With a name like Outlander, Mitsubishi's compact SUV may give the impression that it's a rugged vehicle built for off-road driving adventures.
Like many SUVs, it looks more the part than performs it. Outlander is rugged-looking, but it's not a vehicle designed to climb over downed trees or ford streams.
While Outlander wasn't designed to battle against the Jeep Wrangler, it was built to compete against the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. That means Outlander is more car-like. And there are plenty of buyers for that type of vehicle.
Like its competitors, Outlander offers consumers a commanding view of the road and all-wheel-drive traction, without breaking the bank.
Prices for the Outlander start at under $20,000. Outlander is offered in two trim levels: LS and XLS. Both can be had with two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Two-wheel drive models send their power to the front wheels.
The Outlander LS model has a nice laundry list of features, including air conditioning, a 140-watt CD audio system, cruise control, power windows, power door locks and mirrors, rear intermittent wiper, 60/40 reclining rear seats, and dual vanity mirrors.
My co-tester and I both agree the alloy wheels, tubular roof rack, keyless entry, cargo cover and privacy glass, which are available as options, are worth their cost for the additional ÒattitudeÓ they bring to the OutlanderÕs exterior design on LS models.
The Outlander XLS improves on the LS model's exterior with such extras as a tubular roof rack, a large rear spoiler, color-keyed side mirrors, privacy glass, fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, and clear tail lamp lenses.
The XLS interior adds some great touches of its own with a white-faced instrument cluster, a matching white-faced analog clock, see-through headrests, upgraded seat cover materials and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The XLS options which are especially nice are the Wheel arch fender flares, leather seating surfaces, roof rack accessories, and ABS. Also available on
For the 2004 model year, Mitsubishi took several measures to reduce cabin noise. My co-tester and I both made note of the success of that task and found our 2004 Outlander to be noticeably quieter than the 2003 model we drove last year.
Inside Outlander, there's just enough room up front for us, but the rear seat is a bit confining for large adults. Also, Outlander offers seating for five, but my children (ages 10, 12 & 15) complained that they were ÒsquishedÓ in the back seat. A long road trip for my family would be out of the question.
To increase Outlander's cargo capacity and versatility, the 60/40 split+recline rear seatbacks fold flat.
For the 2004 model year, all Outlanders are equipped with a new powertrain: a 2.4-liter MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control) 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed Sportronic transmission.
Through the use of variable valve timing, the MIVEC engine achieves a maximum of 160 horsepower (up 20 horsepower), and 162 pound-feet of torque (up 5 lb-ft).
The added power was much needed as last year's model was underpowered when compared to its competitors.
I found acceleration is good under all conditions, but the four-cylinder engine gets a bit noisy when pushed hard.
I think Mitsubishi should at least offer an optional V6 powerplant. No manual gearbox is available but the 4-speed automatic transmission includes a Sportronic mode, which allows the driver to manually shift gears when desired.
On the road, Outlander feels quite confident and well mannered. Outlander drives more like a car, but with its high driving position, drivers will enjoy a commanding view of the road. 2004 Mitsubishi Outlander
Engine: 2.4-liter (160 hp) I4
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Drive Type: AWD
Fuel Economy: 20 city/26 highway
Base Price: $20,097
As Tested: $21,192 (includes $595 for destination)