When I am reviewing vehicles in the same class, I often find myself repeating the same features over and over. So many manufacturers try to carve out an identity for themselves while they are really just duplicating what the latest, most innovative vehicle is doing.
Consider the new Mitsubishi Outlander one of those innovative vehicles certain to be copied.
Before I launch into some of the great items featured on the Outlander, I do want to say that the Outlander was overdue for big changes. Like many vehicles in the compact sport-utility class, the manufacturers try to squeeze every ounce of economy out of them before a re-design. Thankfully for Outlander, its redesign was in time to give it some real momentum in this extremely competitive segment.
So what's so great? Let's start with what was the Achilles heel of the previous model - power. My XLS tester (there are three trims: ES, LS and XLS) offered a great new platform featuring a V-6 engine (220 hp), this is an upgrade from the I-4 in the previous model. Mitsubishi claims this new V-6 is the cleanest burning engine in this segment. The Outlander offers one automatic transmission - a responsive 6-speed that I found to be admirable in all circumstances.
The new Outlander is longer and wider than the 2006 model and with the18-inch alloy wheels on my XLS model it had a noticeably aggressive stance. Gratefully, that athletic stance is not just good looks as Outlander feels like a sport sedan when it takes tight turns and aggressive maneuvers.
Outlander certainly owes some of that exciting driveability to yet another innovation, the aluminum roof. This high-strength top delivers several benefits besides the obvious weight and potential fuel economy. That lighter weight addresses the top-heavy feel that plagues many SUVs while providing a lower center of gravity and that sportier feel I mentioned earlier.
Driving the Outlander is fun. I'm a big fan of the steering wheel paddle shifters, a first for this class and a real safety feature if you value keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. My XLS tester featured an electronically controlled 4-wheel-drive system that combines 4-wheel drive with traction control and an active skid system. On the topic of safety, an all-new braking system improves power and feel.
Welcoming me into the spacious Outlander XLS was a comfortable leather interior. I especially appreciated the power adjustments and heated seats for those cold, cold Chicagoland mornings.
The XLS is a seven-passenger configuration with a 60/40 third row that conveniently folds flat into the floor. This makes storage extremely easy and ample. Probably the coolest feature for the Outlander was the tailgate that extends extra low for help on those heavy items. Weight capacity for the tailgate is 440 pounds. Bears fans and camping families take note of this especially resourceful feature.
The rear seat has a 9-inch DVD screen that proved valuable on a couple hour-long road trips with the kids in tow. Helping pass time for the adults was an awesome 9-speaker Rockford-Fosgate Premium Audio system.
The dashboard has silver trim accents that fit the trim level and style established on the exterior. Sightlines are good. The XLS had Bluetooth capability and a highly functional navigational screen that showed little glare in all lighting situations.
Cabin noise was minimal and ride comfort was especially impressive. Consider that 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway is the expected fuel economy and you have what is expected of the compact class. What is not typically expected is the new safety features, innovative interior functions (how about a timing belt good for 100,000 miles) and great exterior styling - all for the mid-$20,000s.
The competition will definitely be paying attention to this Mitsubishi.