To say that Mitsubishi has been struggling on the North American market would be an understatement. Long gone are the days of the capable Montero, hot-selling Galant, and the exotic 3000GT. For years the Outlander Sport has been the company’s bread winner and the Lancer Evolution its only icon. In order to jumpstart its sales, in 2014 Mitsubishi dove deep into the highest volume markets with the introduction of the inexpensive Mirage and the third generation of its three-row CUV, the Outlander.
It has been said many times over that there is no such thing as a bad modern car on the North American market. Or may be there are, I don’t know anymore. The truth is that a purchase of any new car will result in a product that is safe and one that will provide years of reliable service. The new Outlander is probably not an exception, as it is a reasonably priced vehicle with a 5-year warranty and good crash test results. The question is, is it a good vehicle?
From the driver’s perspective, the dash layout is simple and rather similar to other vehicles in its class; two big gauges with a screen in-between, infotainment system with a bigger screen, two knobs and some buttons, and simple HVAC controls below. Unfortunately that middle screen does not display much information, the big screen has some small font, the Rockford-Fosgate system does not like to stream the Pandora app from my iPhone as it kept defaulting to the music stored on the phone, and there are no separate climate controls for the rear of the vehicle. Other frequently used buttons, such as the power hatch and display change button for gauge cluster screen are obscured by the steering wheel. Furthermore, the power windows, door locks, and mirror buttons are poorly illuminated and difficult to use at night.
Taking your eyes up from the dash and its mismatched piano-black and wood plastic trim, the visibility is good in all directions, certainly better than average. This is probably thanks to Mitsubishi’s liberal use of high strength steel. The Outlander is also a smaller vehicle than other three-row CUVs in just about every dimension, making it easy to maneuver. That smaller size and the use of that high strength steel translates into significantly lower curb weight than other three-row CUVs, and similar to that of many smaller CUVs, such as the Honda CR-V.
Seats are covered with a mix of fabric and hard leather. Front seats are and generally comfortable, heated, but only the driver’s seat is powered. The middle row has less legroom than other comparable vehicles and the rear doors do not open as wide or are as big, making getting kids into their seats more challenging for already tired parents. The biggest problem is with the third row seats, however, which have hardly any legroom when middle row in its native position, slid all the way to the back. Sliding the middle row forward give third row passengers more legroom, but at the expense of comfort of the people sitting in the middle row. The cargo area is also smallest in class no matter which seats are folded down and there are no visible HVAC vents anywhere in the back.
Lower Outlander models come with a four cylinder engine, but this GT model came with Mitsubishi’s 6B31 which has been around for some time. The 60-degree SOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V6 engine is port-injected with variable cam timing and is rated at 224hp and 215lb-ft of torque, the least in its class. It is matched up to a six-speed automatic transmission and Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC®) all-wheel drive system. This combination is rated for 20mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. In my leisurely mixed city/highway/mountain driving I observed 24mpg, which is very good for a three-row CUV.
My driving was leisurely because the Outlander never seems to be in the hurry. The transmission is conservatively programmed to always be in the lowest gear possible, which I found especially annoying in the mountains of Vermont, both on the way up and down. There are four transmission modes; eco, snow, lock, and normal. I have only used the normal mode, supplemented by the paddle shifters in the mountains. The engine does have plenty of power to move the Outlander, but requires a lot of motivation from your right foot.
There are many new car buyers for whom nothing matters more than the bottom line. The base Outlander ES starts at $23,195. The reviewed GT model starts at $28,195. The GT Touring Package, which includes nav system, lane departure warning, forward collision migration, sunroof, leather, power tailgate, and premium audio costs $6100. With $850 destination charge, the total comes to $35,145. A quick look at TrueCar shows that actual selling price is few grand lower.
The three-row CUV market is one of the most competitive in the industry and any company with limited resources will have difficulties offering the best vehicles. It is unfortunate that in the world of good cars, there have to be some that relatively aren’t. What frustrated me the most about this vehicle was that it could have been better with some engineering changes that would have minimum impact on overall engineering costs. While the Outlander isn’t perfect it does have some good things going for it, such as five-star overall score on NHTSA crash tests, 5-year/60,000 mile warranty with 10-year/100,000 miles for the powertrain, and the price.
Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there.
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. provided the vehicle for this review.