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  • 2017 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.

    This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.

    Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    Subcompact sedan focuses on value

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    Mitsubishi’s subcompact sedan competes against the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio: all products targeting first-time buyers who are value conscious, but need the versatility to meet their busy lifestyles. The Mirage G4 comes standard with keyless entry and start, halogen headlamps and a rearview camera- features unusual in this segment. The interior is spacious enough to hold four adult passengers despite the car’s small dimensions.

    Power comes from a 1.2-liter naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine and five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. The pint-size Mirage is thrifty on fuel, averaging 37 miles-per-gallon for the automatic transmission version.

    Base price is $16,995 excluding the $835 destination charge. Final MSRP is $17,830. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL AWC

    Compact crossover maintains value focus

    By Nina Russin

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    With the average transaction price for new cars approaching $35,000, it’s easy to lose focus on value. But in a post-2008 economy, buyers are approaching big purchases, including automobiles, more conservatively.

    Mitsubishi has made a value focus the lynchpin of its comeback strategy and it’s working. Athletes picked the restyled 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander to win the ALV of the Year award for Best Value, responding to its all-wheel drive capabilities, good fuel economy, five-star NHTSA crash test rating and extensive roster of convenience features.

    The 2017 model is essentially carryover from last year. The Outlander is one of the few compact crossovers on the market to hold up to seven passengers. Third-row seats are rather small, but give growing families the ability to carry a couple of neighbor kids to weekly soccer practice. Fold the seats flat and a spacious cargo bay can carry a couple of road bikes, protecting them from inclement weather or theft.

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    The test car is the upscale SEL grade priced from $27,495 excluding the $895 destination charge. Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive gives the Outlander four-season capability.

    A touring option package adds a multi-view camera that displays both a rear and overhead view when the driver shifts into reverse, forward collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system. Final MSRP is $32,390. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT

    Value-packed compact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2016 MItubishi Outlander Sport SEL

    2016 MItubishi Outlander Sport SEL

    There are worse things in this world than being known for outstanding value. As Mitsubishi continues its aggressive campaign to regain market share, the automaker has wisely focused on a few core models, including the compact Outlander Sport Crossover. While its underpinnings are older than some of its competitors, Mitsubishi’s five-passenger car continues to deliver satisfying performance, with good acceleration from its 2.4-liter engine.

    Add in an extensive roster of standard safety and convenience features together with a fully-transferable factory warranty and it’s hard not to give the Outlander Sport a second look.

    Mitsubishi 2016 Outlander Sport SEL

    Mitsubishi 2016 Outlander Sport SEL

    Recently, Mitsubishi updated the crossover’s exterior in keeping with its three-row Outlander sibling and added higher quality materials throughout the interior, correcting fit and finish issues that had drawn criticism in the past.

    Base price for the front-wheel drive model tested excluding the $895 destination charge is $25,995. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, heated front seats, 60/40 fold flat second-row seats, Rockford Fosgate audio system, Bluetooth, USB ports, satellite radio and automatic climate control. Final MSRP is $26,890. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL 2WD

    Three-row crossover focused on value and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

    2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

    The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander won the 2016 best value ALV of the Year award because its versatile interior and high level of standard convenience features including three rows of seating, rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and Bluetooth interface make it a lot of car for the money. The Outlander’s relatively small footprint gives it an edge over other seven-passenger cars among buyers who need the seating capacity but don’t want a full-size truck with poor gas mileage.

    Base price for the front-wheel drive SEL with standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission is $24,995, excluding the $850 destination charge. A touring option package adds forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic headlamps, rain sensing windshield wipers, power sunroof and mirrors, Rockford/Fosgate premium audio system and satellite radio to the test car, bringing the final MSRP to $31,095. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

    Compact crossover is ready for adventure

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

    2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWC

    Five-passenger crossover goes off the grid

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    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 Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

    Seven-passenger crossover appeals to active families

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Heels and Wheels 2013

    Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat

    By Nina Russin

    Aston Martin DB9

    I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon

    Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.

    According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.

    The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.

    Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

    Redesigned seven-passenger crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

    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. Read the rest of this entry »