Outlander is Mitsubishi's midsize crossover contender. Based on exterior dimensions, it competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Dodge Journey, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Murano, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. Unlike most of those vehicles, the Outlander has an available third seating row, allowing for 7-passenger capacity.
A 166-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine powers the Outlander ES, SE, and SEL models. It mates to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Powering the Outlander GT is a 224-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that gets paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. ES, SE and SEL can be had with front- or all-wheel drive. The GT comes only with all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity is 1500 pounds.
Prices start at $22,995 for a front-drive ES and climb to $30,995 on the GT. Destination charge is $850 and the Outlander is built in Japan.
Outlander received a mild exterior and interior facelift for 2016 after a complete overhaul just two years prior. Updates for 2016 include revised exterior styling that features new front and rear fascias, LED running lights and taillights, and exclusive standard LED headlights for the GT. Inside, Mitsubishi included a new navigation interface and a revised folding process for the second-row seat.
The changes for 2016 give Outlander a fresh look outside, but more importantly bring it up to date with competitors inside. Safety features like lane departure warning and forward collision avoidance are points of entry for this class and now the Outlander has them. There's also an all-new navigation system that better integrates voice commands and Bluetooth pairing.
Front seat bolstering is firm but the seat cushion isn't as wide or long as in some competitors. Head and leg room are good and shoulder room adequate. Getting in and out is a snap as well, because Outlander's ride height isn't much higher than a traditional sedan. Passenger room in the second-row seats is just adequate. Large adults will find themselves asking for front-row passengers to scoot up and sitting three across will squeeze everyone. The third-row seats are strictly for children as both head and leg room are compromised.
Materials seem adequate for the class -- even somewhat nice on the top-line SEL and GT. There are lots of padded surfaces and the controls have solid feel and positive action. Interior storage is merely adequate for the class. There are few open bins up front and a small glove box and center-console bin. Outlander is also short a plug or two when it comes to accessory power outlets. With the third-row seats folded cargo space is good, tight if they are in use.
Recent upgrades have made Outlander more competitive in the segment when it comes to on road manners. The suspension does a fair job of absorbing bumps but it can sometimes pound over expansion joints. Steering is a trifle numb but accurate and true on the highway and the brakes have adequate stopping power. Thankfully there's little body lean in quick maneuvers and the turning circle is fairly tight. All-in-all the Outlander most closely drives like the Subaru Forester, meaning it feels like a tall sedan rather than a typical crossover -- and that's a good thing.
The four-cylinder engine provides adequate acceleration and no more. Add a few extra passengers or a heavy load of cargo and you'll be wishing you stepped up to the GT for its more-powerful V6. The CVT transmission that comes with the four-cylinder engine doesn't offer much help either as it "rubberbands" between providing power and boosting fuel economy. The GT's V6 isn't a powerhouse either, but it has significantly more get up and go and passing punch. Thankfully, it is quite smooth and mates well to the six-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system doesn't have a low range, so it's most useful for daily driving on slippery or snow-covered roads.
Regardless of engine choice, fuel economy compares nicely with others in the class. The four-cylinder is EPA rated at 24 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 26 mpg overall. The V6 numbers come in at 20/27/23 mpg. Real-world suburban commuting with the V6 is likely to about 25 mpg overall, again on par for the performance in the class. Straight highway driving can yield as high as 30 mpg.
Attractive pricing and a strong warranty are selling points, but Outlander's biggest strength is that is plies a successful middle ground between compact 5-passenger crossovers and larger 7-passenger family haulers. The updates for 2016 are significant and give Outlander enough street cred to play with more established competitors in the segment. Obviously, there are many competitors in this crowded segment, so shop around for the crossover that best suits your style.