Driven: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC with Touring Package
As one of their top-three selling models, Mitsubishi has to put a lot of stock in getting the Outlander right. Stiff competition with midsize crossover favourites like the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 means there’s no laying down on the job.
With those rivals in mind, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is entirely new from the ground up, and the top trim SEL we drove for this review is a fine representative of the lot.
But before we get into it, a caveat. The SEL is a US-spec car, and at the time of this writing, no Australian specs or pricing have yet been released. Everything here is based on the US market, so we’ll update you when those Aussie-specific details become available. But the overall equipment should be available in one way or another across the world, so let’s cover what we know.
With everything redesigned from the ground up, expect pricing to go up a bit over the outgoing model. There’s plenty of standard equipment for your money though, especially on the midrange and upper trims. More of that will be covered later.
Under the bonnet of my tester is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 135kW and 245Nm, a modest increase of 11kW and 25Nm over the outgoing model’s 2.4-litre offering.
That new engine is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with selectable drive modes, and there are paddle shifters for drivers who like to row through the eight (simulated) gear ratios. Mitsubishi says this is the first time it has implemented an electronic automatic.
The plug-in hybrid drivetrain soldiers on only in the current platform for now, with no word on when it might arrive in the new one, and it remains to be seen what other engines might be offered over time.
In terms of fuel economy, the all-wheel-drive US-spec Outlander SEL 2.5 I tested has a combined estimate of 26 miles per US gallon (on the US market's EPA-based test program), which converts to slightly more than 9.0 litres/100km.
That's not a particularly impressive result, although official WLTP-based Australian figures will surely be coming later this year. (In the current model, the 2.4-litre petrol engine claims an official fuel consumption figure of 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle.)
Standard models are front-wheel drive, with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) optional across the board for extra cost. It looks like this might completely take over from the standard all-wheel-drive setup offered on the current generation.
Mitsubishi's advanced on-demand S-AWC all-wheel-drive system adds active yaw control to the rear wheels and is upgraded for quicker torque vectoring response when extra traction is needed. It can also attempt to mimic a locked differential if you find yourself in a situation with two wheels off the ground.
Front-wheel-drive Outlander variants offer five driving modes, while all-wheel-drive models have six. It’s easy to switch modes using the large dial on the centre console, and the gauge cluster clearly indicates what’s selected.
Normal mode is what you’ll use most on bitumen because the fuel-efficient Eco mode provides frustratingly lacklustre acceleration. Gravel mode is for wet or unsealed roads and Snow is for very slippery roads.
Tarmac is Mitsubishi’s equivalent of sport mode, and it will hold a gear ratio for longer to give you better throttle response. Some engine droning noise is noticeable if you leave it in Tarmac mode while cruising around, though.
The all-wheel-drive variants also have a mud mode for the extra mucky stuff.
From the outside, the new Outlander has a much bolder look, with more muscular lines and a stronger presence. Stacked headlights are mounted lower than you’d expect on either side of the restyled Dynamic Shield grille. It’s not a unique idea anymore, but it looks modern and works well with the overall design.
The new face quickly grew on me, especially in person. Horizontal tail-lights emphasise the crossover’s additional width, the flat roof emphasises its SUV-ness, and optional 20-inch alloy wheels complement its new larger stature. A more squared-off body shape makes it easier to know where the corners of the Outlander are when parking.
How much bigger is the 2022 Outlander exactly? It’s 15mm longer, 38mm taller, and 51mm wider than the outgoing model. The wheelbase is also pushed out an extra 36mm. It makes for a roomy enough interior, where legroom should be plenty for all but the tallest folks.
There’s still third-row seating if you need to fit seven, but don’t go thinking the larger Outlander will fit regular-size humans in the way-back, though. The 50/50-split third row is still only a useable realm for those small, flexible humans otherwise known as kids.
The front seats are supportive and include power lumbar support for the driver throughout the Outlander line-up. All but the base trim feature an eight-way power driver’s seat, with a new four-way power passenger seat offered on higher trims. They’re heated on most models, and rear passengers can also get their buns warmed in SEL range-toppers that are likely to again be badged Exceed in Australia.
The driver gets a tilting and telescoping steering wheel with a thick leather-wrapped rim and heating option at the top of the line-up. The SEL has driver’s seat memory and new tri-zone climate control as well, while the lower trims still have a dual-zone setup.
One thoughtful new feature is a pair of device pockets sewn into the back of each front seat, similar to some Skoda and Subaru models.
The kids can easily tuck their tablets and phones away there instead of leaving them flopping around on the seat or in the door pockets. That is, if they ever put them down in the first place. There are USB-A and USB-C charging ports front and back, of course.
Second-row seats have a 40/20/40 split, which allows for some extra flexibility if you’re hauling long cargo. The 2022 Outlander’s larger dimensions mean cargo space with all the rear seats folded has increased pretty significantly – to 2217 litres, compared with the current 1608.
A new foot-activated electric tailgate opener lets you swing your foot under the bumper to open the hatch, which takes about half the time to raise as it did before.
The major interior story is how upscale the totally redesigned cabin feels. There are soft-touch materials in all the right places, like door pulls, the electronic shifter, and even the dash. Glossy piano black trim is contrasted by real aluminium bits and saddle brown accents in my SEL test car with the Touring Package.
The seat surfaces are covered in diamond-stitched semi-aniline leather and the pillars and headliner are black. Those are premium touches you typically find in German luxury brands, not reasonably priced Japanese crossovers.
Another prime new feature is the optional power panoramic sunroof. It’s in the Touring Package on my test car, and should also be available in other trim packages as well.
A massive power shade can cover a portion or all of the glass, and the front section opens like a traditional sunroof. With the shade fully open, it really brightens up the atmosphere in the black interior of this SEL tester. It’s nice in the winter when the sun isn’t set to broil.
Driving dynamics in the new Outlander are much improved over the current generation, and surprisingly good. It does a nice job absorbing bumps and road imperfections around town. The ride is composed, the cabin is quiet, and the crossover is not so big that it feels like a chore to manoeuvre through the city.
The new platform uses ultra-high tensile-strength steel in key areas for a claimed 33 per cent more torsional rigidity than the old model. That extra stiffness combined with revised suspension tuning made hustling the crossover through the rural twisty bits on my drive route easy and even enjoyable.
Most buyers won’t catch slower traffic ahead like I do, so the typical buyer should be plenty happy with its steering and handling.
The 2022 Outlander is not a powerful crossover with 135kW on offer, especially compared with turbo-petrol variants of the Mazda CX-5 for example, but its acceleration is sufficient.
The noise the engine makes when you do put your foot down, however, isn’t the most pleasant. It has some of that constant drone CVTs are notorious for, and sounds a bit coarse. The rest of the time it’s mostly unnoticeable. As I mentioned earlier, information about potential other engine options isn’t available just yet.
As with most all-new cars, there’s no lack of tech features here. All Outlanders have the easy-to-use Smartphone Link Display Audio with new and very welcome dedicated volume and tuning knobs, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay.
Everything but the base trim comes with wireless phone charging, a larger nine-inch touchscreen display and navigation. Connecting my phone was super simple and quick. The screen is also closer to the driver, putting it within easier reach than before.
Options include Bose premium audio, a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument panel, a 10.3-inch head-up display, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
On the driver assistance and safety side, expect all new Outlanders to come with forward and rear emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning with lane change assist, lane departure warning and a driver attention alert. Hill descent control, trailer sway assist, and automatic high beam headlights are also standard throughout the lineup.
Adaptive cruise control, a surround-view monitor, and a new lane departure prevention system are available, likely only on mid-range and higher trims or as an option. When I crept onto the lines at the edges of a winding road, my fully-loaded tester vibrated the steering wheel in my hands to let me know I was potentially leaving the lane.
This new Outlander is still too fresh to have received any crash safety ratings, but the outlook for a good score is positive. For reference, the previous model received a five-star ANCAP rating.
A newly added, front-seat-mounted centre airbag helps keep front passengers from crashing into each other in a side impact, as required for a five-star rating under ANCAP's latest testing criteria. The increased chassis stiffness and other construction improvements should also help it achieve a high rating in theory, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Overall, Mitsubishi addressed a lot of quibbles with the previous generation Outlander and seems to have done it quite well.
The new and vastly improved 2022 Outlander is much better equipped to go up against its biggest competition with its head held high.
Enthusiasts seeking the right family hauler may be turned off by this particular engine and CVT combination, but it can serve nicely for the typical buyer.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander details
Body: 5-door, 7-seat SUV
Drive: FWD or AWD
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl direct injection
Power: 135kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 245Nm @ 3600rpm
Fuel consumption: 9.0L/100km (US-market estimate, combined)
Transmission: 8-speed CVT
Suspension: MacPherson strut/Multi-link
Brakes: Front ventilated discs/Rear ventilated discs
Tyres: 255/45 R20
Price: TBD (current model starts at $32,490 for 2.4-litre model)