As the nationwide automotive sector continues crawling out from its low-point funk in 2008, here in the Land of Lincoln, production is spouting like...well...corn.
Illinois is home to three automotive assembly complexes: Ford Motor Company's Torrance Avenue assembly facility on Chicago's far south side, Chrysler Group's Belvidere Assembly hub near Rockford and Mitsubishi
Manufacturing North America in Normal Illinois near downstate Bloomington. All three have added or soon will add new vehicles to assembly portfolios. All have benefited from business-Government related incentives to keep rolling. The state of Illinois extended Mitsubishi
a $30 million tax incentive package in 2011, ensuring production continues churning for at least another decade in Central Illinois. Mitsubishi
's Normal facility, its only U.S. automobile assembly plant, began pumping out cars in 1988. Currently, the Galant sedan, Eclipse three-door hatchback, Eclipse convertible and Endeavor Sport Utility call Normal home. With tepid demand for this foursome, annual vehicle output has hovered around 31,000 units annually for the last couple years, a rather anemic number. That figure is expected to grow significantly with the addition of the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
as the Japanese automakers shifts production of the compact crossover from Japan to Illinois' Corn Belt later this year.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
is celebrating its second year on the road. It's a smart, scaled down spin off of the versatile Outlander crossover. Both Outlander and Outlander Sport
(14 inches shorter than Outlander) offer two-wheel (front) drive or Midwest-friendly four-wheel drive. While Outlander offers optional third row seating, the compact Sport is satisfied as a five-passenger hauler. Because both incorporate underpinnings of the compact Lacer sedan, on-road adventures are in order; off-roading is not recommended.
The compact Outlander Sport
SUV/crossover is available in ES and up level SE trims. The ES trim is strictly front drive while SE comes with front drive or electronically controlled four-wheel drive (borrowed from Outlander). The sole powertrain, returning from 2011, is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine cranking out a respectable, but not class-leading, 148 horses. Five-speed manual transmission (six-speed manual would be even nicer) is available only with ES while an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT) is offered in ES and standard in SE. Mitsubishi
currently offers no gas-electric hybrid engines in any models, but under-hood technology will undergo electrifying changes going forward. The 2012 Mitsubishi
i (also marketed in ES and SE trims) is carefully being launched in selected U.S. Cities. Mitsubishi
i ($29,195 before $7,500 federal tax credit applicable on personal income tax forms) is a compact-sized all-electric plug-in vehicle already available in Europe. Chicago-area Mitsubishi
dealers are currently scheduling test drives with a national rollout expected by this summer. Expect more all electric and plug-in hybrids from Mitsubishi
in the coming years. Outlander Sport
's fuel economy rates as average with our five-speed manual checking in at 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. Add one mile more in city travel with CVT transmission. When ordering SEs with all-wheel drive, the figures check in at 23 mpg city and 28 highway.
Our five-door, base ES two-wheel-drive trim with standard five-speed manual transmission included an $18,795 starting price, representing the lowest-priced Sport and one of the lowest-priced entries in the segment. After factoring in the $2,295 in-dash Navigation option package, the bottom line ended at a respectable $21,900 including $810 destination charge. A two-wheel-drive SE starts at $21,995.
Both trims come decently loaded with air conditioning, heated outside power mirrors, rear window defroster, cruise control, power windows, power locks, compact disc player and MP3 compatibility. Other standard nuances include side air bags for front passengers, side curtain air bags covering both rows, driver knee air bag, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control.
Our very black interior was highlighted with thin (quarter-inch or so) brushed aluminum pen-line trim surrounding the stereo and on doors. Sirius satellite radio with a complimentary three-month subscription is optional only in up level SE (not available in ES). The tree-spoke steering wheel (with manual tilt-and-telescoping function) is home to secondary sound-system control on the left side and cruise control functions at 9 o'clock. The ventilation design smartly takes advantage of the time-honored, low-tech yet effective twist knobs. The optional in-dash navigation screen doubles as the sound system home foregoing twist knobs, sometimes making the navigation/sound system experience more cumbersome than could be. Other than the nav system, Outlander's functions and controls are intuitive enough to decipher without dashing to the Mitsubishi
customer web site or old-school, print manual. The five-speed manual could be a bit notchy at times when changing gears. An extra sixth gear would help competitiveness with rivals.
A fabric/cloth type cushioning comes standard in both trims, although SE is of a deluxe nature. Leatherette materials are not offered. Seats are supportive in nature and back fatigue was never an issue. Heated front seats come standard in four-wheel-drive SE models. Second-row backrests with a 60/40 split fold semi flat onto cushions once tabs atop each side of the backrests are pushed down. Two riders fit in optimal comfort in back in this compact crossover, three is too much. Drivers experience good road visions from the seating position, which are higher than conventional compact sedans, but not so high as to require a step-up motion when entering. A temporary spare tire situates under the flat cargo floor. A floor-bound pull lever releasing the fuel door is left of the driver's seat.
Rear doors swing open with limited leg room entry and exit. Front door entry is more generous. Side character lines slope downward from rear to front high along the top half of the doors. The apex of the roof rests directly above front seat riders and gently slopes towards the hatch window with standard wiper. Sixteen-inch all-season radials come standard in ES while 18-incher all-season radials adorn SE. The rear hatch, hinged at the top, opens from the button with plenty of head clearance for those under six-feet three- inches.
In front, a hard-to-miss super-sized trapezoidal grille includes a mid-point intersecting horizontal bar with Mitsubishi
's triple diamond budding logo. The word Mitsubishi
translates into English as 'three diamonds from Japanese.
Think of the 'Sport' designation in Outlander Sport
as a junior type reference contrasting with an authoritative adult; as in, "How's it going Sport." In the overall big picture Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
is a capable junior version of the slightly larger Outlander, not a sporty vehicle. When evaluating handling, braking, engine punch and pickup, Outlander Sport
is remarkably pedestrian; a pleasant ride in a comfortable setting with decent mileage. What sets Sport apart is the longer-than-average 10-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty,
The compact crossover/SUV segment continues expanding with a crop of worthy competitors including the Nissan Rouge ($21,840 starting price), Chevrolet Equinox ($23,530) and Hyundai Tucson ($19,145). 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander SportPrice as Tested:
2.0-liter, inline four cylinderHorsepower:
105.1 inches Length:
169.1 inches Width
: 69.7 inchesFuel Economy:
24 city/ 31 hwy.Curb weight:
3,032 pounds Powertrain warranty:
10 years/100,000 milesBuilt:
Okazaki, Japan (soon coming to Illinois)Destination Charge: