THE EVOLUTION-IZATION OF THE OUTLANDER
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Published on Thu, Aug 18, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
With the success of Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution (also known affectionately as the EVO), it should not be a surprise that the carmaker chose to make its new Outlander look like an SUV version of the EVO. So for 2011, the Outlander has the EVO look, but does it have the EVO ways? By Reed Berry I am experiencing déjà vu. Many of the vehicles I’ve road tested in the recent past have been SUVs and crossover vehicles. Now I find myself driving yet another. This time, the focus of my attention is the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC. As a former mid-’80s Tredia owner (does anyone remember that generally unimpressive little sedan?), I’m interested to see how Mitsubishi vehicles have evolved over the last quarter century. Because there are so many sport utility vehicles on the road these days, I have a hearty appreciation for any vehicle that stands out in a big crowd. Some SUVs are like birthday cards from cheap relatives – you get excited when you receive one but then open it only to find nothing inside. In my opinion, an SUV should be more than a big, bouncy box with seats and a steering wheel.
On the outside, the Outlander Sport looks great. Just like most automakers, Mitsubishi has gone for big bold styling that gives the vehicle a striking appearance. The chiseled physique and smooth, flowing lines make the Outlander Sport every bit as attractive as some of the more expensive SUVs on the market. Chrome surrounds the front grill, and the angled wrap-around lighting clusters add to the vehicle’s sporty appearance. Inside, the Outlander Sport is not quite as impressive. The interior is certainly driver-friendly with conveniently positioned controls but, with the exception of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and some faux metal dash trim, the interior is a little on the plain side. Clearly, the focus was on exterior styling rather than interior aesthetics. The Outlander also loses points on the position of the center console cup holder as the straw from my 44-ounce soft drink keeps poking my right arm quite uncomfortably. Design flaw, or should I just purchase smaller beverages?
In fairness, however, the interior seating is quite comfortable and the front seats are heated. I’m sure the heated seats are quite wonderful during cold winter weather, but it is a feature I will not be testing on today’s drive to Palm Springs with a current temperature of 99 degrees. And, while I may not be using it right now, as the sun sets later today I will push a button to reveal a panoramic glass roof. The panoramic glass roof is part of an optional $1,800 premium package that also includes what some may refer to simply as a ‘sound system.’ But we must give credit where credit is due – it is an amazing 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate Punch premium sound system with nine speakers including a big 10-inch subwoofer. It is tempting on a drive to Palm Springs to listen to music of some of the areas famous past residents, such as Frank Sinatra or Dinah Shore. But with this door-rattling sound system, Frank and Dinah’s vintage classics are being bumped today for current hits of Katy Perry, Adele and Nicki Minaj.
Like many newer vehicles, no key is required as the Outlander Sport starts with the push of a button. Now I have to make the decision whether to take advantage of the six-speed automatic transmission or to shift manually. While automatic may be the most convenient method, not to mention much more practical in stop-and-go traffic, shifting this vehicle manually results in better performance as the Outlander’s acceleration is quite sluggish and rather disappointing. Using the steering wheel’s paddle shifters helps provide a sportier feel, as well. With a 148-horsepower inline-four engine, the Outlander Sport is not exactly an aggressive powerhouse on the road, but for a smaller, lighter SUV it has enough power to get the job done. And, compared to other SUVs that I’ve road tested, the Outlander Sport has a silky smooth ride at freeway speeds without sacrificing road feel. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is certainly an impressive combination that most SUVs and crossover vehicles are unable to achieve. The Outlander Sport handles quite well. The electrically assisted power steering is quite responsive, and the all-wheel drive system teamed with stability control gives this vehicle a confident road presence.
This vehicle is loaded with safety features, including an engine immobilizer anti-theft system, tire pressure monitoring and airbags throughout. There’s even a driver knee airbag. The optional $2,000 navigation package on my test vehicle includes a rear-view camera system for safe backing. Outlander Sport is available three ways: ES (MSRP $18,495), SE (MSRP $21,695) and SE AWC (MSRP $22,995.) ES and SE are 2-wheel drive. SE AWC is all-wheel drive. Even loaded with available options, the Outlander Sport comes in under $30,000. While the Outlander Sport may not be the most powerful vehicle on the road, it does offer a smooth ride, ample cargo space and an impressive fuel economy rating of 24 city and 29 highway. SUMMARY JUDGMENT A sensible, economical and practical crossover SUV in EVO clothing. You can, however, get more of the EVO ways by opting for the 230-horsepower Outlander GT. For more information about Mitsubishi automobiles: mitsubishicars.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC MSRP: $22,995 As tested: $28,570 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (miles per gallon): 24 city/29 highway Engine type: 2.0-liter MIVEC I-4, DOHC 16-valve Horsepower: 148 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 145 @ 4,200 rpm Transmission type: CVT Sportronic with Magnesium Alloy Paddle Shifters Steering: Assisted electric power steering Suspension: Front: MacPherson struts; Rear: Multi-link Brakes: Anti-lock brake system with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist Wheels: 18” aluminum alloy wheels Dimensions Wheelbase: 105.1 inches Overall length: 169.1 inches Overall width: 69.7 inches Overall height: 64.2 inches Weight: 3,263