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Driven: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT offers nimbler handling

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Mitsubishi redesigned their largest crossover SUV for 2014 with a more conservative route in design. Toning down the more aggressive and angular lines of the previous model, it also shed some 200 lbs. In our test drive today we sought to see if this translated to an improved driving experience and efficiency.

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Under the hood is a slightly re-tuned version of the venerable 3.0 liter MIVEC V6 engine which produces 224 horsepower and mated up to a six-speed automatic transmission. It has a good deal less power than most competitors, but the Outlander weighs 200-500 lbs less then they do however.

As to the design, the shapes are more rounded and subdued, except for a technically decidedly robotic looking grille treatment. There are super wide HID headlamps and tastefully designed wheels to spice up the look. The design is far from breaking new ground, safe and middle of the road.

The interior of our GT trim grade came with the top end $6,100 GT Touring Package which included leather seats, the Rockford Fosgate audio system with navigation, power sunroof, and power lift gate. The driver seat is power, but the passenger isn’t, surprising at this price.

The Rockford Fosgate audio system sounds great and really kicks the bass with the rear sub-woofer The steering wheel has magnesium paddle shifters which are a nice touch, better than plastic ones found in even more expensive vehicles.

Also included in this expensive package was radar cruise control and driver assistance features like forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning. Unfortunately these systems are set to default on when you start up and must be turned off every time you get in the Outlander which can be very annoying.

The cabin is very tastefully done with top quality switchgear and materials. The layout works well and is more than comfortable. Rear seat passengers enjoy a good deal of room as well as sliding and reclining seats.

The third row seat is indeed more a marketing device than a long term solution for large families. When up it has mere inches of leg room and its head rests are right up against the rear hatch which leads to safety questions. It folds flat however and allows for a generous cargo area when stowed.

A console mounted switch controls the settings of the S-All-Wheel-Control system which defaults on mild all-wheel drive at start up. When the Outlander is set in ECO Mode, the system is set for front-wheel drive to save fuel, but can automatically activate when needed.

In driving the engine provides adequate power and for 2014 has greater fuel efficiency than before. It’s rated at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, up from 25 mpg highway. In our week with the Outlander we achieved 23 mpg combined which is what the window sticker promises.

The ride is well controlled and steering is precise. While this chassis is long in tooth it still works well and handles both paved and unpaved roads with good poise. Because of its side it remains nimble and sharp in response and feels light on the road.

The handling of course is aided by a full independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link design at the rear. Steering is electronically assisted for 2014 with no significant loss in feel over the 2013 model.

The Outlander is an interesting choice in a sea of three-row crossover SUV’s which have grown larger and heavier, with thirstier engines. While some may like more room they offer, the smaller size gives nimbler handling, easier parking and better fuel economy.

As tested, our 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT with Touring Package came to a total price of $34,720. At this price some other brands offer more like a full panoramic roof, power passenger seating as well as both heated and ventilated seats. But, the fact this crossover SUV is a bit smaller and nimbler may actually attract some put off by the larger and more portly competition.

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