After a near-death experience Mitsubishi is now a believer

By Jim Prueter

(November 27, 2017) Pick up a copy of most any car buff magazine, or browse online auto reviews of the Mitsubishi Outlander, and you’ll be hard pressed to find much critics like about the Mitsubishi crossover. That’s understandable, since just a few short years ago the brand was practically dead, on the verge of pulling out of the U.S. market, and the company was doing little to improve or add to their product lineup.

Since that time, there’s been new optimism with Mitsubishi. There are six mostly new vehicles in the lineup and a seventh — the Eclipse Cross — that will debut at the 2017 L.A. Auto Show this month. Mitsubishi still faces a steep uphill climb and will never be as big as other Japanese auto manufacturers like Honda, Toyota or even Mazda, but believe they have products that are meeting a need.

To be sure, Outlander competes against excellent and popular competitors in its compact crossover utility vehicle class — Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and a host of others — and is generally ranked near the bottom of the list. I, however, have a bit different outlook on the Outlander and found it a much better vehicle than my journalist peers.

After a week long test drive in the upper SEL trim level, I found the Outlander to hit on many of the notes a compact crossover should, with several reasons to like it: It has a roomy interior with plenty of cargo space. It’s one of only three vehicles in the compact crossover class that offers three rows with seating for seven. It comes standard with most of the features a family vehicle should have, earns a Top Safety Pick + from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the highest possible overall 5 stars from the U.S. Government. All this and more at an attractive price , backed by a class best 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Unfortunately, the Outlander also has some shortcomings that keep it from being a truly outstanding crossover utility vehicle. Namely, it isn’t very exciting or interesting to drive with lethargic acceleration and fuel economy that falls below average for the class. Our SEL Outlander was powered by a 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The vehicle is slow off the line, laboring to accelerate quickly with excessive engine noise and an anemic transmission. Handling felt a bit clumsy, with slow steering response and ample body lean in corners.

While we didn’t get to drive the GT trim level, it is the only Outlander that’s powered by a 224-horsepower V-6 engine, rare for a compact crossover utility vehicle.

We didn’t get the opportunity to take our all-wheel drive test vehicle off-road but it’s controlled by a button on the dash where you can select one of four settings: AWC Eco, Normal, Snow and Lock.

Outlander got a thorough redo for the 2016 model year and most of the changes for 2018 are minor and relate to trim levels and features.

The Outlander has an attractive looking interior with nice materials with good build quality. There’s impressive legroom up front and for second row passengers. The third row is small and adults just won’t fit. And while second row seats slide fore and aft, kids will need to exercise some dexterity to climb into the third row. Our SEL model came with heated leather seats; the cushions were supportive but a bit firm. A tilt-telescoping steering wheel is standard.

The Outlander isn’t tech heavy like many brands, but it does come with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push button start, Bluetooth wireless FAST Key passive entry, a power rear liftgate and other convenience features. And the optional Touring Package ($3,000) adds forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam, power glass sunroof, multi-view camera system, heated steering wheel, and an upgraded 710w Rockford Fosgate® Premium audio system with nine speakers.

I have to admit, Outlander served my family and I well for the week, with room for passengers, gear and trouble free driving.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly vehicle you can take off road, an all-weather-capable three-row seat crossover, at a budget-friendly price, the Outlander should definitely be on your shopping list. Hefty discounts and factory rebates puts the well equipped SEL trim level at a price less than most competitors mid-grade model.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $23,795 - $32,095
Price as Tested:  $32,260
Seating: 7
Engine: 2.4-liter four cylinder
Horsepower: 166 hp
Transmission: CVT Automatic (continuously variable transmission)
Fuel Economy: 24-MPG City – 29-MGP Highway

Competes With
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Nissan Rogue
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Fab Features
Excellent value for a 3-row SUV
Spacious interior and cargo area
Best in class warranty