SOME HITS, SOME MISSES
It’s no secret that Mitsubishi has been struggling here in America. While the Japanese automaker sells over 1,000,000 vehicles worldwide annually, their U.S. sales have been declining, less than 60,000 cars here last year. But Mitsubishi plans to pump up sales by focusing on crossovers. Enter the 2014 Outlander SUV.
The Outlander has new sheet metal this year, which is a total departure from last year’s model. Instead of the blunt, open-mouthed grille, the designers have opted for a more subtle, yet still attractive, look. One techie said the new grille resembled a computer circuit board. In profile, subtlety carries over with just one upsweeping character line on each flank.
Inside the understated theme continues. The cabin has a clean, uncluttered look. The gauges and center control panel are nicely integrated into one unit, and canted slightly toward the driver. Controls are easy to find, and buttons are clearly marked. A seven-inch screen to manage infotainment (part of the Touring package) is intuitive.
The Outlander comes with three rows of seats, and can theoretically carry seven passengers. Seats up front are firm—Mercedes-like in that regard. You feel like you are sitting on them, rather than in them. The second row seats slide fore and aft up to six inches, and provide decent head- and legroom overall, but tall people might feel squeezed if the Outlander is equipped with the optional sunroof. The third row is very tight, and only suitable for short rides in a pinch. Storage space in the rear is sub-par at just 10.3 cu.-ft. Mitsubishi upgraded the materials in the Outlander for 2014. There is more soft-touch fabric, but it is still not on a level with the best crossovers in its class.
The Outlander is available with two different powertrains. The first is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 166 horsepower. It’s teamed with a continuously variable (automatic) transmission (CVT). The second one is a three-liter V-6 that pumps out 224 horses, and is mated to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel and all-wheel drive setups are available. Thanks to a 200-lb reduction in body weight and improved aerodynamics, the Outlander gets better than average gas mileage—26-27 mpg for the four-banger and 23 mpg for the V-6.
Buyers have three models to choose from when selecting an Outlander, ES, SE and GT. The SE comes only with the four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive. It is modestly equipped with power windows/doors/ mirrors, AC and a six-speaker sound system. The SE adds features like keyless entry/start, voice command for audio/phone and a rearview camera. The GT tops the list with the V-6 engine, all-wheel drive and satellite radio as standard.
Beyond that, there’s an optional Technology package, which should appeal to safety conscious buyers. It provides adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and collision warning and mitigation. This last feature will actually hit the brakes for you to minimize an unavoidable crash. Other options, like a power liftgate, leather seats and surround-sound audio, are available in a Premium package
The 2014 Outlander is not as engaging to drive as its predecessor, yet pleasant enoughon the road. New electric power steering is quick, but does not provide a lot of feedback to the driver. And the V-6 engine in my test car seemed to run out of steam climbing grades. Yet, the handling was predictable, and body-lean well-controlled in corners. The ride quality was very respectable, and on a par with others in its class. Noise suppression in the cabin was better than average.
One strong selling point for the Outlander is its price. The base ES sells for $23,800. The SE (likely to be the most popular version) goes for $24,620, and the GT will set you back $28,620. My test car, a GT with a Premium/Touring package, had an MSRP of $34,720.
Good Gas Mileage
High-Tech Safety Options