Mitsubishi’s updated Outlander is an uphill let-down
summit daily auto writer
Being abundantly clear that this is not the week to talk about Toyota or Lexus products, let me instead shine the spotlight on a lesser-known but apparently not quite as troubled Japanese auto maker, Mitsubishi, and its completely redesigned Outlander SUV.
A largely neglected player in the smaller-sized SUV segment, the all-new version of the Outlander gains strength with a more distinctive look and a cleaner and sexier interior (including the world’s most feature-packed and complicated stereo/nav combo).
It’s also technically capable of hauling seven passengers, though two will have to cram themselves into one of the industry’s strangest little third row jump seats … more on that in a second.
Based on the same platform as its frighteningly fast stablemate, the Lancer Evolution, the new Outlander has also incorporated the Evo’s “super all-wheel control” system, an AWD system that electronically shifts power between all four points of contact. There’s even an aluminum roof to lower the vehicle’s center of gravity.
Power is upped a bit with a 3.0-liter V6 generating 230 horsepower; the higher-end GT model also comes standard with a six-speed Sportronic automatic transmission.
While looks and the interior update are great, including a very prominent Evo-by-way-of-Audi-Q7-styled snowplow grille and a stockier stance, the Outlander’s transmission still drove me crazy.
I drove an older model Outlander a year or so ago and, equipped with a continuously variable transmission, the vehicle was completely incapable of holding a gear while heading up a steep highway incline.
2010’s Outlander, even featuring a non-CVT, again suffers from an ability to comfortably hold its own while rolling up an incline like the I-70 climb out of Golden. Admittedly, you can use the large, Evo-styled paddle shifters to hold it in third or fourth gear and hope for the best, but on its own, the hunting-and-poking was unbelievable.
I also wouldn’t quite describe it as an oversized, 3,780-pound Evo, even with that snazzy AWD system; the automobile’s size and its large tires made it feel a little more tippy than I’d expected. Like the EVO, the system features a knob which allows you to change between pavement, snow and locked 4WD modes.
Flat-out cruising was fine and powerful, generating as much as 24 miles per gallon, but when I pressed it on the curves or even during fast lane changes, the Evo spirit didn’t quite emerge. The presence of California-spec all-seasons also did not prompt me into serious snow testing.
Otherwise – let’s say you live in Arvada and never plan on driving up to Summit County – the Outlander sure tries to parlay its reasonably affordable stature into a nice package of perks.
The combination navigation, audio, satellite radio, video, burnable hard drive, back-up camera and Bluetooth-enabled touch screen head unit is very busy and geek-a-rific, with a built-in altimeter and various chart functions. Like other high-end aftermarket units, it doesn’t actually feature knobs, just clicky buttons to control volume or change stations. It’s also tied to a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate system with a huge kicker in the back, something that’s sure to annoy your neighbors.
Sportily bolstered leather seating offered plenty of comfort (the seat heater buttons were impossible to reach, however), with stitched leather door inserts for additional color.
Outlander’s weirdest feature is a third-row seat which completely flattens into the floor, but can be deployed by pulling on about six different cords and clicking it into place, providing comfortable room for two 7-year-olds.
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