2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWCPosted on September 25th, 2013
Seven-passenger crossover appeals to active families
By Nina Russin
Mitsubishi’s newest Outlander is the lynchpin in a strategy for rebuilding the automaker’s customer base in the US market. Suzuki’s demise and the disappearance of the XL7 created the need for a new compact three-row crossover. The third-generation Outlander combines seating for seven with available all-wheel drive and a choice of two engines, plus some appealing new safety features.
Mitsubishi introduced the first Outlander to the US in 2003 as a modified version of a Japan-market car. A second generation, designed specifically for the US followed in 2005.
While most OEMs have moved from truck to car-like platforms, Mitsubishi’s approach for the 2014 Outlander is slightly different. While it follows in the unit-body tradition of its predecessors, the exterior styling and high ground clearance are reminiscent of the Montero: the SUV that first established the brand as a serious contender in the US.
The Montero was a workhorse that seemed to be purpose-built for punishment. I recently received a note from a colleague who is an elite triathlete and Montero owner. After over 250,000 miles, his car is still going strong.
With standard hill start assist and 8.5-inches of ground clearance, the new Outlander is capable of traversing some fairly gnarly terrain. At the same time, engineers have added available adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and rearview camera: all designed to make the Outlander an appealing option for commuting urbanites.
The test car is the upscale GT model with all-wheel drive, priced from $27,795. An option package adds navigation with real-time weather and traffic alerts, lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, power sunroof, premium Rockford/Fosgate audio system, power driver’s seat and power tailgate, bringing the final MSRP to $34,720.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
This week’s test drive was my second experience in the new Outlander, having driven the car at a media preview in San Diego this past May. In San Diego, I had the opportunity to drive both four-cylinder and V-6 variants on some challenging canyon roads east of town.
Since the Outlander is an ALV of the Year candidate, I wanted to see what the car would be like to live with, specifically how well the cargo area would function for buyers who carry bicycles, kayaks and other large cargo on a regular basis.
Mitsubishi’s forte has always been driving performance. The Montero competed in numerous off-road races, and the Lancer Evolution is a regular in the World Rally Competition circuit. Of all the seven-passenger crossovers I’ve driven, the new Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the most satisfying to drive.
The three-liter V-6 engine develops peak torque, 215 foot-pounds, at about half throttle for excellent power in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use to merge into high-speed traffic. The engine’s 224 horsepower provides plenty on the high end as well for passing slower vehicles at speed.
Adaptive cruise control on the test car enables the driver to establish a following distance from the vehicle in front, allowing him to use the feature in dense traffic. The lane departure feature sounds an audible warning if the driver inadvertently drifts out of his lane. Although many people have navigation features on their smart phones, the real-time traffic warnings are useful for circumventing construction or car accidents that cause unexpected delays.
The GT grade comes with a traditional step transmission as compared to the continuously variable unit on other trim levels. It provides crisper performance, and the driver can manually select gears using formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
All models have electric power steering, which reduces internal pumping losses to extend the car’s gas mileage. On-center response is decent, though not as good as a traditional hydraulic unit. On the other hand, the turning circle is excellent: 34.8 feet. Drivers should have no problems slipping into standard parking slots on the street or performing the occasional U-turn.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-links in the back with stabilizer bars on both axles. Taking some decreasing radius turns at speed, the suspension settles right in. With the all-wheel drive system sending engine power to the wheels with the best traction, I noticed no tendency towards understeer during the test drive.
The GT model comes with 18-inch wheels: an upgrade from the 16-inch rims on the base model. Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid disks in the rear stop the Outlander in firm, linear fashion.
Mistubishi’s Achilles heal of late has been its interior, which tend to be a bit Spartan. The new Outlander is a big step forward from the model it replaces. The difference was especially obvious in the cargo area, where sound system components on former models were very intrusive.
Fit and finish still has a way to go to catch up with competitors such as Hyundai. The dashboard is a hard plastic that isn’t especially attractive, and wood trim inserts seemed rather out of place. However those are small sacrifices for the other advantages the Outlander offers buyers, specifically seven-passenger seating on a car with a 105-inch wheelbase.
Legroom is not particularly abundant in the second and third rows. But with the first-row seats moved forward, adults fit well enough into the second row for short road trips.
Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the vehicle and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Heated front seats and dual-zone climate controls keep front-row occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
I found the power driver’s seat controls easy to use, with plenty of lower lumbar support. Center stack controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. All passengers have access to cupholders and 12-volt power points for recharging cell phones.
Both second and third-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor, so the Outlander meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The Mitsubishi Outlander comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and a rearview camera that projects a wide angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse.
Mitsubishi builds the Outlander at its Okazaki, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A versatile, fun-to-drive compact crossover with seating for up to seven passengers and available all-wheel drive.
Dislike: Unattractive interior finishes.
Model: Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC
Base price: $27,795
As tested: $34,720
Horsepower: 224 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: 20/28 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mitsubishi, performance, pricing, standard safety
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