By on April 6, 2021

 

Remember recess kickball? Invariably, a pair of jocks and/or popular kids would square off, choosing, in turn, their sides for the battle over the red rubber ball. The draft lines would dwindle to a few undesirables – the uncoordinated, small kids certain to be a drag on the lineup but required to be there via a teacher-enforced fairness doctrine.

Mitsubishi, I’m sad to say, has been that little kid at the end of the bench for many years. Their offerings haven’t been the first choice in any of the limited segments in which they compete. Rather, they’ve become the default choice of those who’ve defaulted before, owing to their reliance on subprime buyers.

Maybe not for long, however. With an entirely new platform shared with one of the bestsellers in the class, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander has a new look and a compelling list of features that could move this three-row crossover into the starting lineup.

[Disclaimer: Mitsubishi invited journalists to an event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to and from which I drove. Hotel and meals were provided, and COVID protocols were adhered to well – including rapid testing prior to attendance. I also somehow ended up with a branded coffee mug – I think it looked like my camera lens while I was swabbing my sinuses and I shoved it in my bag.]

Much has been made – by Mitsubishi insiders and by pundits alike – about the platform-sharing within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, and how this new Outlander is ultimately the first real fruit of the alliance, as closely related to the Rogue as it is.

Incidentally, I’ll go on record by noting an opportunity missed — an encore appearance of the Pride of Kenosha, the two-door sedan Renault Alliance, should be strongly considered.

Mitsubishi skipped the 2021 model year entirely – with the exception of the Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid, which soldiers on for now on the existing platform – to focus on the 2022 model year. Mitsubishi representatives tell us that a plug-in version of this new Outlander is coming – eventually. As it is, the only powertrain available is a 181 horsepower, 181 lb-ft 2.5-liter four paired with a CVT. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive (Super All-Wheel Control or S-AWC to the marketing team) available throughout each trim.

Notice I snuck that detail in about three rows of crossover goodness? Maybe consider sticking that short kid who got picked last for kickball in that back row – it’s, at best, an occasional seat for anyone with legs. Mitsubishi admits as much – but comfort in the front two rows is as good as anything in the class, including RAV4, CR-V, and Rogue. Having that third row – standard on all Outlanders, by the way, and a feature only available on one other (it’s optional on the Tiguan) comparable – is a nice “in case” feature, like the time I got stuck with a few extra of my kid’s friends at a birthday party and I had to be the good dad and drive ‘em home. In those cases, it’s better to make the kids a little uncomfortable but safely belted in their own seats rather than piling them atop each other and having the liability of someone else’s spawn potentially getting hurt in a crash. Again, it’s an edge case, but potentially worth considering when you look at your future child-rearing and hauling situation.

If you fold that third row down, rear cargo room is class-competitive at 33.5 cubic feet. The second row has a 40/20/40 split, too – so the center section can fold to accommodate long stuff like skis or hockey sticks while hauling the brood. The semi-aniline leather on the top trims is lovely, with contrasting quilted stitching details and a two-tone treatment on the dash, doors, and armrest that breaks up the monotony.

Mechanically, the Outlander is quite similar to the Rogue – however, there is a roughly 200-pound weight penalty, give or take, between the two platform mates. This should explain the slight blunting of EPA fuel economy estimates – the Outlander is rated for 26 mpg combined for the AWD model and 27 mpg combined for the FWD, while the Rogue ranges from 28 to 30 depending on trim and drive.

Styling of the Outlander is polarizing – especially if you look at photos taken with cell phones or wide-angle lenses. The entire front looks incredibly wide for the size of the vehicle – Mitsubishi tells us that width and height were emphasized in the design. I’d imagine that more than passing glances were directed toward various Range Rovers and the Ford Explorer when penning the broad, flat hood with prominent O U T L A N D E R badging on the leading edge. I promise you – it looks better in person than in photos.

From the side, I especially like the minimal black cladding around the wheels – the double creases over each wheel arch are unusually handsome details. The flat roof again makes the Outlander appear more substantial than it really is – it’s a genuinely handsome crossover.

I will say that while the 20-inch wheels fitted to this top-trim SEL S-AWC model – and, really, most versions of the Outlander – are quite handsome, I’d like a taller sidewall. The ride quality is generally good, but the roads around Hell, Michigan, might have been paved with good intentions somewhere around 50 years ago and not touched since. Impacts with the craters and ruts that Michigan calls roads can be a bit harsh, though the unibody takes each hit without shuddering. It’s basically competitive with the rest of the class – I just think a bit of extra isolation via more forgiving rubber would be welcome.

Power from the 2.5-liter four is reasonable if not exhilarating, while Nissan’s CVT is getting better the more they tune it to act like a traditional geared automatic. In this case, there are eight “speeds” programmed to create steps in the acceleration, doing a nice job of minimizing the rubber-banding feel of older CVTs. Road noise is generally muted, while the engine does make itself heard a bit under hard acceleration.

Tech within starts with an eight-inch center screen in the base ES trim, bumping up to nine inches on the SE trim and above. All have standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – the CarPlay is wireless on the 9-inch screen. On higher trims – SE with Technology Package and above – a 12.3-inch LCD instrument panel makes the gauges look marvelous. An optional 10-speaker Bose audio system sounds excellent to these ears.

Pricing starts at $25,795 (plus $1,195 for destination/delivery) for a front-drive ES trim (add $1,800 for all-wheel-drive across the board) fitted with standard 18-inch wheels, forward collision mitigation, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, and the standard Android/Apple smartphone connectivity suites. The SEL-Touring with all-wheel drive package I drove rings the register at $36,445 plus fees. It sounds like a lot of cash – but it’s priced within a few hundred dollars up or down with the rest of the competitive set. Mitsubishi tells me that residual values are expected to be significantly better than in previous generations — thus leasing rates should be much more competitive.

And it’d genuinely competitive, unlike previous efforts in the class. Regarding the platform sharing — a Rogue by any other name would smell as sweet as the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander. No longer the last kid picked, it deserves a place in the lineup when you’re shopping for your next family crossover.

[Images: © 2021 Chris Tonn, interior images courtesy Mitsubishi]

 

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33 Comments on “2022 Mitsubishi Outlander First Drive – No Longer the Short Kid At Recess...”


  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Ugh, a face only a mother could love.
    But wow, that interior is fantastic. Available in white?

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    The front end is reminiscent of Clark Griswold’s Family Truckster.

  • avatar
    loner

    This one checks all the boxes –

    hideous wheels – check!
    floating roofline – check!
    goofy headlights – check!
    screen stuck on dashboard like an errant iPad – check!
    CVT – check!

    Sign me up!

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      “Sign me up!” Yikes, more like “Beam Me Up!”

    • 0 avatar
      Mike-NB2

      I was coming here to say pretty much the same thing:

      Ugly, ugly ugly,
      CVT
      Rogue underpinnings

      Hard pass on any one of those, let alone all three. But, admittedly, I’m not in the market for any CUV/SUV/Crossover or whatever else they are called.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      At $25,795, it’s sign-up-the-subprime-buyers time.
      With a 96 month loan, the payments leave enough cash in pocket for a Rockstar energy drink and a 5-pack of Tiparillo Menthols.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Fix the front end and I might be willing to roll the dice on a Nissan cvt with a 10 year warranty.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    What the f… ?

    Oh, yeah, where does the line form?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I know these aren’t sports cars. Still, I have feeling the 50-70 time on one loaded up with passengers and 20-inch wheels is going to be fairly slow.

  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    Scoff all you like at TTAC’s ever-dwindling relevance! They STILL have the clout to land this coveted first drive of a… um, Mitsubishi Outlander.

    As for the vehicle itself, no $36K CUV for sale today should still carry HP and torque figures lower than 250, let alone 200. Not even one sold nigh-exclusively to fleet buyers and the credit-challenged.

  • avatar

    That’s the most luxurious Mitsubishi interior I’ve ever seen! Though the orange is an avoid in my opinion as it will age poorly.

    Just looking at pictures, the interior of the Outlander has a cleaner look and the Rogue. Simpler lines.

    But if they cost the same and they’re the same thing, I feel like I’d get better service and more overall support out of the Nissan. Right?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    They are really trolling DSM with that diamond interior.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    My initial take-away is a little cautious optimism for Mitsubishi, a feeling I have not experienced in some time!

    Styling is always subjective, but I think they did a respectable job with the exterior and appreciate that they were able to incorporate a couple of unique flourishes while avoiding looking too overwrought.

    Interior also looks nice (hopefully screwed together well); again, the design restraint is appreciated and this fortunately looks a lot more like a Mazda than a Honda inside. The discrete buttons on the HVAC panel for rear temp adjustment is a very nice ergonomic touch, and hopefully portends similar thoughtfulness in other areas.

    Unfortunately, despite the powertrain being described as “adequate if not exhilarating”, it would be the one dealbreaker for me. 181hp/181lb-ft through a proper manual or 6/7/8AT would probably be OK for this vehicle, but (based upon earlier experiences in a rental Rogue) my knee-jerk response to the Nissan CVT is to eliminate the vehicle from consideration; I’m just too skeptical that ANY amount of reprogramming can redeem that malevolent box of failure.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Better-looking in person? I’ll take your word for it, Chris. But still not good-looking enough. And the same CVT that Nissan is using? If this is what we can expect from Mitsubishi going forward, maybe they should just retreat to Asia and Oceania.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Not crazy about the front end, but it’s no more offensive than half the stuff out there. Interior design is great, and the side and rear exterior shots are well done.

    Note to Mitsubishi, Honda, Ford, Nissan and Subaru – if you’re charging $35k+ for your fully loaded compact CUVs, be like Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Chevy and GMC and have ventilated seats as an option. I’m embarrassed for you.

  • avatar

    Worth noting, this has less HP than the standard Mazda 3 sedan at 186.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Thank you for the reality check!! Now that I know that the Mitsubishi Outlander for $35 K, is priced “with a few hundred dollars” off the competitive set (of not really 3 road crossovers). You have solved for me the problem of my next vehicle!! Now that I see the prices of underpowered, CVT equipped, not truly useful 3rd rows I am ready to buy……..my Mercedes GLC which is coming off lease. Due to Covid, I have under 10K miles in almost 3 years. Due to retirement, I don’t have a lot of $$ to spend and was headed down market to save a few dollars. Now, however, I am willing to spend more in maintenance and have something more enjoyable. I realize that this is part of the eternal “new vs. slightly used at a savings” debate, but really, $35 K for a Mitsubishi??????

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      There is only one thing in this class I’d buy – Mazda CX-5. If the Ford Escape with the 2.0T wasn’t so damn cheap inside, I’d consider that one as well.

      If I wanted to save money, I’d buy the naturally aspirated CX-5, and if I was willing to drop $35,000, I’d get the turbo. Either model would probably be closest in terms of “premium feel” to the Mercedes you’re turning in.

      Far as I’m concerned, everything else in this class just seems to be a combination of slow, ugly or overpriced (or all three).

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “Far as I’m concerned, everything else in this class just seems to be a combination of slow, ugly or overpriced (or all three).”

        The new Tucson/Sportage twins look promising, provided you can get over the Tucson’s odd side gouges. Not sure what the Sportage will look like.

        H/K seem to be clobbering everyone else on interior design and tech, with occasional clobberings and/or misses with exterior styling.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Styling – barf.
    Powertrain – Nissan engine with CVT: more barf.
    Pep Boys orange interior trim inserts – yet more barf.

    This isn’t a car – it’s roadgoing syrup of ipecac.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Does anyone else believe that this would be much better looking if it had a set of good old fashioned North American round headlights from the post-war to early 1970’s period?

    10 year Mitsu warranty makes it in many ways more appealing that the Nissan.

    However there is no longer any Mitsu dealer within easy distance of my home. So a non-starter for me as I get my vehicles ‘dealer serviced’ while under warranty.

    Also I have no interest in 20 inch tires. Anything larger than 17 inches becomes too expensive for tires and rims. Particularly since we need a ‘winter set’.

    Otherwise, I would consider this vehicle in ‘base’ trim. All the required safety nannies, good warranty, and the available 3rd row tick quite a few of my ‘cheapskate’ boxes.

  • avatar

    It is an Apollo of the cars.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    Having made the past mistake of owning a vehicle with a CVT, HELL NO!

    Now add the styling (interior and exterior), the non-competitive engine horsepower rating, the styling, the styling, the styling and the suspect Mitsu materials choices.

    DOUBLE HELL NO!

  • avatar
    Notimpressedlol

    I owned the 2018 Outlander GT which had the 6 cylinder 6 speed transmission. Even that was sluggish. The fact they offer only a pitifully weak 4 cylinder with highly problematic CVT (the same garbage that always breaks in the Rogue) is the nail in the coffin for this brand. Mitsubishi, especially since being bought by Nissan has gone for weaker and weaker platforms. Heck my tiny 2007 mini cooper s has about the same horse power as the current bulky 3 row outlander.

    Coupled with a design that couldn’t be uglier on the front I believe this is the last generation of the outlander we will see.

    Mitsubishi should have gone back to making the Lancer Evo, brought back the 3000gt and also a legitimate Eclipse. Instead they blasphemy the name of eclipse and annihilated their full SUV lines during a time when fast small cars and SUVs are experiencing popularity they haven’t seen since the 90s.

    There is a reason why Nissan is bad and now they are intent on making Mitsubishi bad too. Mission already accomplished.

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