In a society where women are having children later in life, and less of them, why is it that cars and SUVs with lots of seats are selling so well? The SUV and premium SUV market has shown huge growth at the expense of the large car market.
Manufacturers even bring out vehicles with seating for eight! With declining birth rates amongst the moneyed demographic, you’d think that seven-seat SUVs costing forty to fifty grand would sell like bikinis in Iceland. But that’s not the case. The best selling SUV in 2007 was the Mitsubishi Outlander and it sold 1665 units, more than many cars. All but the base 2.4-litre has seven seats. Why did it sell so well?
My theory is that we may be having less children (in my case, zero), but we’re making up for our kids’ lack of siblings by carting everyone else’s kids to soccer/netball/rugby/ballet practice. Of course, it makes sense. Firstly we want to carpool because it’s good for ‘the environment’. Secondly, people are busy so can’t always get their kids to wherever they need to be, and the back of someone else’s SUV is a safe enough place to be — they’re in the hands of a responsible adult; they’re twelve feet off the ground; they’re surrounded by ultra-reinforced, missile-proof high-tensile steel, and cushioned by airbags. So it seems.
This Outlander V6 XLS is perfect for delivering Timmy and Penelope to ballet and go-karting, respectively (this is the 21st Century). It’s also great for their friends. And yours.
Part of its success will be the fact that it is one of the better looking SUVs on the market. It’s not overly imposing — almost the transition between something like an Audi allroad or Subaru Outback, and a big chunky SUV like the Pajero.
The Outlander has some useful off-road features. In normal road driving, 2WD is sufficient, and the rear wheels coast. When AWD Auto is selected the rear wheels are only called upon when the fronts start struggling. AWD Lock ensures all wheels are propelling the car with an optimum level of torque. If one wheel begins to slip the Outlander’s Active Stability Control (traction control) will apply the brakes to the spinning wheel and transfer torque to the remaining three wheels. The modes can be changed while driving.
The eighteen-inch wheels are wrapped in 225/55R18 tyres and transmit to the road the 280Nm of torque and 165kW generated from the 3-litre V6 MIVEC engine with INVECS-II six-speed transmission. This can be left in auto or used in sequential sports mode using either the gearstick or paddle shifters mounted on the steering column. INVECS-II monitors the driver’s driving style, adjusting the gears to suit. Drivers who prefer a sportier feel with later upshifts and earlier downshifts will find the Outlander responds well.
Combined with MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm multilink arrangement (with mono-tube shocks like on the Evo IX) at the rear, the Outlander feels lively, though you are still aware that the seating position is high and you are in an SUV. Mitsubishi has undertaken weight saving measures such as an aluminium roof to reduce body roll and the centre of gravity.
The Outlander is also designed with some features useful for towing such as self-levelling headlights. The third row of seats folds flat into the floor giving a good load space of 882 litres, and for those carrying extra large loads the second row of seats folds forwards to give almost 1700 litres of load space. A split tailgate adds versatility. The top of the gate opens upwards for quick access to luggage without the risk of carefully packed items spilling out. The lower portion of the tailgate can be lowered to floor level giving more luggage accessibility for large loads. And it can be used as a seat.
Mitsubishi obviously expects purchasers to be carrying legions of ‘young adults’ because the apparently the ceiling is made to absorb and break down annoying interior smells. There is also a large amount of sound deadening to keep the interior isolated from road noise, optimising the sound of the nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo. A subwoofer is housed in the rear of the Outlander. Curtain airbags accompany the dual driver/passenger front and side airbags.
Predictably the V6 is not frugal, but it does offer a large dollop of overtaking power and excellent cruising characteristics. Mitsubishi quotes 10.9l/100km. We achieved 12.1l/100km average on two typical runs incorporating city and motorway driving in fairly light traffic. Using the cruise control and perhaps a less hilly route would likely bring our figure more in line with Mitsubishi’s.
It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Outlander is very popular. Attractive styling, sensible price, plenty of interior room both for passengers and luggage, and an engine selection to match a wide range of driver requirements should see it maintain a position at or near the top for a while.
Price: 3.0 XLS from $44,990 (base model 2.4 LS from $34,990)
What we like
- Lots of legroom
- Good styling
What we don’t like
- Easy to provoke the traction control in 2WD
- V6 is predictably thirsty — we couldn’t achieve the quoted 10.9l/100km
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
OUTLANDER XLS 3.0L V6
type: 3.0L V6 MIVEC
compression ratio: 9.5:1
bore and stroke: 87.6 x 82.9
max power DIN (kw/rpm): 165/6250
max torque DIN (Nm/rpm): 280/4000
type: 6-speed A/T with Sport Mode
gear ratio range: 4.199 – 0.685
fuel tank size – litres: 60
fuel type: unleaded regular
wheel type: alloy
wheel size: 18″
tyre size: 225/55R18 97H
spare wheel and tyre: space saver type
front suspension: macpherson strut with coil spring and stabiliser
rear suspension: multi-link with stabiliser
power steering rack and pinion type
ABS brakes with EBD (electronic brake distribution)
front – disc 16″ ventilated
rear – disc 16″ drum in
overall length – mm: 4640
overall width – mm: 1800
overall height – mm (with roof rails): 1720
wheelbase – mm: 2670
track front – mm: 1540
track rear – mm: 1540
ground clearance – mm: 215
turning circle – m: 10.6
kerb weight – kg: 1695
gross vehicle weight – kg: 2335
seating capacity – persons: 7
cargo room length (seat down) – mm: 1030
cargo room length (seat up) – mm: 1650
cargo room width – mm: 1335
cargo room height – mm: 1020 (with
cargo volume – litres
(5 seats up – no third row): 882
(2 seats up – 2nd row flat): 1691