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Here's an SUV in need of more wow

This sturdy Mitsubishi Outlander is too vanilla to beat out the competition

Jeff Rundles //August 31, 2016//

Here's an SUV in need of more wow

This sturdy Mitsubishi Outlander is too vanilla to beat out the competition

Jeff Rundles //August 31, 2016//


Lately, I have been on a SUV run, having my driving hands on a few Lexuses (Lexi), the new Mazda CX-5 and the Hyundai Santa Fe. In the greater scheme of things, this Mitsubishi Outlander is a competitive entrant in the SUV/crossover market – I liked it better than the Mazda, and while it is no Lexus, it is so much less expensive that it would be a good choice for many people who just can’t swing another $20,000.

But I will say right off the bat that my initial enthusiasm for the Outlander was diminished because my very next vehicle was the Hyundai Santa Fe and there is just no comparison. The Santa Fe is flat-out the better vehicle, and while the Hyundai is a little more expensive similarly equipped, the price difference is so slight that I can’t imagine anyone test-driving them both who wouldn’t opt for the Santa Fe.

Having said that, however, I would insist that if one was in the market for a mid-size SUV and didn’t drive the Outlander they would be doing themselves a disservice. The Outlander is a very nice vehicle, and there are many appealing things about it. I should note that the Santa Fe starts at $30,800, while the Outlander at base begins at $22,995, so it is possible to save a considerable amount of money with the Outlander. But, I think I’d rather have a $34,000 Santa Fe than this bottom-line $33,095 Outlander.

For the record, the low-end base price on the Mazda CX-5 is $21,795, so I think if one were pinching pennies, the Outlander at base stacks up well with the competition. In the $20,000 range, the Outlander is going to beat out a lot of the competition.

My biggest issue with the Outlander was the power. Equipped with a smallish 2.4-liter 4-banger, this vehicle only sported 166 horsepower, and coupled with the CVT (continuously variable transmission), the thing that is noticed pretty much all the time is that the Outlander is sluggish. It’s got no speed off the line in the city, and it huffs and puffs mightily on the highway when a burst of speed is required.

The gas mileage is respectable – 24mpg city/29 mpg highway/26 combined – but, frankly, I found this powerplant a bit too small for this vehicle. On the upper-end Outlander – the GT S-AWC – they put in a 3.0-liter 6 with 224 hp and coupled it with a 6-speed Sportronic auto transmission, but it is apparently not available on the lower-end models – the SE, the SEL, and this SEL S-AWC – which is a shame. It needs more punch.

The S-AWC requires a bit of translation. It is Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive system and the acronym stands for Super All Wheel Control. Clever, I guess, but just because you call it “Super” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is so. I didn’t do any off-roading, nor was there any ice and snow during my August test drive, but the overall vehicle has a nice, well-built feel and I didn’t have any reason to believe that the AWD here wasn’t up to snuff.

Why anyone – especially in Colorado – would buy a vehicle of this type and not get AWD is beyond me (If you opt out of AWD, the Outlander is Front Wheel Drive).

Other than the power issue, I found the vehicle to be quite worthy. It is handsome inside and out, it handles well, it is very quiet, and there is plenty of room in both the front and the second-row seating (the third-row is, as it is in most 3rd-row-equipped SUVs, made for small people with short legs).

Here are a few things in my notes to recommend it:

  • A nice, comfortable ride
  • Very tall, or deep, cup holders that don’t jam large drinks against the console
  • A cool cubby behind the cup holders with a power outlet
  • In the console storage bin, which is large, another power outlet and an USB port
  • A nice, 6.1” touch screen, with rearview camera display
  • A wonderful sound system
  • A pretty normal sunroof
  • A 10-year/100,000 miles powertrain warranty

Another thing I liked was the Info bar that displays in the instrument panel next to the speedometer and the tach. It has a trip computer, local fuel prices (wherever you are), and an environmental readout for outside temperature and even elevation (my house in Denver, apparently, is less than a mile high, at 5,050 feet).

The Outlander SEL has a ton of nice standard features:

  • Leather seating
  • 8-way adjustable driver’s seat
  • FAST-Key entry with panic alarm
  • The 6.1-inch touchscreen display with rearview camera
  • Heated front seats
  • One touch start/stop
  • Black roof rails

The major option package on my test-drive model is the SEL Touring package, offered for $6,250, and including:

  • Navigation
  • Forward collision mitigation
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Auto headlight control
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Power remote liftgate
  • Power folding side mirrors
  • Windshield wiper deicer
  • Power glass sunroof
  • 710-Watt Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio system with 9 speakers
  • Sirius Radio and 3-month subscription

A word about the lane departure warning system: It is so annoying I had to turn it off (easy to do). Loud and obnoxious, it tells quite clearly that you have drifted out of your lane, but it’ll drive you nuts. On the plus side, it makes you use a turn signal because it doesn’t go off if you signal a lane change or make a turn.

The base price on this SEL S-AWC model of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is $26,995, and when you add in the touring package and the $850 destination charge, the bottom line if $33,095. It’s a nice vehicle, but as I said, personally I would opt for an Outlander with less stuff and save the money (same engine). And I can only imagine that when you get to the engine that makes sense in the GT S-AWC trim package, the Outlander gets much less competitive.

Clearly, if this vehicle is any indication, Mitsubishi knows how to make solid, even handsome vehicles, but as such an off-brand, as it were, I need more of a wow factor – i.e. much lower price, much more engine, more innovative stuff – to take the plunge over such competition as Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan or Honda.