Mitsubishi Outlander jumps on the blandwagon
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander is a vehicle that tries very hard to not be just another compact crossover SUV. Just check out that odd bit of black and silver plastic above the front grille.
Or consider that, despite its 183.3-inch length, the Outlander has three rows, whereas most competitors have two. While this might be a salient selling feature, in practice, it reduces legroom in the second row and diminishes cargo volume to a Lilliputian 10.3 cubic feet when in use.
But give them points for trying. Besides, the second row has a comfortably high seating position, even if headroom is tight. The front seats are the roomiest, although they are relatively flat and lack support.
As it turns out, Mitsubishi's attempt at cramming three rows into a space better suited for two is its most unusual feature. The rest of the vehicle is unexceptional.
The Outlander's cabin is better than past Mitsubishi products, with a padded instrument panel and attractive piano black or wood trim. But its design doesn't particularly stand out.
That said, the 7-inch touch screen, part of an optional Touring Package, is lined on either side with an array of convenient, if small, buttons. A tuning knob for the radio is welcome, as are the clean, easy-to-read graphics on the screen.
The system's phone interface is poor, however. When in use, all screen information, including the clock, disappears. It just reads "telephone." It doesn't list to whom you're talking, or the phone number. Even worse, the system doesn't allow you to use other phone features while driving. Instead, you must use voice commands. Since the system never accurately understood my voice, I couldn't use the phone in the car.
There are three Outlander trim levels: ES, SE and GT. Base ES models and mid-level SE come with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive, which Mitsubishi – for some unknown reason – calls "Super-All Wheel Control," is offered on the SE and is standard on the top-of-the-line GT.
ES and SE models are equipped with a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter single-overhead cam four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. GT models get a 224-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder uses regular unleaded; the V-6 requires premium.
Mitsubishi sent an all-wheel-drive SE with the Touring Package, which adds lane-departure warning, forward-collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, power glass sunroof, leather seating surfaces, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, satellite radio, power driver's seat, fake wood trim, power tailgate, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
That's a lot of gear, most of which I really appreciated. The audio system furnished great sound, the automatic tailgate and rain-sensing wipers were handy. And the safety systems were appreciated, although the lane-departure warning sounded every time I clipped an apex while cornering. But turning it off, or, for that matter, resetting the trip computer, meant leaning around the steering wheel to hit the buttons buried on the left side of the instrument panel.
More annoying: the parking brake that's on the right side of the center console, rather than the left.
As for this vehicle's performance, it was, like the rest of the vehicle, rather ordinary.
The four-cylinder engine's power is adequate at best, furnishing just enough acceleration to prevent other motorists from getting impatient. It's aggravated by an Eco mode that slows performance even further. And flogging the engine only makes it moan louder, as the transmission sluggishly responds to your request for more power. Add road and tire noise, and you have a rather noisy cabin.
Its ride is firm and body motions are well-controlled, but the Outlander's overall manner isn't particularly athletic. Whatever nimbleness it possesses comes from its size.
That said, if things go wrong, rest assured this vehicle is safe. It has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest safety award.
While there's nothing terribly wrong with the Outlander, there's nothing to recommend it over its many similarly priced competitors. It's just another unexceptional consumer product.
2014 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER:
–Engine: 2.4-liter SOHC four-cylinder
–Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
–Length: 183.3 inches
–Weight: 3,461 pounds
–Cargo space: 10.3-63.3 cubic feet
–EPA rating (city/highway): 24/29 mpg
–Fuel consumption: 27.5 mpg
–Fuel type: Regular
–Base price, base model, excluding destination charge: $22,995
–Base price, test model, excluding destination charge: $25,795
–As tested: $32,720
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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