2014 Mitsubishi OutlanderPosted on May 17th, 2013
Redesigned seven-passenger crossover
By Nina Russin
The all-new Outlander is the third version of a crossover that began in 2003 as a Japan market car restyled for North America. At the time, Mitsubishi was best known for its Eclipse two-plus-two and truck-based Montero, so the Outlander was quite a departure.
As things turned out, product planners were ahead of the curve and the Outlander was more successful than they anticipated. The second Outlander that rolled out in 2007 was an autonomous North American model. The newest car begins where the ’07 Outlander left off, with a new four-cylinder engine, two revised automatic transmissions, and much enhanced safety.
For 2014, buyers can opt for either a 3-liter V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission or the new 2.4-liter block with a continuously variable automatic, with either front or all-wheel drive. Base price for the four-cylinder model is $22,995 excluding the $825 destination charge: something of a bargain for a seven-passenger crossover.
There are three trim levels: ES, SE and GT. The four-cylinder engine is standard on the ES and SE while the GT comes with the V-6. All models come with an eco button that modifies the throttle mapping and air conditioning operation to extend gas mileage.
There are two option packages: a premium group that adds leather seating, a Rockford Fosgate audio system and sunroof, and the touring group that includes navigation, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Cars with navigation also get real-time traffic and weather updates courtesy of HD radio with no subscription fee.
Lighter and stronger
With C.A.F.E. standards on the rise, engineers focused on improving aerodynamics around the exterior, improving engine efficiency and lightening the body. By using high-strength steel in key areas and aluminum suspension components, engineers reduced the car’s curb weight to 3296 pounds.
The newest MIVEC four-cylinder engine combines variable valve timing and lift in the same system, enabling engineers to get performance comparable to dual overhead cams using a single camshaft.
An electric power steering system saves weight under the hood and reduces internal pumping losses, while the continuously variable transmission optimizes fuel economy with infinite gear combinations. The result: the four-cylinder model reaches 31 mpg on the highway according to the EPA.
Test drive in San Diego
At a media event this week, I had the opportunity to drive both four and six-cylinder models through the canyons east of San Diego. Our drive route also included some time in the downtown area and on the freeway.
As much fun as the 224-horsepower six-cylinder engine is on mountain roads, I would recommend the four-cylinder car to anyone not needing the 3500-pound towing capacity of the V-6. The new MIVEC block is an impressive performer, with plenty of power for average driving situations. In addition to its lower sticker price, the four-cylinder block can run on regular gasoline, as opposed to premium for the bigger block.
Mitsubishi is one of the smaller Japanese car companies, so product planners wisely target a niche audience of youthful driving enthusiasts with their products.
What makes the Outlander stand apart from the crowd is its powertrain. I can’t offer anything but praise for both engines, and while I am not a big fan of continuously variable transmissions, the unit in the Outlander is pretty darn good.
NVH, while improved over the outgoing model, has a ways to go before catching up with Toyota and Honda. Part of that has to do with curb weight. Insulation weighs a lot. The RAV4, which only seats five passengers, weighs 300 pounds more. The RAV’s fuel economy is as good as the Outlander’s, but I like the MIVEC engine better than the block in the Toyota.
The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension on the Outlander do a good job of absorbing bumps in the road without feeling mushy.
Making the body more rigid had the additional advantage of improving steering feedback. Electric power steering units all suffer from a lag in on-center response, but I felt well connected with the wheels on the winding mountain roads.
Although blind spot monitoring is not available on the Outlander, I had no problems with visibility around the perimeter. A standard rearview camera on all but the base car eliminates blind spots beneath the rear glass and makes it easier to monitor cross traffic in parking lots.
Both the optional forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control are radar-based systems. Forward collision mitigation automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to recognize a stopped vehicle ahead. It avoids a collision at speeds up to about 30 miles-per-hour, and greatly reduces the impact at higher speeds.
Adaptive cruise control enables the driver to maintain a preset distance between his car and vehicles in front in traffic. The system will slow the car down to a stop if necessary, but the driver needs to apply the brake pedal to remain stopped and hit “resume” to accelerate.
With Suzuki out of the North American market, the Mitsubishi Outlander is unique in offering seven-passenger seating in a compact crossover. The back seats are small, best suited for kids, but they add a lot of versatility to the vehicle.
Mitsubishi has improved fit and finish of the interior, but still has a way to go before catching up with its competitors. I found the dashboard material rather hard and unattractive. I like the metal accents in the four-cylinder car better than the wood in the V-6: it seems out of place in this environment.
I also prefer the cloth seating to leather, simply because it is more practical in Arizona’s hot summers and is easier for owners with active lifestyles to clean. I found both the driver’s seat and front passenger seats easy to adjust and comfortable during rides several hours in duration. Heated front seats are standard for all but the base model.
While I wasn’t impressed with the use of materials, designers created one of the most functional interiors in the segment. Features such as storage under the cargo floor and two rows of fold-flat seats make the Outlander a good option for people who need to haul a lot of gear.
The instrument panel is well designed, with easy-to-read gauge cluster and center stack displays. The steering wheel is well designed: the 2014 model has a telescoping column that the outgoing model lacks.
There are plenty of power points, cup and bottle holders to service the driver and passengers.
My only complaint, aside from the aesthetics of the dashboard is that Bluetooth is not standard on the base car.
All models come with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, traction control, stability control and hill start assist.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander rolls out this summer.
Like: Mitsubishi offers one of the best values on the market, with seating up to seven passengers, enhanced safety, improved fuel economy and excellent performance.
Dislike: Dashboard material is unattractive. Bluetooth is not standard on the base model.
Base price: $22,995
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 166 Hp @ 6000 rpm (2.4L); 224 Hp @ 6250 rpm (3L)
Torque: 162 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm (2.4L); 215 lbs.-ft. @ 3750 rpm (3L)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Towing: Yes (V-6 model only)
Fuel economy: 25/31 mpg (2.4L FWD); 20/28 mpg (3L AWD)2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mitsubishi, performance, pricing, standard safety
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