2016 Mitsubishi OutlanderPosted on June 8th, 2015
Compact crossover is ready for adventure
By Nina Russin
Mitsubishi has never been a mass-market strategist, preferring to focus on vehicles such as the Montero and Lancer Evo that appealed to hardcore driving enthusiasts. In the post-2008 world, the OEM is moving closer to center with its Outlander compact crossover, but at the same time retaining its edge.
The redesigned 2016 Outlander is one of the smallest cars on the market that comes with three rows of seating, and one of the few vehicles in the segment available with a V-6 engine. The new model features all-new sheetmetal from the windshield forward as part of a refreshed exterior. The interior has been upgraded as well with a redesigned steering wheel, gloss black accent panels, new leather upholstery material and more use of soft touch materials in key areas.
There are two available engines and two transmissions: the carryover V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder block introduced last year that comes with a new continuously-variable automatic transmission.
Base price for the front-wheel drive model starts at $22,995 excluding the $850 destination charge. All-wheel drive is available on all but the base model. Buyers who want the V-6 engine with 3500-pound towing capacity must opt for the upscale GT that starts at $30,995.
Test drive in Northern California
At a recent media event I had the opportunity to drive both four and six-cylinder cars and compare them with the outgoing model. There is no question that Mitsubishi has raised the bar for the 2016 cars, with dramatically improved steering response.
While I expected good power from the 224-horsepower V-6 engine, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the 166-horsepower four-cylinder block. With 162 foot-pounds of peak torque, it displayed excellent climbing skills through the canyons. Since the engine is smaller and therefore lighter than the V-6, the 2.4-liter model seemed a little better balanced front-to-rear as well.
Our drive route took us from San Francisco south along Route 1 to Half Moon Bay and then west into the canyons where we intersected Skyline Drive that runs along the ridge of the mountains separating Silicon Valley from the coast.
My driving partner and I started out in the 2015 model equipped with the four-cylinder engine. From there we moved into the V-6 and finished the day driving back to San Francisco in the four-cylinder car.
The most obvious difference between the outgoing model and the new car, aside from styling is in steering response. The electric power steering system in the 2015 car has a very numb feeling at speed. On-center response on the new car is much improved with a nice heavy feel that is especially noticeable on winding two-lane roads.
The driver can modify the all-wheel drive system according to his performance and traction needs. Eco mode keeps the system in front-wheel drive except unless the wheels start to slip when it engages the second axle. The normal mode maintains full-time four-wheel drive. A snow mode optimizes wet weather performance by starting the car in a higher gear to avoid wheel slippage while lock mode offers maximum traction for performance on challenging roads.
A redesigned suspension on the new model focuses more on handling than ride comfort with firmer shocks and retuned spring rates. Engineers reinforced the front suspension cross member and added bracing in key areas to improve torsional stiffness for better steering feedback.
Standard 18-inch alloy wheels on the 2016 model are thicker and stiffer than the rims on the 2015 car for the same reason.
Improvements in NVH included adding insulating material to the windshield, increasing rear door glass thickness and adding insulation under the floor to dampen road noise.
Of the two engines, the four-cylinder block is the one to buy for anyone not needing the larger block for towing. Horsepower and torque ratings are closer than for the V-6, so low-end acceleration is better. Although I’m not a huge fan of continuously variable automatic transmissions the unit in the Outlander works well. There is no tendency towards shift shock under normal driving conditions, and it seems more responsive to changes in engine speed than some competitive units.
Fuel economy is better as well: 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 25 around town according to the EPA.
Capable in the daily commute
Driving the Outlander through San Francisco’s notorious rush hour traffic gave me an idea of what it might feel like to commute in the car. I was impressed with visibility around the perimeter. A generous greenhouse makes it easy to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes.
New available active safety features include lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation that automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to see a stopped car ahead. Unfortunately buyers cannot get blind spot monitoring: I hope Mitsubishi will add this feature in the near future.
A rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the vehicle to eliminate blind spots in the back corners and below the rear glass.
Brakes are an area where some manufacturers cut corners in order to save money. The Outlander comes with four-wheel disc brakes that have better wet weather performance than rear drums.
The interior had been the Outlander’s Achilles heel with unattractive materials and hard surfaces. The new model is a significant improvement with better fit and finish and a much more attractive instrument panel.
Designers reconfigured the third-row seat folding mechanism. It requires fewer steps to collapse the seat. A 60/40 split folding second row seat reclines for more comfort on long trips or can fold flat to load bicycles and other large cargo into the back.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack display are easy to read in dim light and bright sun. I found both the driver’s and front passenger seats comfortable to sit in for extended periods.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety features include seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty is fully transferable and adds five years of roadside assistance.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander begins rolling into dealerships at the end of the month.
Like: The stylish new Outlander is a solid value for families who need a third row of seating but don’t want to move up to a midsize vehicle with a high level of standard safety features and appealing performance from the 2.4-liter engine.
Dislike: Disappointing low-end power from the six-cylinder engine. Blind spot monitoring is not an available safety feature.
Base price: $22,995
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 166 Hp @ 6000 rpm (2.4L), 224 Hp @ 6250 rpm (V-6)
Torque: 162 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm (2.4L), 215 lbs.-ft. @ 3750 rpm (V-6)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Towing: Yes (V-6)
Fuel economy: 25/31 mpg city/highway (2.4L), 20/27 mpg city/highway (V-6)2016, Best Value 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mitsubishi, performance, pricing, standard safety
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