2008 Mitsubishi Outlander Expert Review:Autoblog
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
New four-cylinder emphasizes economy.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander comes with a choice of two engines, a new four-cylinder that gets good fuel economy and a powerful V6.
The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder comes standard on Outlander ES and SE models, which get an EPA-rated 20/25 mpg City/Highway. The four-cylinder engine is matched with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, designed to improve fuel economy.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander LS and XLS come standard with the 220-horsepower V6. Outlander was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year. Bigger than the previous-generation model, it was launched with a powerful 3.0-liter V6, a six-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift, and a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system.
Outlander can seat up to seven passengers when equipped with a fold-down, compact third-row seat. All models come with a full complement of occupant safety features.
Completely redesigned for 2007, the Outlander features an electronic skid and traction control system and a modern four-wheel independent suspension. Its available four-wheel-drive system is designed more to be pavement-friendly than backwoods-capable.
The top models are luxurious, boasting automatic climate control, leather-trimmed seats, a rear-seat entertainment system with a nine-inch LCD screen and wireless remote and headphones. A GPS navigation system featuring a seven-inch touch-screen is available with a hard disk for speedy data retrieval and recorded audio tracks. Formula 1-style magnesium shift paddles mounted on the steering column allow the driver to shift manually, while a keyless ignition system eliminates the need to fuss with keys.
The 2008 Outlander models benefit from numerous upgrades.
All 2008 models are available with front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (4WD). The four-cylinder is rated to tow 1500 pounds; the V6 is tow-rated at 2000 pounds with 2WD, and 3500 pounds with 4WD because the 4WD models come with a bigger radiator.
Competitive performance, fuel economy, and interior space along with aggressive pricing make the Mitsubishi Outlander a compelling SUV.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander is available with five-passenger or seven-passenger seating and comes in four trim levels. The ES and SE are powered by a 168-horsepower inline-4 coupled to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The LS and XLS upgrade to a 220-hp V6 and a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions feature a Sportronic manual override.
ES 2WD ($19,990) and 4WD ($21,350) come with fabric upholstery, air conditioning, the usual power-adjustable features, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted switches, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with six speakers, 60/40-split rear seat, remote keyless entry, and P215/70R16 tires on steel wheels. A Convenience Package ($820) for ES adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, RCA auxiliary audio input jacks, pre-wiring for Bluetooth, 12V power points in both the cockpit and cargo area, a storage pocket in the driver's seatback, floor mats, rear privacy glass, black roof rails, color-keyed mirrors and door handles, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
SE 2WD ($23,250) and 4WD ($24,590) upgrade with mesh fabric seats with leather bolsters; high-contrast instrument gauges; magnesium paddle shifters; a passive vehicle entry system that lets you in as long as the key fob is in your pocket; a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system with digital signal processing and nine speakers including a rear subwoofer; Sirius Satellite Radio with six-month pre-paid subscription; Special Edition trim; and P225/55R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. Much of this equipment is exclusive to the SE.
LS 2WD ($22,510) and 4WD ($23,870) are equipped similarly to the ES with the Convenience Package, plus the V6 and six-speed automatic.
XLS 2WD ($23,750) and 4WD ($25,110) include all LS equipment and add automatic climate control, 6CD changer, split second-row seats that recline as well as adjusting fore-and-aft, a third-row seat that stows under the floor; shift paddles; a functioning Bluetooth interface; fog lights; passive keyless entry and ignition; and P225/55R18 tires on alloy wheels.
Option packages for the XLS: The Luxury Package ($1,600) upgrades to leather seating in the first two rows, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and auto-leveling Xenon HID headlights. The Navigation Package ($1,800) adds a 30GB HDD navigation system and a digital music server with CD/DVD capability and video input jacks. The Sun & Sound Package ($1,610) combines the high-zoot stereo from the SE, Sirius Satellite Radio, a power glass sunroof, and a 115V power outlet.
Accessories from dealers include an entertainment system ($1,480), navigation system ($1,999), a trailer hitch and wiring harness ($375), plus a cargo cover ($119) and other appearance and protection items.
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 (EBD), 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 was re-shaped, re-contoured and refined for 2007. Only minor appearance changes have followed for 2008: The V6 models now sport V6 emblems on their front fenders, and the alloy wheels on XLS models have a new look.
The Outlander is a four-door SUV capable of seating five or seven.
Styling is more refined and understated than older models. Up front is an understated, traditionally shaped grille opening with the three-diamond Mitsubishi 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 view shows a sleeker, rounder shape than that of the pre-2007 model. Deeply creased fender blisters outline circular wheel wells, which are better filled by the 18-inch wheels than by 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 has a unified look. The liftgate reaches all the way down to the top of the bumper, which functions also as a small, fold-down tailgate designed to support up to 440 pounds. So no worries sitting on it at tailgate parties. A nice feature of the little tailgate is that it forms a small barrier at the back of the cargo bay, so that when you open the main liftgate your cantaloupe doesn't coming rolling out onto the ground, which has happened to us with other SUVs.
The sides of the Outlander bend inward toward the top, adding a distinctively aero-look to an otherwise mostly boxy shape when viewed from behind. 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.
Inside, the Outlander looks and feels more upscale, quieter, more mature than pre-2007 models, with tasteful metallic trim and tighter integration of controls and fixtures. For 2008, re-styled door panels with cloth inserts give it a more refined look.
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 almost 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 seats are contoured more like bench seats than buckets. Second-row legroom is among the best in the class. The XLS offers reclining rear seatbacks and the second row slides 3.2 inches fore-and-aft. Headroom and hip room for second-row passengers is below average for the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40 for versatility with cargo and passengers.
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, though, 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 of inches in every direction. And the RAV4 seat is really a seat, with cushions instead of pads.
Collapsing the third-row seat 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 up out of the floor and locking into place makes for some awkward stretches and strains. Still, for kids or short jaunts, the Outlander fulfills its purpose as a seven-passenger vehicle.
In cargo room, the Outlander bests all the competition save the CR-V and RAV4, and it loses to those two only slightly. Outlander's short tailgate 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. This adds to the Outlander's practicality when moving stuff around.
Cubby storage 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 driver's seat are good most ways around. The front corners are in view, easing parking and maneuvers in close quarters. The robust D-pillars restrict the over-the-shoulder view, however. The dropped-down screen obscures the rearward view when the kids are using the rear-seat entertainment system, but this is common with most of these.
The fabric upholstery that comes standard feels durable, the optional leather in the XLS is pliant. The fit and finish in the cabin impressed us. Easy-to-use knobs and bu.
The 2008 Outlander ES and SE models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine based on the same dual-overhead-cam architecture as the 2.0-liter engine that powers the latest Lancer. And that's a good thing. The 2.4-liter Outlander engine delivers 168 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 167 pound-feet of torque at 4100. It gets an EPA-rated 20/25 mpg City/Highway, 2WD or 4WD.
The four-cylinder comes with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic. (Instead of a fixed set of gear ratios, a CVT relies on a pulley system that provides infinitely variable ratios, a true shift-less transmission.) The floor-mounted control lever permits the driver to select modes labeled P-R-N-D-DS; where the first four are the familiar Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive. DS in this case mimics the operation of other sporty auto-manual shifters by providing manual operation through six pre-selected ratios. Order the SE, and you can zip up and down through the ratios via shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel; ES pilots will have to make do with the floor lever.
The V6 boasts comparable fuel economy as the four-cylinder on the highway. The V6 gets an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg with 4WD, and it rates 25 mpg on the highway with 2WD.
All-new last year, the 3.0-liter, single-overhead-cam V6, like the four-cylinder, features four valves per cylinder with MIVEC valve-timing control, plus two-stage variable induction for strong power at a wider range of engine speeds. In most states the V6 rates 220 horsepower at 6250 rpm, dropping to 213 in states where the Outlander V6 is sold as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV). (A window decal will tell you if the Outlander on your dealer's lot is a PZEV.) We doubt you'd notice the difference, especially given that, either way, the V6 rates 204 pound-feet of torque. It's torque, not horsepower, that you feel more in everyday driving, propelling you away from traffic lights and smartly up hills.
We found the V6 smooth and powerful and the six-speed automatic that comes with it manages the delivery of that power with finesse. Throttle tip-in from a stand-still is a bit sensitive, requiring some tempering of the right foot for smooth starts. Under hard acceleration, 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. 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. Likewise, kickdowns for passing or for merging onto freeways are relatively languid.
At speed, the Outlander handles freeway and even extra-legal speeds with ease. Initially, careful attention to the speedometer is vital to avoiding roadside discussions with the authorities. The ample torque from the V6 engine reduces the need for downshifting on upgrades.
The steering is responsive and offers good feedback. The ride is comfortable and well managed and it's stable on the highway. The disc brakes have dual-piston calipers in front and single-piston calipers in back for firm pedal feel and sure stopping, backed by ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution for stable braking in an emergency. The Outlander has an aluminum roof, which is 11 pounds lighter than an equivalent steel roof, and this drops the Outlander's center of gravity almost half an inch. A lower center of gravity makes for a vehicle that leans less in corners and is less likely to roll over. The result is a confident Outlander, with crisp turn-in and relatively flat tracking through curves. In sportiness, it's competitive with the class.
The four-wheel-drive system features three selections controlled by a single knob mounted in the center console just aft of the shift lever. One setting, the most fu.
The Mitsubishi Outlander offers four-cylinder and V6 engines and sophisticated four-wheel-drive technology. The cabin is 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. John Katz in Pennsylvania reported on the new four-cylinder model.
Mitsubishi Outlander ES 2WD ($19,990); ES 4WD ($21,350); Special Edition 2WD ($23,230); Special Edition 4WD ($24,590); LS 2WD ($22,510); LS 4WD ($23,870); XLS 2WD ($23,750); XLS 4WD ($25,110).
Options As Tested
Luxury Package ($1,600) includes auto-leveling Xenon HID headlamps, leather seating surfaces, power driver's seat, heated front seats; Sun & Sound Package ($1,610) 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 ($25,110).
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