Mitsubishi’s Outlander GT offers an alternative SUV
February 16, 2018
It has been a very long time since I've last talked about Mitsubishi automobiles, but here's a little something to add to the variety of your mid-size SUV shopping considerations.
Mitsubishi doesn't get a heck of a lot of press in the U.S., especially since the end of the company's line of Lancer Evolution racer-boy cars, but the Japanese industrial company is still a real player — especially when it comes to its Outlander SUVs.
The full-size Outlander has received a bevy of updates over the years and appears in 2018 as a pleasant-looking variation on what is now an unbelievably busy competitive space full of three-row, seven-passenger SUVs.
Overall, mine looked and felt like a slightly longer Japanese version of what used to be known as the Mercedes ML (now it's called the GLE) or a Toyota Highlander: tall and skinny, here with a more comfortable sense of rounding on the hood and haunches and a general range of details that suggests light-upscale.
The 2018 rendition of all of that results in a lot of chrome, including large, inward-facing chrome arches around the black, blank front grille and between the headlamps, prominent silver-on-black-plastic detail lines along the bottom of the passenger cabin and a smooth and slightly distinctive shape overall.
If you gear up for the $32,095 3.0 GT model I drove, there's also still a seemingly old-fashioned 3.0-liter V6 under the hood (an increasing rarity in a world of 2.0-liter engines), good for a decent but not thrilling 224 horsepower, and 27 highway MPG.
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Base Outlanders can be had for as little as $24,000 and come with a 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four cylinder; transmission choices include the six-speed Sportronic automatic setup I had, complete with paddle shifters, or a one-speed CVT transmission.
Cabin design is clean and straightforward, controls flush and all very streamlined, with barely any knobs showing except the available Super All-Wheel-Control, an electronic e-brake and seat heater controls.
Mitsubishi's trademark S-AWC system, critical to the curve craziness on the Evos, provides a solid footing for the 184.8-inch Outlander and also allows you to dial up snow, eco or dry pavement settings.
So I had to ask myself: With a set of giant wheel paddles and the memories of go-kart-styled outings in the final four generations of Evos, does Outlander still have any of that renegade spirit left?
I took it out late in the fall on a road I use for wringing out the really ridiculous sports cars and despite pushing the Outlander to the very edge of adhesion on its all-season tires, the vehicle did a pretty credible job of handling with style.
I would not call the ride outstanding, but stability was decent and that mildly mediocre power quite sufficient for a trip down memory lane.
I got my test vehicle with an all-time-record 225 miles on the clock (most of our press fleet loaners are better worked in than that, though the really new car smell was very present here). So my observations of about 14 MPG are definitely not to be trusted.
Inside, you get tall and comfortable perforated leather seating, situated just a little high on cabin platforms. Seating is two and three-quarters spaces in the second row (a tight squeeze for the middle rider) and two in the far back, with full-sized seating but limited leg room.
The new entertainment head unit is infinitely improved, with easy-to-use touchscreen controls that already rival Apple CarPlay (I did not have the full-blown navigation system) and Rockford-Fosgate sound. Displays and dash are all quite attractive and there's a nice square-shaped leatherette and rubber console, with a tasteful two-color scheme.
Outlander earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick nod for this model; budget-minded buyers looking for something a little different than a parking lot full of Subarus or domestic SUVs might find the Mitsubishi an intriguing choice.