2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWCPosted on February 23rd, 2015
Five-passenger crossover goes off the grid
By Nina Russin
The original Mitsubishi Outlander was based on a Japan-market car called the Airtrek that debuted in 2001. The version that came to the US featured a restyled front end, but was, at heart, more Asian than American. The car’s significance was its orientation, as one of the first vehicles to blur the lines between off-road oriented sport-utility vehicles and passenger cars: the segment now known as crossovers.
The current Outlander is the third iteration of the car, available in both front and all-wheel drive configurations. For 2015, Mitsubishi has added a more powerful 2.4-liter block as an optional upgrade from the base two-liter four-cylinder block.
Twenty-fifteen models also feature a new continuously variable automatic transmission engineered to mimic a traditional seven-speed step transmission. The Outlander Sport is one of the most affordable compact crossovers on the market with a base MSRP below $20,000 when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission.
The upscale SE grade with all-wheel control tested starts at $24,195 excluding the $850 destination charge. A $4,900 touring package adds leather seating, navigation with real-time weather and traffic updates, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and roof rails, bringing the final MSRP to $29,945
Test drive in Arizona
This week I had the opportunity to test drive the newest Outlander sport in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area as well as a section of the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. For the past several years, Mitsubishi has been struggling to maintain its presence in the US. Drawing on the off-road heritage of the Mitsubishi Montero and styling inspired by the Lancer Evo, the Outlander Sport comes to the market as an affordable package with some good solid engineering.
Fit and finish has improved continuously over the past three years, most noticeable on the car’s interior where attractive finishes replace the rather ugly plastics used in earlier models. The exterior is also attractive, with a distinctive grille and strong, muscular profile.
The two-liter four-cylinder engine on the test car seems to have plenty of power to get the job done, yet averages 24 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA. That’s a very respectable number, since all-wheel drive typically reduces fuel economy by a couple of miles-per-gallon across the board.
The new transmission works pretty well, although I did experience some shift shock during moderately hard acceleration. Acceleration is nice and linear, lacking the annoying rubber band feel that some continuously variable transmissions suffer from.
Electric power steering reduces overall weight and saves space under the hood. The other advantage for owners is reduced maintenance as compared to a conventional hydraulic setup whose mechanical components wear out over time.
Performance in this case is a mixed bag. On the positive side, low-end response is quite good with a 34.8-foot turning circle that makes it easy to park the compact Outlander Sport on the street. On the flip side, on-center response is quite soft, and there is a noticeable lag between moving the steering wheel and the system’s response.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back. The fully independent suspension adds value to the car, as compared to competitively priced vehicles with solid rear axles. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
The same can be said for the Outlander Sport’s four-wheel disc brake system that competes against cars with rear drums. The advantage of discs is better wet weather performance and ease of maintenance.
Visibility around the perimeter is pretty good. I was able to adjust the driver’s seat for a clear forward view. A rearview camera on the test car eliminates blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass. Thick B-pillars are evident when the driver looks side-to-side, but I had no problems monitoring highway traffic in the adjacent lanes.
Engineers also did a good job in minimizing noise intrusion to the interior from wind, tires and the engine bay so occupants can converse or enjoy the upscale audio system.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has seating for up to five passengers. As mentioned above, designers have made significant progress in the appearance and finish of the interior. I found the inside of the test car attractive and comfortable to ride in, with soft touch points and nice ergonomic add-ons such as a standard dead pedal to reduce leg fatigue.
Standard convenience features include a color information display in the gauge cluster, heated front seats, automatic climate control, satellite radio, HD radio, 6.1′ touchscreen display in the center stack, keyless start, cruise control, FUSE hands-free link system with USB port and Bluetooth interface.
Second-row seats fold flat so the Outlander meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Roof rails up top enable owners to add an additional rack or roof-mounted carrier.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes with seven standard airbags, antilock brakes, hill start assist, electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring.
All models come with a five-year/60,000 mile fully transferable factory warranty and 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Mitsubishi builds the Outlander Sport at its Normal, Illinois assembly plant.
Like: A versatile all-wheel drive crossover vehicle with a high level of safety and convenience features affordably priced. The factory warranty is fully transferable.
Dislike: Poor on-center response from the electric power steering system.
Model: Outlander Sport SE AWC
Base price: $24,195
As tested: $29,945
Horsepower: 148 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 145 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 24/30 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mitsubishi, performance, pricing, standard safety
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