2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT AWDPosted on August 8th, 2012
V-6 engine boosts crossover’s performance
By Nina Russin
The Mitsubishi Outlander began life as a bridge vehicle between the body-on-frame Montero and unibody passenger sedans. Its purpose was to combine some of the Montero’s off-road capability with more appealing ride and handling. The first Outlander was a Japan market car with a revised front end for the North American market. Later Mitsubishi revised the rest of the chassis, adding power for better high-speed performance.
The current model comes with a choice of two engines: a 168-horsepower four-cylinder block and 230-horsepower V-6. Both naturally-aspirated engines feature Mitsubishi’s variable valve control technology, called MIVEC. A continuously-variable automatic transmission with manual gear selection is standard on the upscale SE and performance-oriented GT models.
All-wheel drive automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction. A rotary dial on the center console adjusts the system according to road conditions: dry pavement, snow and a locking mode for dirt roads.
Base price for the GT grade tested is $27,895. Options include a premium package which adds leather trim, a Rockford-Fosgate audio system, satellite radio, heated front seats, power sunroof ($2900); navigation with rearview camera ($2000); and rear seat DVD entertainment system ($1695). Total MSRP is $35,300.
Test drive in Phoenix
I spent the past week driving the Outlander in the Phoenix metropolitan area as well as sections of the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. Unfortunately, the summer monsoons had temporarily receded, so I wasn’t able to test the all-wheel drive system on wet roads. But I did take the Outlander on a variety of road surfaces, through dense traffic and on some high-speed highways. Daytime highs of 110-degrees were a good test for both the engine cooling system and air conditioning.
The V-6 engine is a big improvement over the Outlander’s standard four-cylinder block, which feels underpowered for the vehicle. The all-wheel drive Outlander weighs 3780 pounds without passengers. When I drove the four-cylinder car to Sedona with four-passengers last year, the car struggled to keep up with traffic on the steep uphill climb.
Fuel economy is not particularly good: 21 miles-per-gallon on average according to the EPA. The two-wheel drive Outlander averages a mile-per-gallon more. The manufacturer recommends premium unleaded fuel for the V-6 engine. I’m not quite sure why, since the four-cylinder engine with the same 10.5:1 compression ratio can run on regular.
The V-6 engine reaches peak torque, 215 foot-pounds, at 3750 rpm which is about half throttle. Because the V-6 reaches peak torque at lower engine speeds than the four-cylinder block, acceleration off-the-line and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic is better.
The continuously-variable automatic transmission suffers from a lack of crispness. On the other hand, I did not notice excessive shift shock during hard acceleration.
Steering response from the variable assist rack-and-pinion system is good across the board. I felt comfortable simulating an emergency evasive maneuver on the highway. The Outlander’s 34.8-foot turning circle is quite good for a vehicle of this size.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in back. A stabilizer bar on the front axle keeps the chassis flat while cornering. The suspension provides a pleasantly compliant ride on uneven road surfaces.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Outlander in a firm, linear manner.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing wind noise intrusion to the interior. There is some road noise from the 18-inch wheels and tires at higher speeds, but passengers in the back two rows should have no problems conversing with those up front.
Interior seats up to seven
The Outlander GT comes with standard keyless entry and start, which allows the driver to enter the vehicle and fire the ignition without taking a key fob out of his pocket. Power adjustments on the driver’s seat are easy to use and provide adequate lower lumbar support. Optional seat heaters keep the driver and front passenger comfortable in temperature extremes.
Audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. I found the center stack controls intuitive to figure out and use. However the screen disappears in bright sun, since there is no hood at the top of the center stack to shade it.
Designers did a good job of providing secure storage around the passenger compartment, including a two-piece glovebox and center console bin. All four doors have bottle holders, and there are three large cupholders in the center console. The center console bin houses the audio jacks for the optional rear DVD system. There are two, 12-volt power points up front for recharging portable electronic devices.
Theater-style seating gives second-row passengers a clearer forward view. The downside is that the raised seats reduce the amount of headroom. In the center position, the top of my head was close to the headliner.
The third-row seats hold two very small passengers. Because the seats are very close to the tailgate, there is very little cargo space with the seats in place. The Outlander meets our bicycle-friendly standards with the third-row seats folded into the floor.
The Mitsubishi Outlander GT comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Hill start assist prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when the driver accelerates from a stop on a steep grade.
Mitsubishi’s ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty includes five years of roadside assistance with no mileage cap.
Mitsubishi builds the Outlander GT at its Mizushima, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A seven-passenger crossover vehicle with all-terrain capability and a bicycle-friendly cargo area.
Dislike: Poor fuel economy. Lack of headroom in the second-row seats.
Model: Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC
Base price: $27,895
As tested: $35,300
Horsepower: 230 Hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 215 lbs.-ft. @ 3750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/25 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer recommends premium unleaded gasoline.
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