2007 Mitsubishi Outlander Expert Review
Larger and more powerful than the model it replaces, Mitsubishi has aimed its Outlander at bigger game. Where last year's model had Subaru dead in its sights, the 2007 model is taking on Toyota's RAV-4 and Honda's CR-V.
So what makes the Outlander shoppable against those two best-sellers? They're about equal on options and pricing, but the Toyota is less fun even with its V6 option, and the four-cylinder Honda doesn't even offer a third row seat, no matter how useless those extra seats are in these smallish CUVs.
The Outlander's looks have moved away from the "toughwagon" genre dominated by the aforementioned Subies towards the sporty mini-ute segment. Its side windows are tall, but the rear-leaning back window adds a look of speed. The standard roof rack, while practical, also improves the Outlander's looks with a bit of shine on top. A roof spoiler and 18" wheels help accentuate the car's sporty intentions.
On the XLS model we had, keyless entry lets you leave the fob in your pocket or purse. Place your hand on either of the front door handles, and the car magically unlocks. A push of the small, rubber-covered button on the handle locks it. At first this option might seem a bit frivolous and gadgety, but the first time you have a sleeping baby in one arm and a grocery bag in the other, you'll be thankful for the expense. We just wish the rear door handles were touch-sensitive, as well. In the sleeping-baby scenario, you first must open a front door, then open the back – still easier than fishing for the keys, but the process could be a bit improved.
The Outlander's interior is both a strong and weak point, mixing near-luxury touches with cheapness. The soft leather seats were supportive and comfortable, but the dashboard, door panels and interior door handles felt cheap and flimsy. The small, shallow storage bin above the controls is a nice touch, but we wonder how long its plastic cover will hold up. In fact, our tester's was already warping a little, possibly due to the hot southern sun. Cupholders are lined with sound-deadening rubber, but it's permanently in place and can't be removed for easier cleaning. Overall, however, it's a nice looking place to spend a few miles. The black leather contrasts well with the metallic trim throughout the cabin. The wife and I agreed, however, it could have been a bit more matte. At some angles, the sunlight glinting off dash pieces on either side of the steering could almost blind the driver. Give the kids some sand paper, and it's no longer a problem.
The driver scores a nice beefy, leather-wrapped steering wheel and two gorgeous metal paddle shifters to control the 6-speed Sportronic transmission. Audio and cruise control buttons are right there on the spokes, as is the Bluetooth handsfree button, which we'll get to in a bit. Maintenance information as well as odometer and mileage estimates are displayed on an LED screen between the speedo and tach, while the automatic climate-control worked as advertised.
Back seat passengers get decent leg room, especially since front passengers may not need to push their chairs all the way back. Two up front and three in the back make five, but with the third-seat option, the Outlander could carry seven passengers. Just make sure you call dibs on the first five seats, because those two in the way back are best described as rudimentary. Through a six-step process, the mesh-covered metal frame springs from the rear cargo area ready to torture, uh, seat your most unlucky of passengers. It most closely resembles an Army surplus cot with headrests and seatbelts, but with less padding. It's not comfortable at all for adults and definitely not humane, but you have to admire the ingenuity. Get this option if you occasionally carry two extra small children, but skip it otherwise.
In-car gadgets can either be a help or a hindrance, but we found the Outlander's navigation system a big plus. It relies on a touch screen instead of a bunch of buttons and knobs, which makes its use much safer and easier. The same screen is used for the entertainment system as well as the car's security and lighting preferences.
Satellite radio is standard on the XLS model and comes with six months of free service. Push a button and the touch-screen pivots up to reveal the CD slot. With the optional 30gb in-dash hard drive, just stick in a CD, and the car automatically adds all the tracks to your in-dash jukebox, complete with song titles. It's not a quick process, but it's usually done by the time the CD finishes playing. Use the touch screen to organize or delete tracks and leave your iPod in the house if you'd like. DVDs can also be played on the LCD screen. An auxiliary jack resides behind the touch screen next to the CD slot, but even if we had figured out how to get it to work, we're not sure how often we'd use it. Like we said, the only way to access the jack is to flip up the touch screen, which is also how you access the audio controls. With the jack exposed, the screen is facing straight up, and not visible to anyone – definitely not convenient.
The handsfree Bluetooth option, on the other hand, was very simple to use. Turn your mobile phone's Bluetooth on, follow the manual's instructions and your car and phone are synced. To make a call, push the phone button on the left wheel spoke, and tell the car who you're calling. With no other conversations in the car, the voice recognition system works flawlessly. With a babbling 1-year-old in the back seat, you'll call several different area codes before reaching the right number. Your best bet is to wait until the young'uns fall asleep to make your calls.
Putting that toddler in the back requires little effort. The child safety seat installed very easily in the center position using the LATCH system. Getting him in and out was easy too, thanks to the Outlander's wide rear-passenger opening and tall doors.
Cargo room is plentiful, with plenty of space left after accepting a stroller. Without the Fosgate sound system, the rear loses the metal-grated subwoofer and gains a little more space. Accessing the cargo area is also improved with the car's novel tailgate. After opening the upper rear hatch, release a latch on the lower part and a small tailgate drops down, which is great for sliding cargo out or for football tailgating.
Rear seat cupholders are recessed into the center armrest, which means with a child seat installed there, rear seat passengers will have to hold their drinks. It's a minor inconvenience, but one to consider. A taller friend of ours also complained that rear headroom was not to his liking.
All Outlander models come with Mitsubishi's 3.0L V6 bolted to the automaker's Sportronic manumatic. Our tester also got the all-wheel-drive option, which made for a very sweet setup. In daily traffic, the SUV was smooth riding, smooth shifting, but ready to jump to immediate action if needed. Highway miles were nothing different. While many manumatics require the driver to first choose that mode with the center shifter before using, the the Sportronic only needs a bump of either paddle to drop from automatic to semi-manual. Holding the upshift paddle for a couple of seconds returns the car to fully automatic. At first we had only praise for this feature, as it really came in handy a couple of times when quick merges were called for. But then we discovered the downside. We know it's wrong, but occasionally, only for a second or two, we need both hands off the steering wheel. That means a moment of knee-driving, which, in the Outlander, kept triggering the manumatic mode. We admit, it could be what cures us of this bad habit, but it's pretty disconcerting to drop into fourth gear on the Interstate.
Mitsubishi also gives drivers choices with its all-wheel-drive system. A selector on the center console toggles between 2WD, automatic AWD and locked 4WD, where most of the power is sent to the rear wheels but the fronts also contribute some pull. To be honest, in normal driving, we didn't see much difference. My wife said if she had to choose, the 2WD option would be her preference. Supposedly the 2WD option gives better fuel economy in normal driving, but we didn't have the car long enough to really judge.
We put 350 miles on our Outlander over a week's time, burning about 20 gallons of regular unleaded. Most of those were highway miles with the air conditioner running in the stifling southern heat. With my lead foot, we saw an average of about 18 mpg, just under the EPA's estimated 19 mpg. Not too bad, but not as good as estimates for the four-cylinder CR-V or even the V6 RAV-4.
Mitsubishi's 5-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranties should cover any worries you might have about initial quality problems. It's difficult for us to comment on the Outlander's long-term reliability since it was just re-designed.
When all is said and done, we really liked the Outlander. Its attractive design, comfortable if somewhat cheap interior, cool gadgets and smooth ride combined with a fairly powerful and relatively economical engine to make it a candidate for any young family. If we can trim some of those more expensive options ($1,800 for nav, $1,500 for the Rockford Fosgate package), we can take our tester's sticker down from $30,615 to somewhere in the $28k range and closer to our budget. This family is adding it to its semi-finalists, and we suggest other family-car shoppers at least give it a look.
New Car Test Drive
All-new compact SUV a compelling choice.
For 2007, Mitsubishi has improved and simplified the Outlander, the company's entry in the compact sport utility vehicle class. The Mitsubishi Outlander gets a more powerful, V6 engine and a new six-speed automatic with a sport-shift feature, a first for this segment. Four-wheel drive remains an option, but the system is more sophisticated and more flexible than that of the previous generation, with a sportier, rear-wheel-drive emphasis.
Style-wise, the 2007 Outlander marks the beginning of a new design language for Mitsubishi. There's less metal in the new verbiage, more openness, giving the overall presence a lighter look and feel. It's less angular, more round, smoother and softer but with a touch more character.
In ways material and mechanical, the 2007 Outlander may look a lot like the 2006 models, but it isn't, not really. It's still independently sprung at all four corners. The four-wheel-drive setup is still closer to a pavement-friendly, all-wheel-drive system than it is to a true, backwoods-capable, off-road setup. But beyond these fundamentals, there's a lot more new than old, and the changes to the underpinnings are significant.
Topping the list is a standard, electronic skid and traction control system, offered for the first time on the '07 Outlander. The front suspension has been beefed up to improve directional stability and steering response. To the same end, internal components of the power-assisted steering system have been strengthened and refined. The rear suspension is a new, more rigid, yet more compliant design. Brakes are larger, the better to handle the added power and weight. Shock absorbers are more robust for enhanced ride control.
A number of interior features move the 2007 Outlander upscale, putting it into play with such formidable competitors as the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-7 and the Toyota RAV4, in addition to the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox. Besides the not unexpected automatic climate control and leather-trimmed seats, there's an optional, rear-seat entertainment system, with a nine-inch, LCD screen and wireless remote and headphones.
Also available is a GPS-based, navigation system featuring a seven-inch, touch-screen and employing a hard disk drive for speedy data retrieval with a portion set aside for recorded audio tracks. The Outlander XLS features spiffy, Formula 1 racecar-style, magnesium shift paddles mounted on the steering column; a keyless ignition system; and a fold-down, compact third-row seat that qualifies the Outlander as a seven-passenger, compact SUV. All models come with a full complement of occupant safety features.
Competitive performance, fuel economy, and interior space makes the 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander a compelling vehicle at a compelling price.
The 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander comes in one body style, a four-door, five- or seven-passenger, compact sport utility vehicle. Three trim levels are available, the ES, the LS and the XLS. The sole powertrain is a 220-hp, 3.0-liter V6 engine with a six-speed automatic featuring a manual-shift, Sportronic function. The ES has front-wheel drive, while the LS and the XLS can be had with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. With all-wheel drive, the tow rating jumps from 2000 to 3500 pounds, thanks to a larger radiator.
The ES ($21,370) comes with air conditioning, the usual trio of power-adjustable features, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted switches, multi-media sound system, fabric upholstery, 60/40-split rear seat, remote keyless entry and P215/70R16 tires on hubcapped, steel wheels. Four-way and seatback recline adjustments for the second-row seat are an unexpected feature for a base model. No manufacturer options are offered on the ES.
The LS ($22,410) adds leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob; steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls and Bluetooth switch pre-wiring; floor mats; roof rails; tonneau cargo cover; and alloy wheels. The LS can be outfitted with two manufacturer options, as well. One is the Sun & Sound Package, comprising a nine-speaker, 650-watt, Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system with in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer, DSP, auxiliary stereo input jack and speed-compensated volume and equalization; six-month trial subscription to Sirius satellite radio; and power glass sunroof with sun shade. The other is the Entertainment Package, essentially a rear seat entertainment system, with a roof-mounted, nine-inch LCD monitor, remote control, infrared wireless headphones, auxiliary video input jack and 115-volt, AC power outlet. The Bluetooth interface with voice-recognition microphone is a dealer-installed option.
The XLS ($23,650) kicks in automatic climate control; underfloor-stowable, compact, third-row seat; steering column-mounted, magnesium shift paddles; Bluetooth interface; fog lights; keyless entry and ignition; and P225/55R18 tires on alloy wheels. Two additional options are offered on the XLS. The Luxury Package has auto-leveling, Xenon, HID headlights; power-adjustable driver's seat; leather seating surfaces; and heated front seats. Finally, there's the Navigation and Multi-Communication System, combining a GPS-based navigation system replacing the more common CDs or DVD with a 30GB hard disk drive for data storage, 6 GB of which is reserved for audio files, and a fully integrated AM/FM tuner with a single CD/DVD drive, both accessed via a seven-inch, touch panel/display. When ordered with the Entertainment Package, both front and rear displays can share source drives.
Safety features include front (seat-mounted) side-impact airbags, which protect the upper body from injury in side impacts; roof-mounted side air curtains covering front and second-row seats, which minimize head injuries in side impacts; and active, front seat head restraints, which cushion the head and neck in rear impacts. That's in addition to the mandated front airbags, seatbelts and child safety seat anchors.
Active safety features (to assist the driver with crash avoidance) that come standard across the Outlander line include antilock brakes (ABS), which allow steering during panic stops; electronic brake-force distribution, which varies front and rear braking force to optimize stopping power in emergency stops; electronic stability control, which automatically minimizes skids during turning maneuvers; traction control, which limits wheel spin in slippery conditions; and tire pressure monitors, which warn drivers of under-inflated tires.
The Mitsubishi Outlander has been re-shaped, re-contoured and refined for 2007.
Gone is the signature, massive centerpiece splitting a multi-sectioned grille. In its place is an understated, more traditionally shaped opening with the three-diamond trademark floating on thin, horizontal bars. The lower portion of the front bumper opens into a large air intake above a skid plate-looking under panel. Headlight covers blend cleanly into the surrounding fascia and fenders.
The side aspect shows a sleeker, rounder shape. Deeply creased fender blisters outline circular wheel wells. The optional 18-inch wheels look better than the 16-inchers. The side glass tapers toward the back end, playing to the wedge look and ending in a substantial, sharply angular D-pillar. Front and rear bumpers flow seamlessly into their respective quarter panels. Easy-to-grip door handles sit atop full-round indents.
The rear view, in contrast to the collage of the '06, looks all of a single piece, or maybe two. Which it mostly is, in fact, as the liftgate reaches all the way down to the top of the bumper, which functions also as a fold-down tailgate, albeit an abbreviated one; with an eye toward tailgate parties, Mitsubishi says the bumper-cum-tailgate will support up to 440 pounds. A nice feature about the tailgate is that when you open the liftgate your cantelope doesn't coming rolling out onto the ground, something that sometimes happens on SUVs that don't have a tailgate.
The body side panels bend inwards toward the top, adding a distinctively aero-look to an otherwise mostly boxy shape. Many of the seams and lines draw the eye to the Mitsubishi trademark centered in the lift gate. The spoiler topping the backlight extends directly from the roof; there is no gap as there was in the pre-2007 models.
When they redesigned the Outlander for 2007, Mitsubishi's designers paid as much attention to the inside as they did to its outside. The result is a look and feel that's more upscale, quieter, more mature, with tasteful metallic trim and tighter integration of controls and fixtures.
The front seats are markedly improved over the previous-generation models. Deeper bottom cushions give better thigh support. Side bolsters do their job without being overly confining. Lumbar and height adjustment offer sufficient range to accommodate 'most every body shape and dimension. The Outlander competes with the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-7, and Toyota RAV4. Compared with those vehicles, the front seats of the Outlander offer headroom that's firmly in the upper half of the class and comparable legroom, though hip room is relatively tight.
The second row of seats are more like bench seats than bucket seats, but with much-appreciated, fore-and-aft and seatback recline adjustments. Second-row legroom in the ES and LS is among the best in the class. In the XLS, however, the presence of the third-row seat exacts a penalty of almost three inches, dropping second-row legroom into the lower half of the class. Headroom and hip room for second-row passengers is below average for the class.
Access to the third-row seat in the XLS model is surprisingly easy for a sport utility of this size. The second-row seat folds flat and then rocks forward against the back of the front seat, opening an expansive path to the rearmost seat; there's even a small courtesy light on the second row seat bottom that illuminates the floor when the seat bottom is released. Once back there, the third-row seats are not comfortable for adults. The seat bottom and seat back are mere inches in thickness, and the seat sits so close to the floor that adult occupants' knees come to about shoulder height. The Outlander's third-row seat comes up short against the RAV4 by a couple inches in every direction. The RAV4 seat is also a real one, with cushions instead of pads.
Collapsing the third-row seats into the cargo floor is relatively easy, requiring little more than pulling a couple straps and pushing where noted. Not so retrieving it. Even with the short tailgate, getting to a couple of the requisite straps and then leveraging the seat elements up out of the floor and locked into place makes for some awkward stretches and strains. Still, for kids or short jaunts, it fulfills its purpose.
In cargo room, the Outlander bests all the competition save the RAV4, and it loses to that one by less than one-half a foot-square box. Another note about that short tailgate: It incorporates a feature we've noticed only on high-end SUVs, a flap that folds down when the gate is open to bridge the gap over the gate's hinges. Thus, not only is there a short tailgate that eases loading and unloading cargo, but also it's a lot easier sliding awkward and heavy boxes into and out of the back. The tailgate helps prevent groceries and other cargo from falling out when you open the liftgate, something that sometimes happens with a one-piece liftgate.
Storage elsewhere is respectable. A bi-level glove box fills the top and bottom of the right side of the dash. All four doors have bottle holders, the front ones sharing space with maps and the like. The front console has four cup holders, the second-row fold-down center another two. Even the third-row seat has cubbies on the side. Atop the storage compartment in the center console is a padded cover that adjusts fore and aft a couple inches.
Sight lines from the Outlander's driver's seat are good most ways around. Front end extremities stay in view, easing parking and some maneuvers in close quarters. The rather robust D-pillars make slicing and dicing in fast-moving, heavy traffic a challenge. And as we're discovering as rear seat entertainment systems appear in mo.
A lot has been re-worked and re-designed under the 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander's new body. And all of it comes together to make a vehicle that handles and rides much better than its predecessor.
First, there's the engine, at 220 horsepower a major step up in both performance and smoothness from the '06's 160-hp, inline four-cylinder. The new-for-'07, six-speed automatic manages the delivery of that power with much greater finesse.
The package is not perfection, however, as the engine and transmission computer mapping seems focused more on gas mileage than silky gear changes and optimal power delivery. This is most apparent at moderate road speeds in the higher gears and under light loading, when what feels like torque-converter lockup holds the engine at relatively low rpm, producing a low thrumming sound, kind of like the buffeting from when only a single rear side window is open. It also shows up in what's charitably described as languid kickdowns for passing or for merging onto freeways. It's not all negative, though, as the ample torque (204 pound-feet, up 42 lb.-ft. over the '06's torque) does minimize downshifting on upgrades.
The Outlander delivers in fuel economy, too, earning mileage estimates just 1 mpg lower than the '06's four-cylinder and equal to or better than the V6-powered competitors.
Throttle tip-in from a stand-still is a bit anxious, requiring some tempering of the right foot for smooth starts, something we're seeing a lot in compact SUVs nowadays. Also, there's a trace of torque steer, a phenomenon common on front wheel-drive vehicles, where the steering wheel pulls to the right under hard acceleration.
But once underway, the new Outlander handles freeway and even extra-legal speeds with ease. Almost too much ease, as at least initially, careful attention to the speedometer is vital to avoiding roadside discussions with the authorities.
Refinements to the MacPherson strut front suspension have improved the new Outlander's steering response. These include bars bracing the strut towers against the cowl, stronger and lighter components and retuned bushings. The rear suspension, too, has been revised, with, again, lighter and stronger components and new geometry enhancing both straight-line and turning stability. Larger shock absorbers front and rear allow more varied tuning and longer suspension travel for a ride that's both more comfortable and better managed. It has a wider track (the distance between the tires side to side) than the previous models, putting the Outlander in the mainstream of the competition. A wider track means more stability.
The steering rack is more robust and more rigid for better feedback, with emergency maneuvers monitored and managed by electronic skid and traction control, a new, standard feature for 2007. Larger disc brakes have dual-piston calipers in front and single-piston calipers in back for firm pedal feel and sure stopping, backed by standard ABS and EBD.
The four-wheel-drive system is a new design, too, featuring three selections controlled by a single knob mounted in the center console just aft of the shift lever. One setting, the most fuel efficient, is for front-wheel drive. Another setting is 4WD Auto, which apportions power between front and rear wheels as dictated by speed differences between front and rear wheels, but with some power (up 40 percent) always going to the rear wheels for more balanced handling. The third setting is 4WD Lock, which is actually a misnomer, as it doesn't truly lock front/rear power distribution as the term is commonly used. What it does is give the rear wheels preference in power distribution, directing as much as 60 percent their way under full throttle on dry pavement. This is the more fun, more agile setting. It thoroughly suppresses any front-wheel drive contortions yet provides front-wheel traction when needed but all the while responding to power.
The Mitsubishi Outlander has been re-made for 2007, moving it substantially upscale from last year's models. There's more power, a better transmission, improved ride and handling and much more sophisticated, optional four-wheel-drive technology. The interiors are comfortable, spacious and user-friendly, with available state-of-the-art entertainment and navigation systems. Top-notch occupant safety equipment and crash avoidance features are standard across the line.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Northern Virginia.
Mitsubishi Outlander ES ($21,370); LS 2WD ($22,410); LS 4WD ($23,770); XLS 2WD ($23,650); XLS 4WD ($25,010).
Options As Tested
Luxury Package with auto-leveling Xenon HID headlamps, leather seating surfaces, power driver's seat, heated front seats; Sun & Sound Package includes 650-watt, nine-speaker Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system; Sirius satellite radio with six-month trial subscription; power glass sunroof with sunshade.
Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 4WD ($25,010).
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