2012 Outlander Sport New Car Test Drive
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a new model intended for younger buyers and smaller families. It's built on the existing Outlander chassis with the same wheelbase, but it's 14.6 inches shorter overall. Most of that is lost cargo space plus a few inches to rear seat legroom.
The 2011 Outlander Sport uses the Mitsubishi 2.0-liter engine that's in the base Lancer, and suffers somewhat because of it. Acceleration is okay, but there's little room to relax at the throttle. The excellent and efficient 2.4-liter engine that's in the Outlander and most Lancers (as well as the Jeep Patriot) was left on the shelf, mostly because the 2.0-liter gets about 2 more miles per gallon. Mitsubishi wanted to hit that magic number of 30 mpg, and in fact it achieved an EPA-estimated 25/31 mpg City/Highway.
We got 27.2 mpg averaging 46 mph during a one-hour run on a two-lane highway in Mexico in the front-wheel-drive Outlander Sport with manual transmission, and 19.7 mpg on the return, driving an all-wheel-drive Sport with CVT and flooring the throttle a few times to pass trucks.
There's a choice of two transmissions, either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 6-step CVT with paddle shifting, and both are excellent. If you like a manual you'll be happy with this one, or if you prefer an automatic the continuously variable transmission works well, although in many situations you have to shift it yourself or, as with most CVTs in low-powered cars, it feels lame, like it's dragging the car down.
The Outlander Sport doesn't merely reflect the latest Mitsubishi design, it cookie-cuts it. It's a Lancer front half with a downsized Outlander SUV back half. It's a good-looking vehicle, and very clean. The fish face snout takes some getting used to, but that's easy. It rears its snout with particular zeal in the darker colors. Some will never like it, but it is bold and distinctive. Those who like it will call it a shark nose. Others may compare it to a largemouth bass.
It's priced attractively, though options such as all-wheel-drive, super-premium sound system with doors designed around the speakers, and navigation will drive the price up. It offers a full complement of safety equipment.
From an aesthetic standpoint the interior is not exceptional, but it has everything, including a standard hands-free system that links phone, USB attachment, iPod and optional navigation. Leather is not available, but the fabric seats are good, and supportive. The rear 60/40 seat folds flat, and includes a center folding armrest with cupholders and a pass-through to the cargo space behind the rear seats. There's adequate rear seat legroom for a compact crossover, and excellent cargo space when the rear seat is folded flat.
The ride is okay for a compact crossover. You can feel the suspension keeping those undulating bumps away from your butt, however speed bumps break through. Around corners, especially at casual speeds, the steering wheel seems to have a sly little mind of its own, and the shark nose of the Sport wants to inch off in places you don't want it to. When you drive faster, it listens better.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes in ES and SE trim. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available on the SE. Both use the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Base transmission on the ES is the 5-speed manual, with a 6-step CVT optional, while the CVT is standard in the SE.
Outlander Sport ES comes standard with 5-speed manual ($18,495) or CVT ($19,495). The ES comes with air conditioning with pollen filter; fabric upholstery with 60/40 folding and reclining high-back rear seats; keyless entry and power doors, windows and heated mirrors; 140-watt, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system; leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; color LCD multi-information display; hands-free link system with USB port; LED combination taillamps; telescopic tilt steering wheel; 12-volt power outlets; halogen headlamps; rear privacy glass; 16-inch steel wheels (alloy with the CVT), all-season tires. Hill Start Assist is standard.
Outlander Sport SE ($21,695) comes standard with the CVT. The SE upgrades with automatic climate control, premium fabric upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, wide beam HID headlamps, 140-watt, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system. Outlander Sport SE AWD ($22,995) adds all-wheel drive and heated front seats.
Options packages include Premium ($1800), which features a panoramic sunroof and 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate nine-speaker audio system with doors built around the speakers. Exterior Sport ($995) adds a rear spoiler over the liftgate and aluminum fuel door. Interior ($265) adds piano black trim. LED ($340) adds interior LED lighting. Navigation with rear camera ($2150) adds a system with 40GB that includes 10GB to store music (3000 songs) and rearview camera.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, ABS with brake force distribution and brake assist, and Hill Start Assist. With its chassis technology that dissipates energy in a crash, as they all do nowadays, Mitsubishi anticipates a 5-star government crash ratings. Optional all-wheel drive enhances stability in slippery conditions.
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