The Mitsubishi Outlander is a stylish crossover SUV that seats five. A compact third row is available to allow seven, but the two flip-up seats are as small as they come and suitable only for small children for short periods of time.
The 2011 Outlander models offer improved fuel economy both from the 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the 3.0-liter V6. The current-generation version was launched as a 2007 model and it was updated with fresh styling for 2010.
The 2011 Outlander ES and SE are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers an EPA-estimated 23/28 mpg City/Highway on Regular gas, an improvement of 2 miles per gallon over the 2010 Outlander. With four-wheel drive, the 2011 Outlander SE gets 22/27 mpg. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine generates 168 horsepower and benefits from a fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
The 2011 Outlander XLS and GT models are equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 that delivers power and smoothness at high speeds. The V6 is mated to a sharp 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The 2011 Outlander XLS 2WD gets an EPA-estimated 20/26 mpg, a slight improvement over 2010. The 2011 Outlander GT S-AWC is rated 19/25 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended for the V6.
The Outlander GT comes with Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC, developed for the Lancer Evolution, which provides super control and traction, as well as secure handling in corners.
Stylistically, the Outlander has presence. The styling was redesigned for 2010 to look more like the Lancer and Evolution. It's got that face now, so at least you know what it is. No longer lost in the midsize SUV crowd.
The cabin features a handsome and functional dashboard and instrument panel. The bolstered seats fit just right, the 60/40 second row tumbles forward to create 72.6 cubic feet of cargo space. With heating and air conditioning vents in the rear, bottle holders in the door pockets, and sliding rear seats, passengers will be comfortable.
The Mitsubishi Outlander fits into the rest of the lineup with that nose. Mitsubishi calls a jet fighter front grille, and yeah you can see it. Others call it a fish face, and yep, there's the grouper. Whatever. We think it looks good. It pushes the limits of how much in-your-face we can stand, but pushing the limits is what good design does. The inward-leaning angular headlamps complement the Outlander's face. In the most popular Outlander SE model, there's a body-colored stripe through the cavernous black mouth. On the Outlander GT it's blacked-out, giving that jet fighter look.
It was the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor SUV that started the big edgy fender flares thing. It's hard to tell if the Overland tones it down or it's just that we're used to them now. Its wheelwell flares don't look so big, as the edges have been nicely smoothened. The seven-spoke wheels on our GT could have been worse but have missed an opportunity. Not sure if the chrome side sill extensions could have been worse.
There are character lines above those side sills, more like a long dent in the doors about 8 inches above the rocker panels. Thank you for body-colored door handles, says the Outlander, as it clings to stylishness.
The chrome trim around the windows is odd, discontinued, detracting from any flow to the lines, but turning the third window from a trapezoid into an upside-down triangle. The rest of the window panels and the B-pillar and C-pillar are blacked out.
There's lots of glass from the rear, and no roof spoiler, just a nice wedge that holds the brake light. Your standard wide chrome strip, with your non-standard Mitsubishi emblem. The jeweled clear LED taillamps look grayish. There's a twin pipe coming out one side, in the V6 models.
2011 Outlander GT models get a GT badge and an S-AWC decal on the rear.
We'll get the compact third-row seat out of the way first, it won't take long. It's tiny and flips up out of a hole. Figure two kids no older than 9, and not for long. When Mitsubishi says luxury seven-passenger, it's a stretch. We call it a five-seater with emergency seating for two extra little ones.
The five-seat Outlander ES and Outlander SE models offer storage space under the cargo floor, in that space that the third-row seat folds into. They also offer nearly 3 inches more legroom in the rear seat, a good 39.6 inches, thanks to not having that compact third-row seat.
The second row seats three and is split 60/40, which fold and tumble for more cargo space. You pull the nylon loop and stand back, as the seatback flops down and carries the seat bottom on its roll, up against the front seatbacks for extra cargo room, an impressive total of 72.6 cubic feet. It takes some muscle to flop them back, especially the 60 side, maybe more muscle than some otherwise above-average kids might have. On the XLS and GT, the second-row seats slide 3.3 inches, and that's useful.
Two big cubby holes in the way back, and nice door pockets with bottle holders in the rear. Only one standard seatback pocket (driver side optional), but standard heating/air conditioning ducts in the rear.
In back, there's the usual liftgate but then a 10-inch-tall tailgate that lowers and flattens the entry. It's like a miniature version of a tailgate on a pickup track. It's great for loading groceries because the stretch into the cargo area isn't far. This flap-fold tailgate, as it's called, is strong, it'll support a 440-pound golf bag. Or 10 44-pound watermelons. Or two 220-pound football fans at a tailgate party.
The doors sound light, we won't say tinny, but we will say less solid than many others. Maybe it's because the roof is aluminum, lowering the center of gravity. Headroom and rear visibility are both very good. However, rear visibility is covered by two odd headrests shaped like platypus bills rising from the third-row seat when it's raised.
On the full-tilt Outlander GT, especially with optional navigation on a big screen and perforated leather, you've got a very stylish interior. Between the clean speedometer and tachometer there are some colored digital gauges, and a three-instrument package just forward of the shift lever. The aluminum pedals seem to be trying too hard, with their exclusive cutout design.
We put quite a few rough miles on our Outlander in one day, and the interior was pretty much flawless, not just the comfort of the great seats, but the function of the panel. The dashboard is broad and bold, stitched synthetic leather, with a center split that swoops with the suggestion of a gullwing. It looks nice.
The Mitsubishi Outlander with the V6 engine is noticeably smooth and steady at high speeds, which it negotiates with little effort. It's quiet at 80 miles per hour with the windows up; tire noise is kept under the car. It feels almost long-legged, because the engine loses some of its confidence, and gains some harshness, under hard acceleration up to, say, 60 mph. But maybe the important thing is that the acceleration is actively there when you need it. Definitely not lacking with your foot down.
Fuel economy for the Outlander XLS 2WD is an EPA-estimated 20/26 mpg. The Outlander GT S-AWC is rated 19/25 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended for the V6 but not required. Mitsubishi builds good engines and the SOHC V6 with MIVEC electronic valve timing produces 230 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque at 3750 rpm.
The Outlander ES and SE models come with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which gets an EPA-rated 23/28 mpg. Regular unleaded is the recommended fuel. Outlander SE 4WD gets 22/27 mpg.
We like this engine and suggest that the best Outlander value might be the Outlander SE 4WD with the CVT with the 6-step manual mode. The dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine, with the MIVEC electronic valve timing, same system as the V6, makes 168 horsepower, good enough to keep up on the freeway.
The manually switched 4WD system on the Outlander SE 4WD, although less versatile than the automatic S-AWC system of the V6-powered Outlander GT, might get you up that snowy hill just as well. The Outlander GT costs nearly $10,000 more than while getting 4 mpg less on premium fuel. It doesn't beat the Outlander SE by that amount, unless you simply must have that luxury.
Conversely, the S-AWC all-wheel-drive system in the Outlander GT uses an Active Front Differential and electronically controlled center differential. One method Mitsubishi uses to test this system is to drive up a hill with the left wheels on pavement and right wheels on ice. The system is not fooled, it adjusts. We tested the S-AWC Super All-Wheel Control on a sand dune, and our Outlander GT eagerly blasted to the top. There's a dial on the console with three positions: Tarmac, Snow and Lock.
Another advanced feature in the GT is called Idle Neutral Logic, which puts the transmission into neutral when the vehicle comes to a stop, using less fuel at a redlight. The driver never feels it.
We found ride quality in the Outlander okay, not harsh but not like silk. Road jiggles and vibrations can be felt in the wheels. They seem to dance, a million tiny steps.
However, we sprinted through one 30-minute section of mountain curves, using the throttle, brakes and 6-speed Sportronic transmission hard. We can report that the Outlander GT accepts being driven inappropriately, without trying to buck you off at every turn. If it was Super All-Wheel Control at work, the intervention was undetectable. We're not saying it hugged the road and loved it, just that it didn't get squirrelly. But it's still pretty darn good for an SUV like this to perform like that.
The Mitsubishi Outlander stands out from the SUV crowd with its looks. The 2.4-liter I4 engine is proven to work, while a 3.0-liter V6 offers smooth speed. The standard Outlander offers plenty of cargo capacity, low-priced 4WD option, all the right safety stuff. Gives good value. The Outlander GT sports the latest in all-wheel-drive technology, benefitting from Lancer Evolution.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Outlander models near Palm Springs, California.