and schlep Home Despots and/or doubles as a picnic table for pee-wee football tailgaters. On paper, the Outlander has a class average cargo hole. In real life, the model’s chunky-hunky D-pillar makes it possible to fit big ass square pegs into a moderately sized square hole.
More proof of the Outlander’s value-oriented proposition lies underhood. The MIVEC-tuned 3.0-liter V6 puts out a respectable 220hp and 204 lb-feet of twist (albeit high atop its powerband). Hooked-up to a standard six-speed autobox, there’s plenty of poke and reasonable fuel efficiency for city commuting (20mpg) and highway cruising (27mpg).
Hang on. Peep the strut tower brace under the hood and [optional] magnesium shift paddles. Could the Outlander’s Lancer underpinnings and available full-time four-wheel drive indicate that we’ve rocked-up in a family-friendly EVO in crossover guise?
Nope. The Outlander’s powerplant has less low-end grunt than your grandmother's vintage Osterizer, while the steering is completely vague about the whole torque steer issue. Push it hard into a bend and the softly sprung dynamics serve up a major slathering of understeer on a supersized body roll. The 3500lb Outlander is tuned for touring duty and nothing more.
Much like the omnipresent road noise at highway speeds, the Outlander’s dynamic bits get old in a hurry. While Mitsubishi touts "rally inspired control and fun unheard of in a family vehicle," the rally involved must have been political and the fun in question has a lot more to do with scaring kids than thrilling adults. Any off-roading more ambitious than an unplowed driveway is equally off limits.
The Mitsubishi's ride strikes an ideal balance between road feel and comfort. As long as you drive responsibly, the chassis will iron out irregularities and crush potholes. Motorsport heritage aside, it’s obvious Mitsubishi put a strut brace under the hood to avoid family fatigue during your next road trip.
In fact, the Outlander is a modern day station wagon, with all the stylistic charms, family friendly gadgets and timeless comfort that implies (“Mommy! He hit me!”). Its dash of panache, impressive standard features, trick tailgate and under 25 large asking price make the Outlander an attractive value proposition. That is, after you buy into the need for a tall station wagon.
Alpha94 on Oct 15, 2007
I just test drove this vehicle on the weekend and was pretty happy with it. Wasn't as sporty as I expected it to be but I was pretty happy with everything else. The harddrive based navigation system and music server sold me. What I don't understand is why people who do not own small SUV's hate them so much. I live in Canada and from the snow and ice on the roads and from driving cars with RWD for many years I can say I would never go back to owning a car and never go without 4WD ever again. I have driven 16 hours through a blizzard from Toronto to Northwestern Ontario in my 05 Escape and I can safely say that it was a peice of cake to driving it in a car. I have no doubt this Outlander will make a great replacement for my Escape.
Macca on Oct 23, 2007
Steve_S put it well: "People have very strong opinions about CUV’s either for or against. I’ll argue “For” them. The modern CUV is what the SUV should have been. A large percentage of the population doesn’t need large towing capacity and gobs of torque. They want a car-like ride with more space than a wagon with the comfort of AWD for the occasional snowy or rainy conditions. Many CUV’s also look more attractive than wagons or minivans (Nissan Murano, Mazda CX7, Saturn Outlook, Infiniti FX, etc)." That pretty much describes me. I recently bought my first house...my wife and I both have small sedans, and they just don't cut it when it comes to cargo space. Trucks guzzle far too much gas to make one my daily driver, and compact trucks with 4-cylinder engines just don't cut it in size or driveability. So what's left? A small SUV that gets decent gas mileage and has ample power to either carry a big load or tow a trailer. Every car review site with comments brings out all the haters waiting to pounce with their snarky comments...but I think most people need to drive this thing before they make up their mind. -Too much plastic inside? Have you been in any new cars lately? Ol' Rav4 has plenty o' plastic as well. The interior seems nice enough. -Not enough power? 220 hp seems adequate to me. -Lowsy performance? Mitsu claims an 8 sec. run to 60 mph, which is probably pushing it, but still, since when is ~8.5 sec. too slow for everyday driving? What were these folks doing 20 years ago when "sports" cars took 10+ sec. to 60? -Gas mileage? 2WD is rated at 20/27 and 4WD 19/26. Browsing forums, it is apparent that many folks are getting well into the mid-20's MPG in semi-urban driving. That's impressive if you ask me. The converse is true for the Rav4...real world MPG seems to be less than EPA ratings for many owners. 6-cyl "compact" (midsize) trucks get V8 gas mileage...not cool if you ask me. -Road noise? In comparison to what? Lexus RX? Sure, it's got some noise, but again I'll ask, what did these people think of cars 10+ years ago? From test drives the interior seemed quite serene for a CUV...definitely quieter than most sedans from a few years back. I sure hope these folks didn't enter an economy car a decade ago - they'd think they were in the Cave of the Winds. I'm strongly considering purchasing an Outlander XLS after the first of the year, and after test driving it, my opinion has only gotten stronger. It's got ample power, impressive real-world MPG reported by owners, and an impressive feature set for the price. Sure, people who don't own a house or have never bought an item that didn't fit in their truck don't understand - but this thing is really the best of both worlds for me as a daily driver. And I happen to think the styling is great - it looks contemporary and upscale, without screaming "I'm a baby SUV!!!" like the Rav4 or "my neighbors think it's an Acura!!!" like the CR-V. But I guess there'll always be haters and folks who want to criticize every vehicle out there, as if only the car they'd choose to drive is sensible. Believe it or not, there's a large group of folks out there who see the CUV as a viable alternative to larger, gas-guzzling haulers. To me, it seems the logical choice.
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