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  • 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 »

  • 2012 Mitsubishi i MiEV SE

    Four-passenger, five-door pure electric car

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Mitsubishi i MiEV

    The Mitsubishi MiEV, which shares the same platform as the subcompact i, is one of a handful of pure electric cars available in the United States. Power comes from a 66-horsepower synchronous motor and a single, fixed gear transmission. The motor and lithium-ion battery pack are packaged in a watertight, stainless steel safety cell under the floor of the passenger compartment, where there is minimal intrusion to both car occupants and the rear cargo area.

    After testing the car in fleets, Mitsubishi began rolling out the MiEV last year at dealerships in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. This year, the i MiEV is available in all fifty states.

    There are two grades: the base model which starts at $29,125, and the upscale SE, priced from $31,125. Buyers qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7500.

    The test car comes with a premium package that adds navigation, steering wheel mounted audio controls, rearview camera, a battery warning system and quick charge port. Adding in the $850 delivery charge, final MSRP for the test car is $34,765. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT AWD

    V-6 engine boosts crossover’s performance

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

    The Mitsubishi Outlander began life as a bridge vehicle between the body-on-frame Montero and unibody passenger sedans. Its purpose was to combine some of the Montero’s off-road capability with more appealing ride and handling. The first Outlander was a Japan market car with a revised front end for the North American market. Later Mitsubishi revised the rest of the chassis, adding power for better high-speed performance.

    The current model comes with a choice of two engines: a 168-horsepower four-cylinder block and 230-horsepower V-6. Both naturally-aspirated engines feature Mitsubishi’s variable valve control technology, called MIVEC. A continuously-variable automatic transmission with manual gear selection is standard on the upscale SE and performance-oriented GT models.

    All-wheel drive automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction. A rotary dial on the center console adjusts the system according to road conditions: dry pavement, snow and a locking mode for dirt roads.

    Base price for the GT grade tested is $27,895. Options include a premium package which adds leather trim, a Rockford-Fosgate audio system, satellite radio, heated front seats, power sunroof ($2900); navigation with rearview camera ($2000); and rear seat DVD entertainment system ($1695). Total MSRP is $35,300. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

    Mitsubishi adds a five-passenger version of its popular crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    The Mitsubishi Outlander evolved from a small crossover to a much larger one seating seven passengers. The original Outlander, introduced in 2003, was a modest-sized Japan market car which designers restyled the States.

     Three years later the automaker rolled out a new version with a larger, more powerful engine and aggressive styling. Mitsubishi diversified the line-up with a sporty Ralliart version and an upscale GT.

    This year, the automaker adds the Outlander Sport: a smaller five-passenger car with available all-wheel drive. Power comes from a two-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower and a choice of five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. The Outlander Sport comes in two grades: base ES or upscale SE.

    This week I drove the all-wheel drive SE grade on a 300-mile road trip between Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona. I wanted to see how well the four-cylinder engine would handle the 3000-foot elevation increase on the route up north. Windy weather on the trip down the hill was a challenge for the all-wheel drive and steering systems, since the Outlander is a high-profile car.

    Base price for the test car is $22,995, not including the $780 delivery charge. A panoramic sunroof, roof rails and an audio upgrade which includes satellite radio add $1800, bringing the price as tested to $25,575. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Mitsubishi Begins Production of i MiEV

    Four-passenger electric car goes on sale in Japan this July

    Mitsubishi i MiEV

    Mitsubishi i MiEV

    Mitsubishi Motors is taking its I MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) into production: fleet sales begin this July in Japan.

    Power for the four-passenger I MiEV comes from a 22-cell, lithium-ion battery pack. Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between GS Yuasa, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors, produces the proprietary batteries.

    The battery pack is located under the car’s floor, to maximize interior space. An onboard charger recharges in 12 to 14 hours using a conventional 110-volt outlet, about half that time using 220-volt.

    The automaker has conducted cold-weather testing of production prototypes at its research and development facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mitsubishi has also partnered with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric, to explore infrastructure options and connectivity to the electric grid.

    At the New York International Auto Show, Mitsubishi announced a partnership with the state of Oregon and Portland General Electric, to test production prototypes.

    “We believe the I MiEV delivers on the promise of sustainability, suitable range, performance and innovative packaging and styling,” said Mitsubishi Motors North America president and CEO, Shinichi Kurihara.  “The state of Oregon and Portland General Electric will become valuable partners in helping validate the future of all electric cars.”

  • GT Prototype Spices Up Outlander Styling

    Mitsubishi show car takes cues from the Lancer Evolution

    Mitsubishi Outlander GT Prototype

    Mitsubishi Outlander GT Prototype

    This week, Mitsubishi unveils a GT prototype for the Outlander cross-utility vehicle, that combines edgy styling with a mild power enhancement. The car, on display at the New York International Auto Show, shares its “jet fighter” front grille with the Lancer Evolution.

    Custom ground effects, along with revised bumpers, front fenders and hood give the show car a youthful appearance.

    Power comes from the same three-liter V6 engine used in the Outlander XLS. Engineers revisd the air intake, cam timing and compression ratio, boosting engine output to 230 horsepower. Modified software automatically shifts the car into neutral while idling to improve its fuel economy.

    The production Outlander comes in three trim levels, ES, SE and XLS, with seating for five or seven passengers. The two uplevel grades are available with four-wheel drive.

    The Outlander is built on the same global platform as the Lancer and Lancer Evolution. All models feature a four-wheel independent suspension. Eighteen wheels are standard on SE and XLS grades.

    A flap-fold tailgate on all models eases cargo area access. The tailgate can also serve as a seat: it holds up to 440 pounds.

    Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags and antilock brakes. A standard keyless entry system lets the driver unlock and start the car without removing the key fob from his pocket.

    Available comfort and convenience options include navigation, a rear-view camera, a Fosgate audio system, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface.

  • 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR

    Rally Cup performance for driving enthusiasts
    By Nina Russin

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

    The Evo is one of three Mitsubishi models based on the compact Lancer sedan. The Ralliart which I wrote about several weeks back bridges the gap between the GTS and Evo: more powerful than the base model, but a bunny hill compared to the Evolution.

    Powered by a 291-horsepower two-liter MIVEC engine, the compact Evo begs to be driven hard and put away wet. Engineered to meet the rigorous demands of World Rally Cup racing, it’s big on low-end torque, with exceptional steering response, and a super-rigid chassis that stays flat in the gnarliest of corners.

    The newest Evo, introduced for the ’08 model year, comes in two grades: GSR and MR. They share the same aluminum, turbocharged engine, but the newer MR features Mitsubishi’s twin-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission, compared to a five speed manual on the GSR.

    The six-speed automatic gets slightly better fuel economy than the five-speed manual transmission: seventeen miles-per-gallon in the city versus sixteen for the GSR. The driver can shift the six-speed manually using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, or a floor-mounted shift lever.

    Both grades offer a technology option that upgrades the standard audio system to a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate package, but on-board navigation is only available on the MR. The MR also comes standard with a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, that the driver can operate using controls on the steering wheel.

    Alpha-male performance

    There are plenty of compact sedans on the market with compliant suspensions and a quiet ride. The Evo isn’t one of them. Eighteen-inch rims with low-profile tires and Bilstein shocks make it ride like a buckboard, and produce a significant amount of road noise. I find all of this completely acceptable, considering what the car is designed for.

    In fact, I applaud Mitsubishi for staying the course: to compromise the Evo’s ride and handling would fly in the face of everything I love about the company.

    Mitsubishi is a small car company: unable to match the volume or model range that larger automakers have.  So the company focuses on its strength: niche cars with edgy styling and even edgier performance. The Evo is the epitome of that: it’s unlike anything else on the market.

    Rally cup racing is all about quick turns, and bursts of acceleration. The turbocharged, intercooled engine produces 300 foot-pounds of torque, and is durable enough to withstand the heat and contamination that occurs during lengthy races.

    An active center differential sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction, while front and rear limited-slip differentials help the driver to maintain directional control on slippery surfaces.

    A front strut tower brace, along with front and rear stabilizer bars give the chassis exceptional torsional rigidity. The Evo has as positive an on-center feel as anything I’ve driven.

    Forged aluminum control arms and wheels minimize unsprung weight. Curb weight for the MR is just under 3600 pounds, with front-to-rear weight balanced slightly biased towards the front. If the wheels come unglued, the Evo pushes hard in the corners: inexperienced drivers will find it difficult to resume directional control.

    Ground clearance is just over five inches. The Evo’s low center of gravity enhances its high-speed performance, but makes it impractical for driving in deep snow or on extreme off-road trails.

    Its large rear spoiler is a hallmark of Evo styling. It maximizes downforce to keep the tail end from breaking loose. The spoiler cuts the driver’s rear vision in half, but it doesn’t obstruct his range of vision.

    Race-inspired interior

    The Evo’s interior reflects World Rally Cup’s requirements to have a driver and navigator: neither of whom have any prior knowledge of the course. The navigator’s ability to direct the driver quickly and without error is crucial to the team’s success.

    Although hard buttons control the major audio and climate functions, a mouse on the passenger side operates the optional navigation system. An information screen in the gauge cluster gives the driver average fuel economy and distance to empty, altimeter, barometer, ambient temperature, and vehicle maintenance reminders. The driver controls the information screen using steering wheel-mounted controls.

    The optional Rockford-Fosgate audio system includes an in-dash six-CD changer, and downloadable hard drive. The system, which is iPod and MP3 compatible, displays playlists in the large screen at the top of the center stack. The audio upgrade adds Sirius satellite radio with six months of free service.

    The interior includes most of the comfort and convenience features buyers look for: a storage bin in the center console, cupholders in the floor console, and bottle holders and map pockets in the front doors. The glovebox is deep enough to hold map books or a small pack. A twelve-volt powerpoint at the base of the center console allows passengers to recharge portable electronic devices. 

    Second-row seats in the outboard position have adequate head and legroom. The center console and a floor tunnel restrict legroom in the middle. The Recaro seats up front obstruct visibility, making the second row less pleasant for longer trips.

    The trunk is large enough for a week’s worth of groceries or a moderate amount of luggage, but it’s not well suited for larger items. Buyers who want to carry bicycles or other large cargo might want to look at the Outlander: a crossover vehicle with a more versatile cargo bay.

    Standard safety

    The Evo comes with front, side, side curtain and a driver’s knee airbag, vehicle stability control and antilock brakes. Standard keyless entry allows the driver to enter and start the car using a remote fob. The Mitsubishi system has a mechanical backup key stored in the remote fob if the battery conks out. Since batteries die quickly in the Phoenix summer heat, I think it’s a nice safety feature.

    Base price is $38,290, not including a $650 destination charge. The technology option package that adds navigation and the Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade  costs $2550. The Lancer Evo MR is waiting for test drives at Mitsubishi dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: An exceptionally nimble sport sedan with excellent steering response and a lot of power.

    Dislike: Lack of rear cargo space.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Mitsubishi
    Model: Lancer Evolution MR
    Year: 2008
    Base price: $38,290
    As tested: $41,740
    Horsepower: 291 Hp @ 6500 rpm
    Torque: 300 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg city/highway

  • 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sedan

    Affordable compact for driving enthusiasts
    By Nina Russin

    The world is full of hot-looking, fun-to-drive cars, a fraction of which are

    2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sedan

    2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sedan

    affordable to the average buyer. The new Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart sedan is one of those rare animals.

    The Ralliart bridges the gap between the base Lancer 2.4 GTS and the Lancer Evolution. Like the more expensive Evo, the Ralliart has an all-wheel drive powertrain that maximizes traction on snow-covered or unimproved roads.

    A turbocharged 237 horsepower engine and twin-clutch automatic transmission are ideal for producing quick bursts of speed that rally cup drivers need. The driver can choose gears manually using paddles on the steering wheel, or let the six-speed gearbox shift automatically.

    A sport suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars keeps the chassis flat in the corners. Eighteen-inch wheels with low-profile Yokohama summer tires aren’t very forgiving, but they do keep the car glued to the pavement.

    Inside, optional Recaro seats have deep side bolsters to hold the driver and front passenger in place during hard cornering. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car on a dime.

    Mean looking grille and a really big spoiler

    Rally cup cars seem to be all about the spoiler. The Lancer Ralliart is no exception: the rear spoiler is tall and wide enough to impact the driver’s rear view.

    The grille is pretty mean looking too: it reminds me of Johnny Rotten’s smile: a big wide gap at the bottom of the face, without much in the way of teeth. Since I’m old enough to remember Johnny Rotten, I’m a little too old to love this type of styling; but I respect it. In a world full of plain vanilla sedans, the Lancer Ralliart is a cherry bomb.

    Sporty interior

    Inside, the Ralliart looks the way a sport sedan should. The Recaro seats are covered with a dark charcoal cloth upholstery. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob have contrasting white stitching.

    The second-row seats have enough legroom in the outboard positions for average adults: there is very little room in the middle position due to a tunnel through the floor. The tall Recaro seatbacks obstruct the back passengers’ forward view, making the area seem rather claustrophobic.

    A digital readout in the middle of the gauge cluster displays ambient temperature, fuel, odometer and trip meter readings. A larger screen at the top of the center stack shows the optional navigation display and audio settings.

    The Recaro sport package adds a Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with big enough woofers to send a jolt up the spine on every base note. The audio system comes with Sirius satellite radio, including six months of free service, and is MP3 compatible.

    A large glovebox is can easily hold a purse or small pack. There is a twelve-volt outlet at the base of the center stack, and a 120-volt plug-in inside the center console bin. Two cupholders in the floor console are big enough to hold water bottles.

    Rallying up to the north country

    It’s criminal to have a car like the Ralliart and not drive it hard. For me, that means heading up to the north country, to test the sedan’s performance on some mountain roads.

    Despite its powerful engine, the Lancer Ralliart gets decent gas mileage. I averaged about twenty-four miles per gallon in the city and driving the car hard on the highway.

    Turbocharging enhances the Ralliart’s fuel economy since it makes the engine breathe better. It also gives it better performance at altitude. The car had no problems accelerating hard up hills at about 5,000 feet.

    When used in fully-automatic mode, the transmission shifts fairly hard. There’s a lot of shift shock, especially off the line. But I can almost forgive that, since the car is designed for a type of racing that requires a lot of low-end torque.

    The paddle shifters are big enough to get at from almost any point on the steering wheel. I found the offset of the accelerator pedal uncomfortable when I held it at a constant speed for a prolonged period: putting the left foot on the dead pedal helped make the position a little less awkward.

    The low-profile tires and sport-tuned suspension give the car a firm ride, but produce less road noise than I expected. During hard acceleration, the exhaust lets out a pleasant rumble.

    An active center differential automatically sends power to the wheels with the best traction. It’s not something most drivers will notice on dry, paved roads, but it makes a big difference on wet roads and in dirt.

    Visibility to the front and right side of the car is excellent: there is a fairly large blind spot to the rear of the driver’s side. Despite the spoiler, visibility out the back is pretty good. High intensity discharge headlamps that come with the sport option package improve visibility on unlit rural roads at night.

    Except for the hard shifting, the Ralliart is quite civilized in stop-and-go traffic. Braking is firm and linear without being grabby. There is plenty of steering assist at low speeds: the car is quite easy to back into a parking space.

    Small trunk

    The sedan’s trunk is adequate for holding groceries or luggage, but it’s neither long nor deep enough for larger items. Cyclists would need to install a separate rack: ditto for those planning to haul surfboards, skis, or other long items.

    Standard safety

    The Ralliart comes standard with front, driver’s knee, side and side curtain airbags. Active stability control, traction control and antilock braking prevent excessive yaw, wheel spin or lockup from affecting the driver’s directional control.

    Base price is $26,490, not including a $675 destination charge. Mitsubishi produces the Lancer Ralliart at its assembly plant in Kurashiki, Japan.

    Likes: Handling and performance the rivals much more expensive sport sedans, with better-than average fuel economy.

    Dislikes: Small trunk; blind spot to the rear on the driver’s side.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Mitsubishi
    Model: Lancer Ralliart
    Year: 2009
    Base price: $26,490
    As tested: $29,915
    Horsepower: Est. 237
    Torque: Est: 253 lbs.-ft.
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle-friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg city/highway