A Sum of All That’s Right & Wrong with Mitsubishi
With more than a dozen compact crossover SUVs on the market like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4, Mitsubishi’s seven-seat Outlander often gets overlooked. However, with unique styling, a choice of a four- or six-cylinder engine, the ability to tow and one of the least expensive three-row vehicles on the market—starting at less than $24,000—it deserves to be on your shopping list.
Mitsubishi means different things to different people. For one group, it means the competition-bred Lancer Evolution, the racing version of which captured three World Rally Car championships.
For another, it stands for utilitarian off-roaders whose modified versions won the Dakar Rally when it was still run in Africa.
Then there’s the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander, in some ways a combination of all and none of the above, all at the same time. It’s a compromise vehicle and a jack of all trades. If any car sums up the whole of what Mitsubishi is about in 2017, it is the Outlander.
Straddling the line between compact and midsize, the Outlander’s pricing and its 105.1-inch wheelbase put it in the former class, while the crossover’s standard third-row seat and 184.8-inch overall length would seem to cast its lot with the latter.
Available in front- or all-wheel drive, the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is offered in ES, SE, and SEL trim levels, all with four-cylinder engines. The top-end GT version is all-wheel drive only powered by a V-6.
The 2.4-liter four cylinder has an EPA estimate of 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. With all-wheel drive, these numbers drop slightly to 24 in the city and 29 on the highway. The V-6 engine gets 20/27 mpg city/highway. These estimates are average for the class.
Significantly refreshed last year, the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander adds a new center console, an electrically actuated parking brake on all-wheel-drive SE, SEL, and GT models; a new touchscreen infotainment system that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a standard rearview camera.
A Peek Under the Hood
The aluminum block 2.4-liter four cylinder produces 166 horsepower and 162 pounds-feet (lb-ft) of torque connected to only a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The GT’s 3.0-liter V-6 output is 224 ponies and 215 lb-ft of torque. A standard Eco mode switch employs energy saving measures. These include sensors on all-wheel drive models that switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive when necessary to ensure the car gets the best fuel economy and the lowest emissions.
An important element of the Outlander is the S-AWC system, an acronym for Super All Wheel Control. Using a button by the gear selector, the driver can control all four wheels from AWD Lock and AWD Auto, giving more control when encountering slippery stuff like snow or needing traction when off the beaten path.
The chassis is made up of MacPherson struts at the front and multi-links at the back. The struts have new top mounts and are connected to a new subframe, while at the rear the links have been redesigned for greater wheel travel and less unsprung mass. Both changes, says Mitsubishi, contribute to enhanced ride quality.
With the base four-cylinder engine, the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander has a 1,500-pound towing capacity, enough for one Jet Ski, but you might have trouble with two. The Outlander’s GT trim has a 3,500-pound towing capacity, which is enough to haul a small boat or a trailer.
Looks Like A Conventional SUV
Given Mitsubishi’s SUV heritage, it’s no surprise it still clearly believes in the concept of a big-boned, high-sided and robust looking Outlander. The automaker debuted a heavily revised Outlander for the 2016 model year with a new grille featuring a large three-diamond logo.
Despite using the same Lancer-based underpinnings, the revision was given a more curvaceous design in tune with a new design direction called “Dynamic Shield” that will be the basis for future vehicles in different segments. There’s simple chrome detailing on the grille, window line and across the rear, where there’s a neat light cluster that stretches across the tailgate. The Outlander shows off its premium pretensions with stylish two-tone 18-inch wheels and LED lighting signature. It’s a sharp looking crossover that looks bigger than it drives.
On the inside, it’s well screwed-together, but is rather plain compared to the modern, minimalist designs of rival’s interiors. The clean design is attractive, and there are high-quality, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Controls are easy to use, and new dark bamboo-like accents on the dash and doors give the interior a more premium feel.
The instruments and controls lean toward the driver to create a cockpit-like feel; a simple center stack houses a seven-inch high-definition color touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, part of the optional SEL Touring Package (a 6.1-in screen is standard).
Perhaps the best part of the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander interior are the front two seats. They’re comfortable, well-shaped and well-bolstered. Front seat occupants will think they are in a larger crossover, while those in the second row will find seats that are especially spacious, with plenty of head- and legroom for taller passengers. But like all compact SUVs, three adults is one too many in that row.
Outlander is one of the only compact SUVs that offers third-row seating, but adults shouldn’t get too excited about it. The third row’s two seats are extremely cramped, making them a spot that only children will love. Yet, getting back there, whether for access to that seating, or maximizing cargo room, is as simple as 1-2-3.
Behind the third row is 10.3 cubic feet of cargo room, enough for a grocery run. However, once you fold down the third-row seats, there’s 34.2 cubic feet, which is actually above average for the class. Fold both the second- and third-row seats down, and there’s 63.3 cubic feet to work with.
While the Outlander offers an array of features, many of them are only available in the upper trims. Standard features on the base ES model include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 6.1-inch touch screen, a rearview camera, HD Radio, Bluetooth and remote keyless entry. However, features like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and push-button start, require moving up to higher trims.
Driving the 2017 Outlander
The first thing I noticed when behind the steering wheel was the very comfortable seat, it was akin to the Lexus RX crossover. Our SEL test vehicle with all-wheel drive posted an MSRP of $27,490, a Goldilocks price of just right. Standard features included the expected power features, heated leather front seats, cruise control, dual zone climate control and a seven-inch display that included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A Premium Package added a 710-watt Rockford audio system, a sunroof and power liftgate along with blind spot warning and lane change assist. Also added was LED foglights which brought the total to $30,770, including $895 destination charges.
My take on the base 166 horsepower four-cylinder is that it was not particularily inspiring, although the same could be said for most base engines in this class. But it gets things moving, and once they are, it’s a pleasant affair. While not exactly engaging, handling was predictable, and the Outlander was generally an easy car to drive—it was secure around turns, the steering was nicely weighted and reasonably accurate, and the brakes were strong.
Increased insulation throughout the cabin greatly reduced vibrations and harsh outside noises from the road and wind, making for an enjoyably quiet ride. Mitsubishi’s softly suspended chassis delivered a superbly comfortable ride at cruising speeds, as road irregularities were soaked up with aplomb.
Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel-drive system has always performed great in light off-road situations and I found that to still be the case. A jaunt on one of my favorite off-road trails was taken with ease, and the 8.5-inch ground clearance was quite welcome.
My only Outlander demerit was the placement of the gear selector. It was positioned too far back and didn’t lay easy for my hand, though I probably could adapt if I owned it.
The Outlander’s fuel economy isn’t sterling, but is more than acceptable. With 277 miles on the odometer, combined fuel economy was 28.3 mpg, slightly more than the EPA estimate.
In the Marketplace
The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander’s marketplace is very, very crowded, and every automaker has an offering, including luxury makes. The top-selling Nissan Rogue has the option of three rows and a nice interior, but a dull drivetrain. Honda’s all-new 2017 CR-V has extremely good build, reliability, cargo space and resale values, but only has two rows of seating. Toyota’s always present RAV4 is a strong contender if you’re cool with so-so four-cylinder power and two rows of seats. And, if you are looking for a small crossover that has power and crisp handling, Mazda’s CX-5 and Ford’s Escape require a test drive even though both only have two rows of seats. Both the Rogue and RAV4 also have hybrid versions that boost the fuel economy solidly into the mid-30s, even with all-wheel-drive.
In addition to having standard three-row seating, the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander has another ace up its sleeve—the warranty. It comes with a 10-year, 100,000-mile unlimited warranty.
For drivers who want a vehicle that’s a little different than the other crossovers on their block and can keep on traveling when the pavement ends, the Outlander is a fully competitive crossover with keen pricing. Let the test drive be your guide.
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