2016 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER

img_1624MITSUBISHI FRESHENS ITS FLAGSHIP

The Outlander is the lowest priced SUV with seating for seven in America. It also happens to be Mitsubishi’s flagship model in the U.S. For 2016, it gets fresh exterior styling, minor interior upgrades and a new mid-grade model to fill a gap in the lineup.

Mitsubishi designers decided to go with the “big mouth” grille this year. They call their version the “Dynamic Shield.” It did not get rave reviews from those who commented on the car. Some said the lower part of the grille looked unfinished. However, the Outlander, when viewed in profile, garnered praise for its clean design and sporty alloy wheels.

A bright and airy interior carries over, for the most part, from last year. The dash is straightforward in appearance, with a touchscreen in the center (most models) and audio and climate controls beneath it. For those ordering navigation, Mitsubishi revamped the interface making it more user-friendly this year. Piano-black trim on the center control panel and steering wheel adds a classy touch, but I wish the steering wheel had more grip—the leather wrap feels slick.

img_1669The Outlander’s claim to fame is that it is the only midsize SUV with standard seating for seven. Seats up front are chair-like, and provide a great view of the road. Second-row passengers have good head- and legroom, and can slide their seats fore and aft more than six-inches. The third row is really cramped, and suitable only for small people. These folks have to rely on the kindness of the second row passengers to give them any legroom at all.

As for cargo storage, there is only room for grocery bags in the rear if all the seats are being used. However, with the third row down, there is a decent 34.5 cu-ft, which is about average in this class. That number jumps to 63.3 cubes with the second row seats folded down as well. The job of folding the second row seats flat got easier this year—the headrests no longer have to be removed.

The Outlander comes in four levels of trim, ES, SE, SEL and GT. The entry level ES has features like Bluetooth, a six-speaker sound system and voice command for phone and audio. The more popular SE adds keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats and a rearview camera. The new SEL model comes with leather and a power driver’s seat. However, SEL buyers can order optional luxury features, such a Rockford Fosgate audio system, and safety items, like forward collision warning and braking. My test car, a GT, carried all the options on the SEL as standard, and added a more powerful engine and all-wheel drive.

img_1635Most models, ES, SE and SEL, are powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 166 horsepower. It’s teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This powertrain will strain hauling a fully loaded Outlander up a hill. However for light duty, it’s okay. The GT gets a 3.0-liter V-6 with 224 hp. mated to a six-speed automatic. This combo is quick off the line, and has decent pulling power. Furthermore, the GT comes with paddle shifters, which enable the driver to manually select gears for more control. Gas mileage in combined city/hwy driving is 27-mpg for the four-banger, and 23 for the V-6.

Out on the road, the Outlander’s ride and handling do not match up well with the top rated SUVs in its class. The suspension is not buttoned down well enough to keep the Outlander from bounding up and down, and rocking from side to side. Additionally, the steering is vague, and conveys very little feel of the road. As a result, the ride quality on secondary roads can be uncomfortable. However, if you take the Outlander out on smooth freeways, it sails along blissfully, with only a modest amount of road noise.

One of the appeals of the Outlander is its low starting price. The base ES begins at $23,890. The new SEL should sell well at $25,890. However, the GT gets pricey at $31,890. My GT test car, with the Touring package that included navigation and forward collision mitigation, had a suggested retail price of $35,240.

 

SNAPSHOT REVIEW

Freshened Styling

Tight Seating For Seven

Available Safety Features

Sub-Par Handling and Ride

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