For its first generation Mitsubishi’s compact/medium crossover was known as the Airtek, but that name didn’t stick and by its second generation was dropped. Its replacement was equally unique, part highlander, part outlaw, the ‘Outlander’ nameplate was introduced. Like the adventurous moniker would suggest the Outlander was capable of reaching higher ground regular cars couldn’t while still having enough pace to easily enable law-breaking speeds. Late last year the Outlander had a mid-cycle facelift and swaggered back into town with new styling, engine tweaks and a few new tricks. Car and SUV saddled up with the reworked Outlander to see what’s new and check it still had the goods to be NZ’s best selling medium SUVs.
While the upgrades are deeper than a new front end, that’s where the most noticeable change exists. The new ‘jet fighter’ front grille is robbed off the Lancer and although you couldn’t call it pretty, it gives the Outlander a purposeful, staunch presence. Other exterior updates include a new bonnet with character lines that lead into the grille, colour-coded door mirrors, side-sills and a new rear bumper. Our VR model test vehicle was finished off with silver integrated roof rails, front fog lamps and smart 18-inch alloys. Overall, the Outlander is a handsome SUV, it makes use a fairly standard boxy shape but the upgrades have helped release individuality from those confines.
The Outlander interior hasn’t escaped a serious upgrade either and has received new trim on the seats, doors and dash. A clever new instrument cluster also features and integrates a colour screen that sits between the large dials to provide trip and vehicle information. The cabin is nicely understated and mixes a large dose of dark plastics with just enough contrasting silver trim. It’s a look that shouldn’t date and there’s a feeling of durability to the materials and one of quality to the finish. The curvy dashboard houses minimal switchgear that is simple to use. The climate control dials do sit quite low but are large and offer easy use when on the road. The three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is a bit thin for larger hands but looks great and houses, audio, phone and cruise controls. There are some class touches in the Outlander cabin like alloy pedals, leather shift knob, a keyless starting system, Bluetooth and plenty of small storage options.
Frontward visibility is excellent and the large side mirrors offer a good view of the flanks. However, a thick D-pillar and chunky headrests compromise rearward visibility. In terms of space front occupants are well catered for, the back seat is adjustable and has good legroom, but a sloping roofline may restrict headroom for taller passengers. Three can fit in the back fairly comfortably and if that’s not enough there’s a third row of seating hidden in the hatch floor. This extra row boosts Outlander passenger capacity to seven but is small and like most occasional seating best suited to children.
Cargo capacity is a generous 882-litres with the third row stowed away. To get more space the second row can be shifted forward and tilted up against the backs of the front seats with the push of a button. This will provide a capacious 1,691 litres of luggage space. A practical split tailgate makes loading large items easier by providing a totally flat loading space and can double up as a handy seating position when the vehicle is parked.
Under the Outlander VR’s bonnet Mitsubishi have stuck with their tried and tested 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. The 24-valve SOHC unit has been tweaked to now produce an extra 7kw of power and a wider torque curve. The result is a grunty 172kW of power and 296Nm of torque. While fuel economy has been improved to 10.4L/100km the V6 is still far thirstier than 4-cylinder and especially diesel engined competitors. That said, the V6 powers the Outlander nicely and allows its 1690kg kerb mass to move at an express pace. The motor has plenty in reserve when open-road cruising and is also well composed when humming along in urban traffic.
The V6 engine is mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission which for a traditional auto box functions admirably. It almost always selects the right gear and offers quick, smooth shifts. If manual changes are required there is a tiptronic gate on the gear selector and steering column mounted paddles.
The Outlander is very car-like to drive and the suspension is set at a good balance between bump absorbing compliance and the firmness required for sharp handling. With the V6 engine mounted up front the Outlander is prone to oversteer when pushed hard but during general driving it remains well balanced thanks to its S-AWC system.
The Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system is a full-time 4WD set up that uses electronic traction and stability aides to transfer the appropriate amount of torque to each wheel when required. The system also offers three driving modes – tarmac, off-road and snow. On loose surfaces and lighter off-road excursions the combination of the Outlander’s S-AWC system and its 215mm ground clearance makes it a capable machine.
On road ride comfort is generally good, the tyres do kick up some road noise but the cabin remains cosseting on longer journeys and the engine is smoothly quiet.
The Outlander offers strong safety features including dual stage front airbags, side and curtain airbags, ABS brakes, Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist and an alarm. The reworked Outlander has achieved a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
The bottom line is that Mitsubishi have taken an already good package in the Outlander and improved it with a generous facelift. It also comes backed by a tempting 5-year/130,000 km new car warranty (10 years/160,000 km for the powertrain). If the Outlander will continue to be NZ’s top selling medium SUV as it gets later in its lifecycle will be a true test. For now, this ole gunslinger offers solid performance through a smooth drivetrain, great levels of equipment, good on-road manners and modern, distinctive styling. It’s facing a tough showdown with competitors like the Nissan X-Trail and Toyota’s RAV4 but it’s not outclassed. If you’re looking for a safe, practical and comfortable mid-size SUV the Outlander demands consideration.
What we like:
- Powerful V6 engine
- Car-like driving dynamics
- Elegantly understated interior
- Smooth auto transmission
What we don’t like:
- Fuel economy
- Small third-row seating
- Rear visibility
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Other reviews of interest (click to view):
Mitsubishi Outlander VR (2010) – Specifications
Type 3.0 SOHC MIVEC 6B31
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Bore and stroke 87.6 X 82.9
Max power DIN (kW@rpm) 172 @ 6,250 (95 Oct)
Max torque DIN (Nm@rpm) 296 @ 3750
Fuel consumption – L/100km 10.4
CO2 – g/km 242
Overall length – mm 4,665
Overall width – mm 1,800
Overall height – mm (with roof rails) 1,735
Wheel base – mm 2,670
Track front – mm 1,540
Track rear – mm 1,540
Ground clearance – mm 215
Approach angle deg 22.0
Departure angle deg 22.5
Ramp break-over angle deg 19.0
Turning circle – m 10.6
Kerb weight – kg 1,720
Gross vehicle weight – kg 2,335
Seating capacity – persons 7
Roof loading (total weight) – kg 80
Towing braked – kg 1,600
Towing unbraked – kg 750