Good News! An all-new redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander coming this fall, but until then the outgoing 2013 model receives enhancements to the standard equipment list. Heated side-view mirrors, automatic climate control, satellite radio, heated front seats, and FUSE Hands-Free Link System, is now available depending on the trim level.
With the debut of the all-new 2014 Outlander also follows Mitsubishi’s second electric vehicle model for the US market. However this time around it will be a PHEV instead of a pure EV like the egg-shaped Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The Outlander PHEV is rumored to achieve an astonishing battery-only range. Mitsubishi admits that it will be the company’s most important model in decades, with the future of the brand in the States riding on its success.
The Outlander is Mitsubishi's entry in the hotly contested compact SUV market, which includes the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav 4, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage. For that comparison the 5-passenger Outlander Sport comes closer to apples-to-apples. Our tester, a slightly more elongated Outlander (sans the ‘Sport’ name extension) is more apt to compete with mid-size SUV crossovers, especially when factoring in its expanded seating capabilty.
With the demise of the mid-size Mitsubishi Endeavor in MY 2011, the Outlander now serves as Mitsubishi's only Ute capable of carrying up to seven passengers. But the ability to carry two extra life forms is relative and dependent on physical size. Still you have to give the Outlander kudos as being the only model in its segment to offer expended seating since the Suzuki GL-7 is now a faded memory.
Mitsubishi must have recognized the need for a third row seat and wisely surmised that it only needed to be usable to young munchkins for short hauls. It’s amazing though how much room is still left behind for storing small parcels. With this compact stowable seat erect, the dual headrests can be popped off their plastic fasteners (attached to the seatback) and placed in their upright position. However, the downside is once headrest are in place rearward visibility becomes noticeably impaired.
While the current second-generation Outlander is more than long in the tooth, its one rugged Ute that can take its share of abuse, not to mention go more places off pavement. Unlike most of its contemporaries the Outlander was designed specifically for the unimproved infrastructure of Third World countries.
The Outlander is built around Mitsubishi’s RISE unibody design. The concept features collision energy absorbing joints designed to reduce the force of the impact that is transferred to the passenger cell. This is all constructed with improved thickness and strength engineered into the vehicle frame’s structure. Inner sides of the pillars and roof have impact absorbing rib structures to mitigate head injuries in a collision. A cross frame under the front seat squab restricts forward movement of the occupant in a frontal impact. RISE uses more high-tensile steel sheeting to increase stiffness and employs octagonal-section straight front side members and a reinforced cabin environment. An aluminum roof panel lowers the center of gravity and reduces roll inertia.
The 2013 Outlander is offered in three distinct models: ES, SE and GT. The ES comes only in front drive, while the SE is available with All Wheel Control. The ES and SE come with a 168-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a Sportronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Opting for the upscale GT, such as our tester, provides a more athletic 230-horsepower 3.0 liter MIVEC V6 (premium fuel required). This V6 delivers a respectable 19-mpg city and 25-mpg highway via a standard “Sportronic” six-speed automatic transmission.
The SE AWD’s comes with a center differential locking AWD, while the GT utilizes Mitsubishi’s S-WAC system. The S-WAC integrates an electronically controlled active front differential and a ‘flip of the switch’ choice of Tarmac (dry highway), Snow, or Lock modes.
The Outlander’s exterior is punctuated by its bold Evo-inspired front grille motif, which could be considered an aesthetic attribute to an otherwise clean generic design (that cue vanishes for 2014). The rear tailgate of the GT is flanked by LED clear lens taillights, which itself features a flap fold tailgate in addition to the standard issue liftgate. This unique design, integrated as part of the rear bumper, lays down flat so bulky objects can easily slide in and out of an otherwise deep cargo well. It also serves as a nice place to rest one’s keester.
The GT moniker for the Outlander featured in this review stands more for Grand Touring than Grand Turismo, although it sports a Evo inspire front grille motif and shared S-AWC drivetrain system. The immediate visible concession to this compact crossover’s sportiness is the absence of roof-rack crossbars. Although that allows for a sleeker appearance it does more to hinder its touring ability than help.
The leather interior of the GT includes dual stitching on the seats, door panels and the instrument pod cover. The center stack includes a touch screen display (for audio/nav/back camera display) and rotary climate controls, which are located beneath the touch screen display. A double glovebox is also a unique touch.
The center console consists of a couple of handy open storage bins, plus a power outlet and dual cupholders. The concealed center storage console includes an additional power outlet along with a USB port plus typical old school red/white/yellow A/V jacks scribed as ‘Vioeo’.
While the leather front seats of the GT are comfortable and supportive they’re far from being superior. However it’s the second row seating that’s the standout, featuring a split 60/40 arrangement with an adjustable seat track and seatbacks. The center fold down armrest features dual cupholders. Another feature worth noting is Mitsubishi innovative system for securing child seats. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) allows for installing child seats easly and securely.
The GT features model-specific aluminum pedals and brushed trim accents, leather wrapped steering wheel, leather seating surfaces for the front and second row. The third seat, which has been established as an afterthought, is covered in a non-descript type of terry cloth. Another model-specific feature for the GT is paddle shifters which in this case were oddly placed on the steering column itself instead of the steering wheel. So as the steering wheel turns the paddles remain stationary. However to compensate, the paddles are elongated. Despite this compromise, I found this arrangement to be so awkward I barely had the initiative to use them.
The Outlander GT standard amenities include auto climate control, heated mirrors, power glass moonroof, a 6-speaker AM/FM/6CD/MP3 audio system, Sirius XM satellite subscription radio, Bluetooth and 18-inch alloy wheels. Safety features include six airbags, traction control, stability control, 4-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, hill start assist, Xenon headlights, fog lamps and daytime running lamps.
Our Outlander GT came with a $2,000 Navigation Package with rear backup camera monitor, 40-gig hard drive, Navigation with music server, real time traffic and an auxiliary video input. A $2,000 Touring Package is required with this option, which features leather seats in the first two rows, power driver seat, heated seats, rear camera system, power sunglass roof, a 710-watt 6-CD Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, MP3, Sirius Satellite, nine-speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer.
Although I had no issues with durability or build quality, the Outlander felt like it was at least a decade old design. Body damping and noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) left a lot to be desired with an overall tinny feel like inexpensive SUVs of yore, especially when shutting the front doors.
That all said I found performance, handling and maneuverability to be the Outlander GT’s strongest attributes. Thanks to its fully independent suspension, the Outlander, especially equipped with S-WAC, is an excellent performer that is easy to drive and park in any situation.
While the Outlander offers uniqueness not found in other compact SUV crossovers, it does have its share of shortcomings, so the anticipated 2014 replacement can’t come soon enough. I will admit I was skeptical in the beginning, but the more I spent time with the Outlander the more I appreciated it for what it was. Still, the current model is not going to appeal to the masses but for those few who are able to think outside the box it’s well worth a look.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC
Base Price: $28,595
As-Tested Price: $33,920 (includes $825 designation/handling)
Options: Touring package ($2,500) includes leather seating surfaces, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate PUNCH Premium Sound System with nine speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio, power glass sunroof, heated front seats, power driver's seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rear camera system; Navigation with Rearview Camera, including 40GB HDD navigation system, rearview-camera monitor and auxiliary video-input jack ($2,000)
Body Construction: Unibody
Drivetrain: AWD (S-WAC)
Powertrain: 3.0-liter MIVEC V6, 230 hp @ 6,250 rpm, 215 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/ paddle shifters
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches,
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lb
Curb Weight: 3,780 lb.
Ground Clearance: 8.5-inches
Cargo Space: 36.2/72.6 cu. ft. (rear seats upright/seats folded down)
Fuel Economy (EPA): 19/21/25 mpg city/combo/hwy
Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.8 gallon
Fuel Required: Premium Unleaded
5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable New Vehicle Limited Warranty
10-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty
7-year/100,000-mile Anti-Corrosion/Perforation Limited Warranty
5 years/unlimited miles of Roadside Assistance