Review: Mitsubishi Outlander redeems itself on Florida road trip

The Outlander didn’t fare well at AJAC’s TestFest last fall, but did it have a fair chance? Stephanie put some serious thought into this SUV after putting in some serious miles.

  • 2016 mitsubishi outlander


    • WHAT’S BEST: Quiet and comfort levels are better than many competitors
    • WHAT’S WORST: List of available safety features could use some shoring up
    • MOST INTERESTING: Mitsubishi’s 10-year powertrain warranty, available on Outlander and select other models, is the longest in Canada

Reports of Mitsubishi Canada’s death are an exaggeration.

You may have heard some of them. Despite a banner year for the industry, Mitsubishi sales were down in Canada by 5.8 per cent in 2015. Their vehicles don’t perform well in comparison tests. Pundits say the company is bound to lose interest in our market eventually. Head office in embroiled in a scandal over falsifying fuel economy tests.

The fuel economy fudging is a bad situation, of course. But for what it’s worth, the only models affected aren’t sold on this continent.

As for the company’s vehicles in Canada? This merits a closer look.

Well, it’s true that the company’s product hasn’t always met the warmest of receptions. Take the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, for example, which kicked off a new generation with the most recent model year.

In last October’s TestFest, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s annual testing event that leads to the Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards, the new Outlander scored second-lowest in its category and in the bottom five across all of the gasoline-powered SUVs that were entered.

Even while knowing this, I signed my family up to spend some time in it. A lot of time. We drove an Outlander ES with three-mode all-wheel drive, which Mitsubishi dubs all-wheel control, to Florida and back for March Break.

As news of this filtered out, friends and colleagues expressed sympathy and derision. You’re driving that, all that way?! You poor things! I responded by saying every car deserves a fair and impartial evaluation while my husband and I secretly felt a tiny bit sorry for ourselves.

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But as the week went on, we both warmed up to the Outlander. Considerably.

By the time we turned its sand-logged wheels into our driveway, we were surprising even ourselves by declaring that the Outlander isn’t nearly so bad as some people say it is.

Where does the disparity come from? One source is the format of TestFest itself, in which all cars entered are either a brand new generation or have received very significant upgrades.

Among the specific crop of new vehicles it was up against last year, yes, the Outlander did have trouble standing out. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a darn sight better than many of the similar but older SUVs out there that people are spending more on to buy up in droves.

The ES trim’s 2.4-litre in-line four engine isn’t the one you’d pick if you do much towing, but as a daily runabout it’s not only powerful enough to keep most people happy but is decently responsive as well, CVT notwithstanding.

The leather seats — available with a package at this just-above-base trim level — are so comfortable that I hardly found myself shifting my weight around at all, even after hours on the road for several days in a row.

Cargo space is very good at 968 litres behind the second row. And there’s a built-in place to stow the tonneau cover when you need it out of your way, an annoyance that many other automakers overlook.

The new infotainment system isn’t a standout feature, but it is well designed and did everything we asked it to do within reason.

And if you tend to keep your cars for the long haul, that 10-year, 160,000 km powertrain warranty shouldn’t be ignored.

Where the Outlander noticeably lags is in safety features. Even at the top GT trim, the list pretty well tops out at lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, and a rear-view camera. If you’re looking for much more, you’ll have to shop elsewhere.

Mitsubishi is aware that this is a problem and says they’re working on it. Expect some changes with the 2017 model year.

That aside, there’s still a very good amount of value packed into the Outlander. It’s not a great car, but it is a good car that has more going for it than you may have been led to believe.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

PRICE: $25,998 base, $31,998 as tested

ADD-ONS: Freight and PDI $1,700

TYPE: Two-row mid-size SUV

PROPULSION: Front-engine, front or all-wheel drive

CARGO: 968 L behind second row, 1,792 L behind first row

ENGINE: 2.4-litre I4; 3.0-litre V6

TRANSMISSION: CVT; six-speed automatic

POWER: 166 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 162 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm (I4); 224 hp @ 6.250 rpm, 215 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm (V6)

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 9.7 L/100 km city, 8.1 hwy. (I4); 11.9 city, 8.5 hwy. (V6) (regular fuel)

BRAKES: Ventilated disc front, solid disc rear

TIRES: 16” (P215/70R16) standard, 18” (P225/55R18) available

STANDARD FEATURES: Heated front seats, heated and power-folding side mirrors, Bluetooth functionality, tire pressure monitoring system

ACCESSIBILITY: On par with the segment

COMPETITION: The Toyota RAV4 (from $24,990; 2.5 L I4, 176 hp) already has a hybrid variant on the market (the Outlander plug-in hybrid arrives this fall) and has nearly 300 litres more total cargo space. The Honda CR-V (from $26,190; 2.4 L I4, 185 hp) has one of the more robust suites of safety features in the segment.

LOOKS: The grille styling, which Mitsubishi calls Dynamic Shield, is polarizing

INTERIOR: Comfortable, spacious, and quiet, with good features like leather upholstery available at a reasonable price point

PERFORMANCE: 2.4-litre I4 is powerful and responsive enough for most daily commuter needs

TECHNOLOGY: Infotainment system is average; safety features list would be helped by expansion

RATING: A solid, capable SUV with enough going for it to warrant giving it a look

SCORE: 7.8/10

The vehicle for this review was provided by the manufacturer. Feedback:


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