Real-World Review

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander: Real World Review

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author photo by Jason Fogelson July 2016

Driving the newly redesigned 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander makes you think about the mysteries of market forces. Mitsubishi has produced some really good vehicles over the past decade, from the Eclipse to the Montero to the Lancer Evolution. But despite passionate fan bases, these models are all now absent from the company's U.S. lineup.

The phenomenon is a bit puzzling. Sure, there have been misses, like the i-MiEV and the Gallant, but the hits were solid. Why is Mitsubishi so overlooked? And more immediately, will the new Outlander change that?

The Outlander in Focus

We recently had a chance to drive the new Outlander on off-road trails in the hills above Malibu, California, at Calamigos Ranch during the Motor Press Guild's Droptops and Dirt event, followed by a week-long test drive.

During Droptops and Dirt, vehicle manufacturers bring a selection of new off-roaders and convertibles to Calamigos, where Motor Press Guild journalist members can drive them on the trails and on local canyon roads. The Outlander lined up with the off-roaders, which included serious dirt monsters like the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, the Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X Diesel and the Toyota Land Cruiser, along with soft-roaders like the Kia Sportage, the Mazda CX-5 and the Volvo XC60.

The Outlander conquered the challenging course with ease. Our test vehicle was a 2.4 SEL S-AWC model with a base price of $26,995 ($33,095 as tested with a $5,250 SEL Touring Package and $850 destination charge), which means that it had all-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) mated to a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The compact SUV rides on a unibody that offers a generous 8.5 inches of ground clearance.

Behind the wheel, the Outlander proved to be very surefooted, and the CVT allowed the engine to apply just the right amount of power for steep inclines while moderating delivery for big obstacles. The 4-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts up front, multi-link in the rear with stabilizer bars at both ends) allowed for great articulation and a stable ride. We would have liked more engine braking or hill-descent control for steep declines, but the traction-control system and anti-lock brakes worked well enough, and we left Calamigos impressed with the Outlander's soft-roading abilities.

On the Road Again

Most Outlanders will spend the majority of their time driving on roads and freeways, so we were glad to have time to experience our test vehicle's real-world performance a few weeks after the Droptops and Dirt event.

On the road, the Outlander presents a mixed bag. Looking around the cabin, the new design uses a nice selection of materials and surfaces to create a sporty, modern look. The instruments and controls lean toward the driver to create a cockpitlike feel, with a simple center stack housing a 7-inch high-definition color touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, part of the optional SEL Touring Package (a 6.1-in screen is standard). The expected technologies, like Bluetooth and a rearview camera, are all present.

Standard equipment includes some pleasant surprises as well, like a proximity key with push-button start, heated front seats, automatic climate control, HD Radio and a tilt-telescopic adjustable steering wheel with audio controls and cruise control. Our test vehicle's optional equipment also included rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation and lane-departure warning, all welcome safety features. The driver and passenger seats are comfortable and supportive, and the second row is roomy.

Now to the mixed bag part of the story. The Outlander squeezes in a third row of seating behind the second row, a feature that increases the stated passenger capacity to seven. In reality, the third row can only accommodate children, and even they won't be content with the limited legroom. The driver won't be happy when the third row is in use, either, as the tall headrests block much of the view out of the rear window.

Will the Outlander Succeed?

Overall, the Outlander is an attractive, capable crossover with better-than-expected off-road chops and lots of available cutting-edge technology. It's not the world-beater that Mitsubishi needs if it hopes to refind its momentum, but it definitely merits consideration. Decent fuel-economy estimates of 24 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined put it in the middle of the pack.

The midsize-crossover field has a crowd of contenders right now. The Toyota Highlander, the Subaru Outback, the Kia Sorento, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Ford Escape and the Mazda CX-5 all demand test drives, and the list could include others. For drivers who want a vehicle that's a little different than the other crossovers on their block and can keep on traveling when the pavement ends, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander awaits the call. Just be sure that you live and travel in decent proximity to a Mitsubishi dealer for authorized service, as the network has thinned a bit over the past few years.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander: Real World Review - Autotrader