Test: Mitsubishi Outlander
Feann Torr - 3/May/2007
rate that most compact AWDs are growing these days, the term 'compact'
may become a completely outmoded descriptor in another decade.
its RAV4 in Australia as the 'big' alternative, and most compact AWDs
that have evolved through redesigns have grown in stature.
what about Mitsubishi's new AWD? It too has grown in stature, but it's currently one of the youngest
compact AWDs on the market and hasn't been as broadly accepted as
vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail. But the new Outlander has a few tricks
up its sleeve and may well upset the current status quo.
As well as a new look - arguably the
important single factor in selling lifestyle vehicles - the
Mitsubishi Outlander is offered in both 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder
guises, with a fresh new look that is at once both rugged and
We're testing the volume
selling entry-level 4-cylinder model today, priced at $31,990,
and if first
impressions are anything to go by Mitsubishi could be onto something special
with this new model.
there's only automatic gearbox
options with all Outlander models: a traditional 6-speeder for the
models and a more modern CVT automatic for the 4-cylinder versions. The
CVT or 'continuously variable transmission' has been in use for quite a
few years now in the new car marketplace, and I'll be up front: I'm
reckon they're great.
connect one of these CVTs to a sports car as it would ruin the
traditional sensation that a manual offers and isn't always suited to
serious tarmac driving, but for use in small cars and
AWDs like this one, the application works very very well.
With a bold new look, an advanced new gearbox, a functional new
interior, and an expanded seven seat capacity, Mitsubishi has
added the AWC (All Wheel Control) system to its new soft-roader as
well. This last feature makes switching between the various 4WD modes
very simple - you just turn a dial - and it must be said that the
Outlander as a whole makes a strong first impression. Let's take a look:
Model: Outlander LS
Engine: 2.4-litre, inline 4-cylinder, petrol
Safety: 4 airbags (front
driver/passenger airbags, front side airbags), ABS, EBD
Car Supplier: Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi's Outlander looks
good in the
driveway, yet is quite at home off the road
With a departure angle of 21° and a
of 18.7°, the Mitsubishi Outlander doesn't mind mud
With a claimed 210mm of
the Outlander gives you a good view of the
ahead and is also useful on bush tracks
first hour I spent in the new
Outlander were quite eye-opening, and first
impressions were very positive: it drives well, it looks good, and the
interior is a huge improvement on the outgoing model with a more
refined look and feel. And what's more the new Outlander from
Mitsubishi is in fact better
than a lot of the current champs of the compact AWD category.
new model is being marketed under Mitsu's "4WD Revolution"
marketing brand in Australia, and
has similar styling cues to the Triton and other 4WDs in the range, giving the car a rugged and angular
that's at the same time rather modern and seems to suit the urban
It feels modern too, thanks in
no small part to the CVT.
CVT (continuously variable transmission) is the first inkling that the
Outlander is different to its rivals. It's the first compact AWD in
Australia to be offered with a CVT, and if you're looking at the
4-cylinder model it is the only gearbox available. There
is no manual model.
don't freak out, because the gearbox is very good. As well as the
seamless operation of a CVT, it also makes the most out of the engine
and ensures that the 125kW of power from the 2.4-litre engine is
efficiently put to the ground.
it's a stepless gearbox, you never feel it
'shifting' between gears and using different ratios. It simply adjusts
the rpm (revolutions per minute) of the engine to however much throttle
you dial in, and the
result is responsive and frugal, able to sip
about 5.8L/100km on the highway at 100km/h. The engine ticks over at about 2000rpm at this
road speed - which is not too shabby at all.
of revving through gears, the CVT ensures that you only tax the engine
as needed, so at slower speeds you won't be using litres of fuel or
revving out first and second gears (strictly speaking, a CVT has
unlimited gears). It's
also good at highway speeds for overtaking,
acting much quicker than a normal auto as it never has to 'hunt' for
gears. The revs just rise and away she goes.
system - or AWC (All Wheel Control) in Mitsu speak - is also
quite useful, with
three easy to activate modes that use an electronically
controlled coupling to switch the car between 2WD and 4WD.
just turn the dial to initiate three different modes:
most fuel efficient
mode and best for driving on sealed roads (will engage 4WD if it
detects wheel spin).
best used when its raining or when driving on unsealed roads.
Lock: this transfers more torque to the rear wheels and is suited for
slower speed off-road duties and basic 4WD tracks.
of the best things about the system is you don't have to stop, or roll
forward while it's neutral to initialise any of the modes. Just turn
the dial and away you go. The system is clean
and simple and it works.
Slotting the AWC into 4WD
Auto model on an unsealed gravel road, I stomped the
accelerator pedal from standstill and the Outlander didn't lose
traction at all, which was impressive. Ground clearance isn't
brilliant (claimed at 210mm) and we did snag a few times on uneven and bumpy terrain, but it can
climb up some pretty steep hills when pushed thanks to
a 21.9º approach angle.
said, average ABS and no
downhill descent controls can make navigating steep off-road descents
quite nerve wracking, and the CVT is more suited to sealed-road driving
than boggy 4WD tracks and the like. It feels quite self-assured both on
road, kind of like a mountain goat. And from the front end it almost
look like a big metallic goat as well.
suited to normal asphalt roads (hence the road-biased 215/70 R16 tyre
tread patterns) the Outlander is nevertheless adept enough to hit
up some bush trails, and it's perfect for loading up camping
gear and canoes or just heading up dirt tracks when the you feel like
As an example, we were cruising along some back country roads in North
Eastern Victoria to see how the Outlander performed round corners, and
we came across an semi-beaten trail leading away from the bitumen. We
gingerly followed it and after a couple of kilometres of bouncing around on some
very rocky and uneven roads, we came across an
amazing plateau of sorts, affording a stunning view of region.
it's no LandCruiser, it has a decent capacity to sling mud,
being able to head off road at a whim and reach places that most road cars can't is a cool aspect of this car.
As far as power and
acceleration go, there's enough juice here to tow a trailer (rated up
to 1500kg) and even
with a full load the CVT teams up with the 2.4-litre engine to provide
good boot around town and on the highway. In addition to decent
power, the steering has a progressive feel: it's fairly light
but not too loose that you have no
feel of the road beneath you.
suspension is quite pliant and
provides good levels of ride comfort, but not to the point where it's
no good round corners. More impressive than its basic off-road
abilities is the Outlanders' cornering prowess. The mid sized
Mitsubishi feels poised and quite
eager through corners, which is a big (and welcome) surprise. Methinks
decades of developing the Lancer Evolution 4WD is finally having an effect on
drives more like a car than most other compact AWDs, and the more
I took the Outlander through corners, the more I enjoyed
it. This bodes very well for Mitsubishi's new global platform,
of which the Outlander is the first vehicle to be based on,
though the suspension isn't overly firm Mitsubishi has
managed to keep the car's body roll to low-ish levels, so navigating
roundabouts and tight
corners doesn't feel as ponderous as in some compact AWDs.
something with such a tall body and an inherent high centre of gravity,
the Outlander handles quite nicely. And on that point you get a good
traffic as well, and when you factor in the flexible engine/gearbox
and the huge side mirrors (wide
and tall) that offer good rearward visibility, the Outlander is quite at
home in urban situations as well. The little features add its ease of
use too, like the classy steering wheel controls and one-touch indicator
stalks -- you just hit them lightly and the indicators will
automatically flash three times, a feature found on most European cars.
The brakes aren't
brilliant, but do a
reliable job for the entry-level model and ABS and EBD are
reassuring additions, but ASC (active stability control) is
only available on 6-cylinder models which is a bit of a shame.
I really like the way the Outlander handles. It feels like a car on the
road, but has more ground clearance and a switchable AWD mode enabling
it to head off road. In terms of standard features, and even gearbox
engine options, it's done a huge job in catching up to its competitors
-- and it may have even eclipsed one or two of them along the way. The
was the first 4WD we tested with a CVT, and this is yet again a very
good application of newer gearbox technology which is perfect for
city use, but good on the open road as well.
It's not as involving to drive as a traditional auto or manual, but in
utility the CVT can't be beaten, and together with the new design the
Outlander makes a compelling case for itself.
The first generation
Outlander - or Airtrek as it was called in the Nihon - wasn't the
greatest of vehicles ever built. It felt a bit slap-dash particularly in the drivetrain department, but this
second generation Outlander is something else altogether.
engine in this
entry level model hasn't been dramatically changed - 2.4-litre MIVEC 4-cylinder,
125kW - but the gearbox has, and it makes all the difference. It now
gets a CVT which as a general rule represent the most fuel
efficient gearbox technology available at the moment, and are
quieter and smoother than the traditional automatic transmission fitted with a
engine was used on the previous model Outlander and felt pretty soggy,
but in this application it's far more lively. It's not far off the class
leader in terms of power and torque outputs,
but its implementation is without peer. Thanks to the CVT, the car
more fuel efficient and it accelerates smoothly at all road speeds.
In drive mode under a full
throttle the engine will eventually reach 6800rpm and the tacho needle will sit
there as long as you keep the accelerator pinned, but there's
also a tiptronic mode for drivers who want to experience a
driving style. In this mode the CVT mimics a 6-speed automatic gearbox
you change ratios via the J-gate gear shifter. It's easy to do, and the
shifts feel quite smooth but in my opinion it's kind of
pointless when you've got the far more responsive and fuel
2.4-litre, Inline 4-cylinder (4B12)
The 2.4-litre (2359cc) L4 engine features an
construction (cylinder head and engine block) and dual
(DOHC) with variable valve timing. These actuate a total of 16-valves (4-valves per cylinder). The
4-cylinder has a 10.5:1
compression ratio and will accept 91 RON unleaded petrol when
filling the 60 litre fuel tank.
consumption: 9.5L/100km (combined cycle)
Max Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Max Torque: 226Nm @ 4100rpm
0-100km/h: 10.6 seconds
The Outlander compact AWD has an adventurous new look
Mitsubishi has crafted an impressive interior for
the Outlander with heaps of storage spaces, a tidy
centre console and an intuitive 4WD selector dial
The 4-cyldiner engine has a decent
amount of punch and rarely feels overstretched. But at the same
token it's no hot rod. The 2.4-litre mill permits the Outlander to
scramble from 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds and the all-alloy engine
does a reliable job and
has a decent amount of torque down low. Some 170 Newtons are on
from 1000rpm, up to its peak of 226Nm @ 4100rpm.
more power and torque and don't mind paying a premium there is also a
couple of V6 models, beginning at just under $38k, and they
deliver a more assertive 162 kilowatts of power and 276Nm from
the larger 6-cylinder engine.
Thanks to the CVT, the
entry-level Outlander's 2.4-litre engine's average fuel consumption during our test (comprised
of both city, country, and off-road driving) was 8.8L/100km, and Mitsubishi
claims a combined cycle average of 9.5L/100km.
consumption dropped below 6L/100km on the freeway which was
just awesome and it proves just how flexible these
continuously variable transmissions can be. The CVT didn't
feel quite as refined as some units, such as the versions used
in the Nissan Maxima and Lexus GS450h, but it
did its job without protest and made getting from A to B more seamless than
your traditional automatic.
than its predecessor in almost every respect - it's longer, wider and
taller - the 2007 Outlander makes a strong visual impression. The
exterior design is more more angles than curves and suits the car's
driving abilities nicely. Of all the compact 4WDs out there I reckon it
comes closest to the Nissan X-Trail, not for any similarities betweent
the designs so much as the overall 'rugged' look.
from the front the Outlander has a similar 'face' to that of
the new Triton, with an angular headlight design encompassing the
circular main and high beam headlights that lend it a purposeful
stare. The new style grille has rugged connotations as
do the flared wheel arches, and I found it to be a fair
improvement on its predecessor.
the car has a stocky, bullish stance with a high belt line/slim window
line, that curves down slightly towards the rear end that gives the car
a somewhat sporty appeal. I wouldn't go so far to call it 'coupe-ish'
but it does add a dynamic element to the car's profile.
The roof racks are a practical addition that
have been styled to add more substance to the Outlander design, and
technical-look LED brake lights follow the lines of the rear windscreen
to integrate nicely into the rear.
entry-level model the $31,990 Outlander LS misses out on alloy wheels and fog
lights, but it's not a bad looking vehicle whether parked on a bush
block or down at the shops. All told, the Outlander's design is different
enough from its rivals to be fresh but still every inch a Mitsubishi.
It blends a few rugged features with a modern, almost edgy overall
design that is more urban than off-road. But it seems to work.
too, it's got a fresh feel; everything's back-lit in red giving the car
sophisticated ambiance and there's quite a few features packed into
this car which are good for an entry-level model. These standard
features include cruise control, leather steering wheel with audio
controls, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, a CD stereo
The interior is both well laid out and peppered
solutions, and though there's no sunglasses holder the addition of the
double glove box that folds out both in two sections (above and below
the dash pad) is a clever idea which opens up more storage space.
also a closable
storage area on the top of the dashboard (good for documents, a
couple of CDs, and a garage door remote) and it's some of the
little touches like this that indicate Mitsubishi has put a fair amount
of thought into designing the cabin.
cloth trim that covers the front and rear seats is alright, with
fairly soft cushioning and decent side
bolstering for the front seats, which make for a comfortable driving experience. There's a good amount of room for rear
seat passengers, and a generously sized boot with 1119 litres of cargo
space, and this opens up to a whopping 2056 litres
when the easy-to-stow rear seats are folded down.
tailgate opens up in two sections as well, but I couldn't really figure
out the benefit of this seeing as the bottom half was so slim
(meaning the top half is almost the same as a normal boot door).
Keeping the miniature dog from leaping out while driving, perhaps?
a lot of popular SUVs these days, the Outlander can also be ordered as
a 7-seat vehicle, with two very basic seats (with seatbelts) squeezed in behind the middle row. It'll cost you
more for the 7-seat model, but it's good to see there's an option to turn the vehicle into a
frugal people mover if you want it that way.
From the drivers seat
the Outlander is a roomy vehicle, with an attractive
instrument cluster. What Mitsubishi has done with the cockpit is pleasing, and though the dash plastics are not best in class,
everything looks rather modern and functional. When you hit the air
conditioning button, for instance, you'll get an audible beep and small
touches like this make the car feel far more prestigious than its
instrument cluster is back lit in red (which seems to be the colour du
jour at the moment) and comprises twin sports dials between
which sits a crimson dot matrix LCD display. This little screen is very
useful, and has a range of pictographic features, including
any doors are ajar, instant
and average fuel usage, distance to empty and so on.
CD player and FM/AM stereo is elegantly integrated into
the centre console which has a touch of the BMW 'less is more'
approach. It's far less busy than some centre consoles, and the trio of
HVAC dials underneath the stereo have tactile rubber strips around
their diametres which adds to their quality feel. The bog standard stereo system is a 6-speaker unit
with two tweeters at the front, while the more expensive models get a
9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, and a rear seat entertainment system can
also be optioned.
The audio quality of the standard
stereo is not bad, but not great either. The bass is shallow and the
average - we found radio reception to be scratchy on more than one
occasion, though the MP3 compatible CD player mitigates this
Safety systems include ABS, EBD, and driver
and front passenger side and head airbags, though 4-cylinder models
miss out on ASC or active stability control.
is it that sells a compact
4WD? Is it the style and the look of
the car? According to Nissan it most certainly is the style - it's second
generation X-Trail has been intentionally styled to look
predecessor due to research that suggested people appreciated
Others will tell you it's standard
features that sell a compact 4WD. The Toyota RAV4 claims it's about
interior space and the size of the vehicle. So what about Mitsubishi's
compact 4WD? It cleverly combines a
little of each, and result is an all-rounder that can fulfil a number of roles.
not only started on the compact 4WD scene late with the Outlander and
had to play catchup, but
it was up against entrenched competition that wouldn't easily give up
their market shares. But with the second generation
Outlander, Mitsubishi has put a lot of though into the vehicle and it
shows. It's good to drive, has a great interior, and is
a dynamic looking vehicle with many of the latest features. So
while it's not a class leader in any one discipline (except for fuel
usage thanks to the CVT) it does everything
Even Peugeot and Citroën
have signed a deal that will see them using the Outlander as the base
for their new SUVs, which is a vote of confidence for the Japanese
Underpinned by a new global
platform, sporting a new look, new gearbox, and a range of practical
standard features, the ZG Outlander also benefits from Mitsubishi's
strong 5 year/130,000 kilometre
bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5 years Roadside Assistance, all of which
Outlander's odds against its rivals and gives it the potential to do very well.
not a class
leader just yet, but neither is it at the the bottom of the
pile any more.
- No ASC
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