Ask an enthusiast about Mitsubishi, and you’ll hear about flame-spitting, rally-racing Lancer Evolutions, desert-crossing Pajeros, or ultra-capable Delica campervans. Ask the average Canadian consumer what Mitsubishi means, and you might get just a shrug. The all-new Outlander looks to change things up.
Mitsubishi has been building cars since 1971 – in fact, they are the first Japanese manufacturer to mass-produce a car – but the company only showed up in Canada in 2002. Nickelback has been around longer. Further, the company’s products seemed more value focused than cutting edge. The previous Outlander had been on sale for almost a decade with minor updates, and felt less fresh than the competition.
The exception was the plug-in hybrid variant, but more on that later. First, the new model, which is fully capable of taking on the competition, and has a few advantages over its rivals.
A corporate agreement with Nissan means that the new Outlander’s basic architecture is shared with the Nissan Rogue. That’s a smart move: the new Rogue is a smartly-executed and popular crossover. The Outlander is much more stiff and solid than the outgoing model, and feels more substantial as well.
Under the hood is a 2.5L engine paired with a CVT that has shift points programmed in to feel more like a conventional automatic transmission. It’s smooth, but mostly unremarkable. Acceleration is acceptable, with the engine producing 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. It’s no Lancer EVO, but overall performance feels much more polished.
Also hugely improved is the cabin. It’s roomy and unfussy, with a straightforward layout, comfortable seats, and a large touchscreen control. The full digital dashboard adds a nice touch of modernity, and this GT Premium trim got some nice accents. It’s not surprisingly upscale, it just feels up to the task in ways the old version wasn’t.
On the move, the Outlander’s unique piece of driveline technology is its Super All Wheel Control. Back in the days when rally-prepped Subaru WRXs and Lancer EVOs battled in the gravel, Mitsubishi’s clever electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system often gave its teams and edge. Here, S-AWC comes with the ability to select from six different terrain modes. Our test days were bright and sunny, but the previous Outlander’s S-AWC system made it quite surefooted in snow.
Mostly, though, the Outlander didn’t whisper of Mitsubishi’s motorsport heritage. It was instead a comfortable, sensibly packaged, modern family vehicle. It wasn’t built to appeal to a Mitsubishi enthusiast, but to the average consumer.
That average consumer will no doubt be reassured by Mitsubishi’s excellent warranty. Most other Japanese marques offer three and five year comprehensive and powertrain warranties on their vehicles. Mitsubishi offers five and ten year coverage, respectively, and five years of unlimited mileage roadside assistance.
Taken all together, the Outlander presents a solid choice. It’s perhaps not as exciting as Mitsubishi’s past, but not everyone is familiar with that past. This new Outlander is for everyone, not just Mitsubishi fans.
- Base Price: $31,998
- Price as tested: $43,978
- Engine: 2.5L inline-four
- Transmission/Drive: continuously variable automatic, all-wheel-drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100kms; city/hwy): 9.7/7.9
- Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester
By embracing an ultra-futuristic front end, Mitsubishi risks offending customers looking for something a little more conventional. The styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is at least a bold statement, and the practicality of the squared-off profile gives a bit of extra room in back. 20″ wheels are fitted to the mid-grade trims.
The Outlander is pretty much the only vehicle in its segment to offer a third row of seats. Think of them more as short-trip jump seats rather than a minivan replacement, as they are quite cramped, and best for smaller children. However, once it’s safe to start ferrying your kids’ friends home from school for a playdate, having the extra capacity will come in handy.
Alongside this new Outlander, Mitsubishi will continue selling their Plugin Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) older version. While an older design, the Outlander PHEV is very popular for its economical operating costs. The technology will come to the new car soon enough, broadening its appeal.
Safety-related river assists like forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear automatic emergency braking are all standard on the base model Outlander. Without having to go to the fully loaded GT models, the mid-grade LE gets some convenience-related features like automated cruise control, 360-degree parking camera, and even navigation.
The folding third row seating does take up a bit of trunk space, but there’s still 950L of space on offer with them folded.
A solid bread-and-butter family crossover that packages useful features with a modern driving feel and great warranty coverage.