If you want a compact sport-utility vehicle with a V-6 engine, your lone option is the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander. The last of the V-6 compact SUVs is an outlier in a world of smallish, tallish wagons gone four-banger. And it's one of just two offered with the option of three-row seating, the other being Nissan's Rogue.
Yes, Mitsu also has a four-cylinder Outlander in the lineup, but to date 70 per cent of buyers have so far gone for the six. Thus, "Our opportunity for growth is with the four-cylinder," says Don Ulmer, Mitsubishi Canada product planning chief.
That means the team will focus heavily on marketing the improved 2016 four-cylinder version (166 hp/162 lb-ft of torque). Makes sense. The biggest bulge of trade-ins comes from buyers leaving the four-cylinder-only Honda CR-V.
The Mitsu crew argues that the 2016 Outlander takes it "to the next level in comfort, convenience, quietness, dynamics, efficiency and technology," the product of some 100 "enhancements." Mitsubishi did a major remake of the Outlander for the 2014 model year, made a "facelift" for 2015 and now we have a third reinvention.
This suggest something amiss with the 2014 re-do, an exercise in banality with a noisy cabin past 30 km/h. Ulmer argues the previous version was "no slouch" in driving dynamics; I'll say unrefined.
This updated 2016 Outlander is quieter and nimbler, for sure. Ford's Escape is still better in the ride and handling department, even though the Mitsu has a new transmission and retuned suspension. Think Nissan Rogue for road manners. For towing, V-6 buyers can pull 1,588 kg, the four does 680 kg.
The latest Outlander clean-sheet exterior is a big jump forward, though. The blacked-out grille is fantastic, you'll find chrome accents all over, and the LED taillights and running lights are a treat. LED headlamps and 18-inch alloy wheels are extra.
Inside, this Outlander is pleasant. There's a thicker steering wheel, piano black accents, more centre console padding, richer cloth seat fabric and an enhanced navigation screen. Hooking up a Bluetooth phone is now possible. The flip-and-fold second row is easy to tuck and fold, too. Third row seating is standard on pricier models with all-wheel drive, and standard on all V-6 models (224 hp/215 lb-ft). A power liftgate is standard on the GT.
Mitsu's Outlander is now in a game with a massively crowded field of entries.
You'll like this SUV if ... you want a snappy-looking compact SUV with a V-6 engine and three rows of seating.
- Base price: $$25,998
- Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder, 3.0-litre V-6.
- Transmissions: CVT for the four-cylinder, six-speed automatic on the V-6.
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.9 city, 8.1 highway for the 2.4 with AWD; 11.5 city, 8.4 hwy for the V-6 with AWD.
- Alternatives: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.
- Looks: This is the first Mitsubishi reflecting the latest Dynamic Shield design language. All the elements add up to a rig with a substantial presence. The rear has a bit of Lincoln to it and the whole package resembles the latest Audi Q7.
- Interior: Good, not great. The thicker steering wheel available with better quality leather is good. The stitching for the upper part of the cluster is good. The new chrome logo is good. The improved navigation screen is good. What’s great? The three-step flip-and-fold second row. Slick.
- Performance: The four-cylinder is a solid engine, but rivals now have slicker turbo fours, such as the latest Hyundai Tucson and Ford’s venerable Escape EcoBoost. Ride is still a tad noisy and handling is middle of the pack.
- Technology: The heated wipers are outstanding. Syncing a Bluetooth phone is now uncomplicated. The CVT8 automatic gearbox often feels just like a step-gear autobox, but does get whiny when you’re climbing a steep hill with the four-banger working away.
- Cargo: Lots of space back there and it can be expanded with the easy-to-operate folding second row. You can also get a third row of seats, something also offered in the Nissan Rogue.
The Outlander now is firmly in the game and has a few advantages over its compact SUV rivals.
Editor's note: Automobile reviews by nature are opinionated. Occasionally, Globe Drive will re-assess a car from another writer's perspective.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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