Whether it is sports, politicians, or cars, I like rooting for the underdog. And, when it comes to cars, it is hard to find a bigger automotive underdog than Mitsubishi. For that reason I really wanted to like its flagship crossover, the Outlander.
As it turns out, that was a challenge. The Outlander is not a terrible vehicle; it even has likable qualities. However, in the modern world of high-tech crossovers, Mitsubishi’s take on the popular CUV already feels dated.
An outlandish face
One thing that the Outlander absolutely has going for it is it’s styling. The exterior’s smooth lines, cutting-edge lighting design, and circuit board-inspired grille make the Mitsubishi standout.
The Outlander seems to grip and handle fairly well for a car of its size.
While the Outlander’s shape is fairly typical, it combines a number of cleverly chosen features to make it distinctive. The split grill, with its circuit board design, looks reminiscent of those placed on electric vehicles. The rear lights use a wrap-around design that helps give the otherwise smooth lines dimension and definition.
The only other crossovers in the segment that have anything close to the visual presence of the Outlander are the Nissan Rogue and Kia Sorrento. The styling may be a bit polarizing, but it definitely makes a case for itself in the crowded marketplace.
Big box bargain
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the car’s interior. In many ways, the car reminds me of a store brand product. Sure, that Sorny TV might have all the same features as the brand-name item, but it looks and feels cheaper.
So, too, the Mitsubishi. The loaded GT boasts all the bells and whistles: heated leather seats, a banging stereo, navigation, lane departure warning … the works. Unfortunately, all of these components feel as if they were grabbed from the spare parts bin.
The interior is full of switches and trim pieces that look like they originated on a different car, or simply look old. The result is that, despite a wide array of stuff, the sensation of riding in the Outlander is not a luxurious one.
The people experiencing the least luxurious ride will be those unfortunate souls trapped in the third row. The Outlander is a seven-seater, in the same way that my six-foot-three-inch frame qualifies me to play point guard in the NBA. It is technically a true statement, but one that bears little resemblance to reality.
The interior does at least seem to have been assembled properly, though. My press demonstrator had clocked nearly 10,000 miles by the time it arrived on my doorstep, far more than is typical. Despite the battering, it had no doubt received at the hands of some of the world’s lowest scum, automotive journalists, the Outlander remained pristine. This is a good sign that the Outlander will withstand the test of children, dogs, drunken in-laws, and time.
A blast from the past
Modern crossovers are based on cars; they have car steering, car suspension, car chassis. In short, they drive like cars … just tall ones. The Outlander has a decidedly more old-school truck-like feel.
The exterior’s smooth lines, cutting-edge lighting design, and circuit board-inspired grille make the Mitsubishi standout.
Two engines, one of which is more car like, power the Outlander: a four-cylinder and, as with my GT press demonstrator, a 3.0-Liter V6. This engine produces 224 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to get around with, even if it isn’t exactly thrilling.
The really truck-like part of the experience comes in the form of the ride and handling. The steering is heavy and fairly direct, but almost completely numb — a familiar sensation to anyone who drove a pickup or SUV from the 1990s. The ride, too, lacks refinement. On bumpy or rutted roads, the Outlander’s suspension seems to redirect blows rather than absorb them.
The experience is rugged, but perhaps a bit inappropriate for the moms and dads who actually shop for crossovers. I can at least say that the Outlander seems to grip and handle fairly well for a car of its size. This is largely courtesy of the advanced all-wheel drive system that Mitsubishi has chosen to fit to the Outlander.
The Outlander may feel old, but it does also have some of the old Mitsubishi virtues: ruggedness, reliability, and value. This is, in fact, the best argument for the Outlander: its combination of ruggedness and value.
A base Outlander starts at $24,000 and can be had fully loaded for just under $35,000. While this price range contains a wide range of crossovers, it is impossible to find a similarly equipped vehicle for less.
The problem is that there are other options that are close. Both the Nissan Rogue and Murano offer stylish designs as well as class leading tech, and the Subaru Forester and Outback both offer great driving dynamics and excellent all-wheel drive. In a world inhabited by such strong crossovers, it is hard to see where the Outlander fits in.
- Refreshing exterior styling
- Good value
- Excellent stereo
- Durable interior
- Rough ride
- Dated interior styling
- Unusable third row seating