Yes, go ahead, put the Mitsubishi Outlander on your test-drive list – if, of course, you are like thousands of other Canadians who swapped the family station wagon for a small or mid-size sport-utility vehicle or crossover.
Everything about the Outlander falls into place. It's the correct size. The styling is bold. The cabin is quiet and airy, though filled with too much hard plastic. You can get it with front- or four-wheel drive and Mitsu even offers a couple of engine choices – 2.4-litre four-cylinder (166 horsepower) and 3.0-litre V-6 (227 hp).
The instruments are settled into an uncomplicated cluster of clear gauges, and the controls for infotainment and climate are sensible if slightly undersized, making them awkward to use when you're wearing winter gloves. The seats are properly padded, though a bit flat and short under the thigh, and you can even get a power liftgate at the rear.
It's safe (Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and while there isn't much third-party quality research, Transport Canada's Outlander recall database does not hold any particularly alarming news – certainly nothing about dangerous airbags and such.
Mitsu's four-wheel-drive system, standard on my $40,378 tester, is among the best in the business. It moves engine power around in a sophisticated way across the front wheels and front to rear; your chances of getting stuck are slim. Steering and braking are unremarkable.
Here's the rub: I thought Mitsu in Canada would carve out a niche that includes a pricing advantage over the big players – the Honda CR-V, the Nissan Rogue, the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 to name four. Not so, and that's disappointing.
The Outlander GT, with navigation, is no bargain when matched head to head with a comparably equipped RAV, Escape, Rogue or CR-V. Just the opposite. Comparably equipped, these others are less expensive by $2,500-$5,300. A big gap.
Okay, Mitsu does offer an outstanding warranty, but the quality indicators suggest you'll never need it.
If you're going to pay the Outlander premium, you'll need to fall in love with the styling, the drive system and intangibles that are hard to quantify. I didn't. I'd buy one of the many less expensive alternatives. But test one; you may disagree.
You'll like this car if ... you want a solid family ride that you won't find scattered through your neighbours' driveways – one with an excellent four-wheel-drive system, sharp looks and, alas, a price premium.
- Base price: $36,198; as tested, $40,378.
- Engine: 3.0-litre V-6.
- Drive: Part- and full-time four-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.5 city/8.4 highway using premium fuel.
- Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Rogue, Dodge Journey, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Tiguan, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Jeep Cherokee.
- Looks: This is a bit of eye candy in a segment where it’s tough to stand out. The nose is bold, the cutlines in the sheet metal are dressy, the sharp bezel around the front fog lamps and so on. Handsome.
- Interior: Solid though unspectacular. Love the airiness of the place and the visibility. Not so keen on the flat seat design and the smallish controls, which will make things tricky when operating them with winter gloves. But the available power rear liftgate is terrific.
- Technology: The standout item is the four-wheel-drive system that shifts torque back and forth among the front wheels and front to rear. The infotainment system is easy to operate – without cracking the owner’s manual.
- Performance: Most of the Outlander’s rivals are not offered with a V-6, just turbocharged fours when you want the greatest output. This is a good engine with reasonable fuel economy, though it does want premium fuel. The Outlander is easy to drive, responsive and pleasant.
- Cargo: Plenty of room back there.
The Outlander does everything it should, without any big disappointments, other than it is pricier than rivals when comparably equipped.
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