Mountain Wheels: Nissan’s Rogue and Mitsubishi’s Outlander are the same, but different

After a high-speed tour of the mountain highways south of Idaho Springs, it was evident that the Nissan Rogue’s new standard 1.5-liter turbo is no slouch.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

In the not-so-long-ago days of American industry, it was not uncommon for a vehicle to be produced in as many as three different brand configurations — especially in the days when Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Mercury offered rebadging alternatives to customers.

So it seems a little funny that the new, much larger and quite impressively upscale Nissan Rogue should also offer a nearly identical rebadged model in the form of the Mitsubishi Outlander.

Like me, you probably have not spent a lot of time thinking about Mitsubishi in recent years, but after a recent and quite pleasant test drive with the new 1.5-liter turbo-powered 2022 Rogue Platinum, I was quite surprised when I sat behind the wheel of the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander and discovered they are, quite literally, almost identical vehicles.

Both also featured Tennessee manufacturer plates, though the Rogue is actually made there, while the Outlander is assembled in Japan. Rogue’s most basic model is $27,360, with my higher-end model totaling $42,325; the Outlander starts at $27,595 and came to me a few dollars short of $38,000.

Rogue, now a 2023 model, does take on a slightly different character with the introduction of a new, three-cylinder turbo engine that is still capable of 201 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque, plus up to 37 highway mpg on front-wheel-drive models.

That downsized engine does not (blessedly) conjure the horrors of the 1990s three-cylinder Suzuki Swift but is a totally manageable modern choice, as it is in GM’s small Korean SUVs.

In fact, the drive I took on the soon-to-be-renamed Mount Blue Sky road, between Evergreen and Idaho Springs, was one of the more joyful outings I had all year, so clearly Nissan has done a lot of things right with this not-so-small SUV.

Looks in this two-year-old body model are sharp indeed, with stylish nose and low-level headlamp features not quite as curious as the Outlander’s, and a particularly clean design provided by blacked-out window frames on my tester’s white body, and tons of tasteful chrome.

Rogue’s recent growth makes it seem about as big as the old Nissan Murano used to be, and that means a comfortable alternative to the still-larger and more expensive Pathfinder, with almost the same interior, technology and automotive experience.

Sure, the rear legroom may seem a little tiny and the multi-level cargo deck in the back is like a weird game of Jenga, but it strikes me as a much better option than dropping almost double the sticker price on an Infiniti QX60, or potentially triple on a QX80 or Armada.

The Rogue’s continuously-variable transmission is not awful, thankfully. The three-cylinder turbo can be a little noisy on start-up but it got me more than 28 mpg and was quite competent headed uphill.   

Outlander, meanwhile, features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with just 181 horsepower, but 30 standard highway mpg, even in “super-all-wheel-control” AWD guise. You may remember S-AWC from the late Mitsubishi Lancer boy-racer machine. It also has a regular eight-speed transmission, unlike the Rogue.

The big differences are that it’s a standard three-row machine and … well, much more glossy, in ways you may or may not appreciate. The 20-inch wheels here are pretty splashy, and the gigantic and very odd, knee-level headlamps and triangular chrome surrounds are … very odd. But maybe somebody’s gonna dig that.

More peculiar is the fact that the rest of the body looks almost identical to the new Ford Explorer, while the interior is largely the same features and controls of the Rogue, with metal-pattern-infused pedals, shiny metal on the console and pleated, highlight-stitched leather seats and door inserts.

A different, six-mode drive mode control is the major indication of what apparently is a more “individually sport-tuned” suspension feel, the knob itself almost larger than the transmission shifter itself. I drove a very high-mileage media test vehicle that felt like everyone had taken it through rocky creek beds for 10,000 miles, so I cannot fully attest to that modified suspension.  A new plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander is also available as a 2023 model.

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