I've thought Mitsubishi was on its last gasp in the United States for a while now, making one bad decision after another. It has done away with the Evo and gifted a sports-car name to an SUV. I won't even get started with the Mirage. I mean, WTH? But after a first drive of the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander
, I'm taking a pause.
If this all-new SUV is a glimpse of things to come for the brand, I now have hope that this is not "The End."
Then again, I have to admit, going into the drive, I didn't have high expectations. So, maybe that's part of why I was so impressed.
But, before we continue, let's discuss the elephant in the room: Yes, the new Outlander is built on the same platform as the 2021 Nissan Rogue. Part of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance entails working together to create new vehicles, with each partner taking charge of a specific platform. Nissan just happens to be in charge of the compact crossovers.So, what's the same as the Rogue?
Other than the actual platform, the biggie is going to be the engine. Both vehicles share the same 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 181 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Yes, the transmission is also the same, and yes, they are both continuously variable transmissions.
I think this combination works well in both vehicles, and I will say the ride and handling was very similar in both the 2021 Rogue and 2022 Outlander.
I tend to be on the more aggressive side of the driving spectrum, and the Outlander (and Rogue!) had plenty of power for highway merges and passes. It wasn't heart-flipping fast, but it was just right for this vehicle.
Another shared bit is actual gearshift. I like the operation of the shifter with the pull action of the lever, but I will say if you have petite hands, the actual size of the shift knob is a bit weird. It's literally bigger than my palm.
Finally, the infotainment guts are shared, as is the screen. So, navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay (but wired-in Android Auto) and general system functionality are basically the same.What's different?
Mitsubishi execs say there is no shared sheet metal with the Rogue. So, all the exterior lines and designs are different. Mitsubishi is well-known for its distinct grilles, and the 2022 Outlander's is the biggest and, well, I'll just say the most unique. It's definitely in your face, but I have to admit it started growing on me during my brief first look. I especially like the design detail that has a thin LED light surrounding the entire headlight unit.
The biggest difference is going to be this: the 2022 Outlander has a standard third row, and the Rogue doesn't offer one. Let's be clear, however, this is what I'd call a fake third row because even I (the person who's the size of an average 10 year old) can't fit back there comfortably. The third row is difficult to access and you'll only be able to fit actual legs by moving the second row forward, which then limits second-row leg room. While I'd call the Kia Sorento's third row "occasional" because it is actually kind of usable, the Outlander's is more of "emergency use only."
I was driving the top-tier SEL trim, and while it had leather seats, it didn't get the Nappa leather you'll find on the Rogue's Platinum trim. But, frankly, I didn't notice the lack. The Outlander interior design trends toward sporty in its top trim with metal accents and a bold two-tone color scheme, while the Rogue goes more toward luxury with muted colors and woodgrain accents.
Both the Rogue and Outlander have a configurable 12.3-inch digital cluster behind the steering wheel, and the graphics are clean and crisp on both. Nissan highlights its graphics in red, Mitsubishi in blue. But here was the true surprise for me: Mitsubishi's overall execution of this cluster is way better than Nissan's. The start-up graphic is cooler, and the drive mode graphics are beautifully illustrated. Nissan doesn't even do graphics for its drive modes.If I had to pick one?
This is a tough one question. I think both have excellent visibility out all the windows, though Nissan seems to do a slightly better job with the A-Pillar, and I had a great driving position as a petite person in both vehicles. Ride and handling is so similar, that's a wash in terms of preference.
So, really it comes down to style. And, while I really loved the new Rogue, the 2022 Outlander has a bit more panache - and I appreciate that. I like the bold exterior styling, and I really appreciate that it doesn't look like anything else out there - even if some are making comparisons to the Hyundai Palisade, I don't see it.
The real kicker for me, however, was that 12.3-inch display. I'm a sucker for cool graphics, and Outlander wins in that category hands down.The bottom line on the 2022 Outlander
As I've already admitted, I went into the first drive of the 2022 Outlander with low expectations - mostly because I've never particularly liked this vehicle. But I was completely won over with the excellent feel of the materials as well as the nimble ride and handling.
The graphics were just the icing on the cake.
For the first time in a long time I'm actually curious about Mitsubishi. Here's to hoping they can keep up the momentum.