Mitsubishi Outlander — Good value proposition

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Sales of Mitsubishi's Outlander were up 46 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. The success of Mitsubishi's largest vehicle in North America can be attributed to a considerably refreshed 2016 edition that encompasses more than 100 improvements including drivetrain, structural rigidity, ride quality, and interior noise abatement. Mitsubishi's goal was to make the Outlander, which had its last full remake in 2014, more competitive against the big guys in the segment such as Honda, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai.

Styling tweaks were also part of the Outlander freshening highlighted by a new "Dynamic Shield" grille, a design that has become popular with automakers. In addition to the new front end — love it or hate it — the new Outlander gets redesigned front fenders, 18-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, LED position lights, color-keyed front and rear bumpers with chrome accent, color-keyed exterior door handles, and a new rear fascia.

Outlander is a seven-passenger large compact crossover that comes with two engine choices — a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine generating 166 horsepower and a 162 pound-feet of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and a 3.0-liter V-6 making 224 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque mated to a standard six-speed automatic. We aren't fans of the CVT, but it seems to work well in the Outlander. Although performance is on the south side of adequate, we feel most people in the market for a compact crossover will find it acceptable with either engine.

The biggest upside to the 4-cylinder/CVT combo is its 31 mpg highway mileage rating. Surprisingly, the V6, despite an additional 60 horsepower, doesn't feel that much better, but if you opt for the heavier all-wheel drive option and regularly haul big loads (four and five passengers and cargo) we recommend the bigger engine, although it is available only on the more pricey top GT trim.

Fuel economy for the 4-cylinder and V-6 are average for their class. The four-cylinder is rated at 25 mpg city, 31 highway and 27 combined. Opt for all-wheel drive and the numbers drop slightly to 24/29/26. The V-6 is rated at 20/27/23. If you plan on towing a boat or jet skis, you will need to move up the bigger engine, which is rated at 3,500 pounds. The four-cylinder carries a 1,500 pound tow limit.

By driving 2015 and 2016 models back-to-back, we noticed first hand some of the improvements Mitsubishi made. Handling is improved — a trait obviously noticeable — due in part to platform reinforcements that increases rigidity, and retuned shocks. Steering feel also seems slightly better perhaps due to new electric power steering.

Mitsubishi has accomplished its goal of creating a quieter cabin, an attribute that gives any vehicle a more upscale feel. Even the door-closing sound has a more quality "thunk" to it due to the use of different seals and hardware. Higher quality materials are used on the interior with more soft touch features. Updated gauges, a restyled steering wheel, a new Mitsubishi Multi Communication System navigation and display audio system, improved seating surfaces and headliner, and a redesigned folding rear seat for easier operation are all part of the improvement equation.

All Outlanders feature three rows of seats with a generous cargo area measuring 63.3 cubic feet, but with the third row in place there's a rather meager 10.3 cubic feet of grocery hauling space. At the same time, second-row seat legroom is good, and the seats will slide fore and aft and recline for long-distance comfort. Be advised the third row is strictly for children — small children.

Mitsubishi offers most of the safety equipment now available on comparably priced vehicles. Optional safety includes forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Standard features are many including seven airbags, antilock braking with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, hill start assist, active stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Strangely absent from the list is blind spot monitoring. Officials said it was coming sometime in 2016.

The Outlander with its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty comes in four trim levels — base ES, SE, SEL and GT — starting at $23,845 including destination charge and climbing to $31,845 for a GT with all-wheel drive. Standard equipment across the lineup includes 18-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and USB port.

Our top trim GT V-6 test vehicle came with touchscreen navigation; advanced safety technologies including our favorite, adaptive cruise control; LED headlights and sliver roof rails for $35,195.

We found the new Outlander a likable crossover and we think the refreshed 2016 model is good enough to carve out a sizable niche.

Base price: $23,845; as driven, $35,195
Engine: 3.0-liter V6
Horsepower: 224 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 215 foot-pounds @ 3,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 184.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,593 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 10.3 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 61 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 27 highway, 20 city, 23 combined
0-60: 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson

The Good
• Generous standard features
• Advanced safety features available
• Well done interior

The Bad
• Cramped third row

The Ugly
• Some desirable features only available on top trim level