Mitsubishi has extensively revised the engineering and styling of its Outlander SUV, while enhancing value. But has enough been done to shake up the hotly competitive mid-sized market segment?
WHAT IS IT?
Mid-size SUV with choice of two- or four-wheel drive, aimed at families who demand the versatility of a third row of seats. Take your pick of two petrol engines and a turbo diesel. Sometimes a people carrier; occasionally an off-roader.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Significant mid-life facelift covers redesigned nose, tail and cabin styling and extensive re-engineering. This includes new-generation CVT, recalibrated steering, improved structural rigidity, lower NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), revised suspension tune and with the promise of enhanced ride quality and comfort. Richer features for a value boost, too.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The Outlander is in a hotly contested segment where good is barely enough, and average merely guarantees consumer indifference. The mid-life upgrade, though worthy, is not quite there.
PLUS: Quieter; smoother; improved seat comfort; drives nicer; smarter looks; seven-seat capacity
MINUS: Petrol engines lack urge; confusing infotainment system; no wow factor inside
THE WHEELS REVIEW
JUST what does the Mitsubishi brand represent these days? That was an easier question to answer back a bit when its catalogue offered up robust four-wheel-drive wagons and utes, and some lightning-bolt turbo sporties.
The turbocharged Starion, Galant VR-4 and a succession of manic rally based Evos showed Mitsubishi could be daring and inventive if not always hitting the target (3000GT). Mitsubishis were over-engineered, solid, durable…
Crippling debt, a period of “occupation” by Daimler and subsequent cost-cutting, sliding morale and a subjugation of ideas did hurt sales and reputation. The recent dearth of fresh product, specifically much needed replacements for the Lancer and Pajero, has brought no sign of a revival.
Hope arrives with the well-received, more refined new Triton ute – the company’s best seller in Australia – and a facelift for the mid-size Outlander.
More handsome than before on the outside, the Outlander’s cabin also benefits from an upgrade in furnishings, with some pleasing soft-touch areas, and a new steering wheel. Improvements to the seat bolstering guarantee the tush and torso stay happy on long road trips.
The base LS looks and feels smarter with its new headlining and a sunglasses holder, along with new trim materials and stitching.
However, the infotainment system is confusing and frustrating; phone pairing and audio streaming should be simpler.
Nicer though the interior now is, it’s not as premium as its Jeep, Subaru and Mazda rivals.
Mitsubishi has endowed a generous level of standard gear on the Outlander, including a reversing camera and sensors.
The mid-grade XLS 4WD (highlighted here) now gets digital radio reception, electric folding and heated door mirrors, and electro-chromatic auto-dimming interior mirror in addition to auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation.
Some significant engineering has gone on under the skin but, frustratingly, the 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engines don’t benefit from much more than minor fuel consumption improvements. The $35K XLS’s torque-deficient 2.4 does its best work on the flat but struggles on hills and overtaking.
The upgraded constantly variable transmission on the petrol models has improved off-the-mark acceleration and fuel efficiency. It is now less likely to drop into that annoying “slippy clutch” sensation that blighted many early CVTs. Not as slick as the Subaru CVT, though.
Most noticeable is serious work done in the area of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The Outlander is certainly quieter inside, with muted engine and road sounds, and more refined overall. Redesigned door seals also give a new, improved solid sound when closing the doors.
New, bigger rear dampers and retuned electronic steering have helped improve straight-line stability and ride comfort. While the front suspension can still be caught out on sharper bumps, the ride/handling package is more agreeable.
The seven-seat option isn’t widely available in this segment and should be a popular pick.
The extensively rejigged Outlander does represent a step forward in looks, comfort and refinement, but it needs more to put the frighteners into rivals led by the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Cherokee.
Model: Mitsubishi Outlander XLS seven-seat 4WD
Engine: 2360cc 4cyl, sohc, 16v
Max power: 124kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 220Nm @ 4200rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Fuel economy: 7.2 L/100km
On sale: Now