2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
A Comfortable And Efficient Seven-Passenger People-Mover
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Mitsubishi Research and Buyers Guide
Outwardly the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander looks like it's had a typical mid-product cycle styling freshening. Front and rear ends and front fenders have been changed, as have seats, interior panels and the audio system. But there's more -- Mitsubishi claims over 100 design and engineering improvements, not just cosmetic but also for better comfort and convenience.
As has been the case since the current generation's debut for 2014, the Outlander seems like the answer when Mitsubishi's design, engineering, and development teams were asked the question "How can we best make an efficient, comfortable seven-passenger vehicle with the maximum possible interior space in a minimum footprint?" It owes nothing to any truck-based SUV of the now-distant past, as epitomized by Mitsubishi's own Montero. The Outlander can be thought of as a large example of a European multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). It's not (quite) a minivan, as it has four regular hinged doors and a longer-than-minivan hood in front of its extra-long passenger cabin. But its styling and demeanor are also more than a bit different from most other seven-passenger crossovers or SUVs, and it fits its passengers and their cargo into a relatively compact footprint for easier parking and maneuverability. Attention to aerodynamics -- apparent in the front styling and the long, tapered body shape -- and increased use of lightweight materials help efficiency, vehicle dynamics, and interior quiet.
Trim levels are ES, SE, SEL, and GT, with ES, SE, and SEL powered by a 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower four-cylinder engine matched to a CVT, and the GT getting a 3.0-liter, 224-horsepower V6 with a six-speed regular automatic. Four-cylinder versions are front-wheel drive, with Mitsubishi's "Super All-Wheel Control" (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system optional. It's standard for the GT. The ES will sell on price, but it's hardly "entry level" and has all of the conveniences and safety items you really need. SE adds more, and SEL and GT models can be outfitted with luxury-class convenience and safety options including a power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane-departure warning.
And a GT so-equipped is this week's test vehicle. Good news -- the GT Touring Package has dropped considerably in price, from $6100 on the 2014 example I tested two years ago to $3,350 as of this writing. Some of that may be lowered cost of the electronics within; realignment of standard features and option packages also figures into the equation. The Outlander may look a bit different than other three-row crossovers, but that's all the better for those inside. Fore-and-aft adjustment for the second row means that, depending on the size of the forward occupants, the two-place third row can accommodate small adults, not merely small children as is too often the case in smallish "three row" vehicles. The V6 had good power when needed, and the Outlander seemed more comfortable and stable with more people and stuff inside. Go ahead and fill it, it likes that… Fuel economy can be a drawback for seven-passenger vehicles of all descriptions -- but not this one. I got around 19 mpg around town and mid-20s on the highway, although a preponderance of city and backroad driving meant a 20-mpg average for the week.
APPEARANCE: The front restyle does catch your eye. What was heretofore rather simple now looks more complex, thanks to revised shapes and more chrome. The twin chrome slats of the upper grille and flowing vertical pieces balance against a gloss black center section and silvery lower "skid plate" that is far more aero than protection against rocks since it's plastic. It looks a bit like Samurai armor -- or maybe the designer had transformer toys as a child? Roof rails and protective plastic around the lower perimeters are other "SUV" styling cues but the overall proportions -- long and relatively low and narrow -- are far more "tall wagon". 8.5 inches of ground clearance keeps that at bay. The sides feature subdued wheel arches and a strong upswept shoulder line, with a bit of chrome around the lower part of the windows. All trim levels now feature large wraparound LED taillights.
COMFORT: Interior design is clean and simple. Soft-touch materials are used for upper surfaces of the instrument panel and door, and all levels get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt- and reach-adjustment. The instrument panel face is an attractive gloss black with metal-look binding. At GT level, appointment level is upscale, with leather seating surfaces, heated in front, and a power-adjustable driver's seat. Instruments are brightly-lit and easily visible, and positioned well. GT cabin electronics include a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system with AM/FM/XM radio, CD, SD card, and USB inputs, plus Bluetooth streaming, and a comprehensive information system, with an altimeter even. The Touring Package adds navigation. Dual-zone climate control is thankfully not integrated into the touchscreen interface for audio and information systems. Front seat comfort is very good. Depending on fore or aft position, the second row can be business class or not, and because it's minimally contoured three people can fit comfortably. The third row is good for people up to about 5-6 if the second-row passengers are not too long of leg. Headroom is unlikely to be a problem, and a bit of second-row seatback angle adjustment adds comfort there. There is useful storage around the interior, including bottle holders and pockets in all doors. The Outlander's only "traditional truck" attribute is a good one -- the space-saver spare is outside, underneath the rear where it doesn't take up interior space.
SAFETY: The Outlander has been named a "Top Safety Pick+" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It features Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) construction, with crumple zones and reinforcements protecting passengers. Besides the usual airbags, and a driver's knee airbag, all Outlanders have Hill Start Assist, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, active stability control, traction control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The Touring Package adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane-departure warning.
RIDE AND HANDLING: There is no truck in the Outlander's ancestry or road manners. It's purely a car, with a moderately soft tuning to its fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension that is correctly damped so there is no float over a series of road irregularities. There is plenty of body roll if cornering hard, but this is a family people-mover, not a Lancer Evo. And with more people and weight inside, it feels better than with just the driver. Brakes work well, and the electrically-assisted steering is light but not completely numb to the touch. On the highway it's stable and quiet.
PERFORMANCE: Mitsubishi's 3.0-liter V6 makes 224 horsepower (at 6250 rpm), with 215 lb-ft of torque (at 3750 rpm). It uses the MIVEC variable valve timing and lift system for a broader spread of useful power and improved efficiency, and so develops useful power at commonly-used engine speeds, with improved fuel economy and lower emissions than if it was not used. A six-speed automatic transmission helps both acceleration (by having low lower ratios) and highway economy (with high overdrive fifth and sixth gears). The S-AWC all-wheel drive system is not your basic crossover part-time AWD system -- it was developed for the Lancer Evo, to improve traction, stability, and handling. It works just as well here, and is completely transparent in action. ECO mode here reduces demand from some electric systems and decouples AWD until the control computer considers it necessary, both decreasing demand on engine power. Relatively low weight -- around 3600 pounds for a fully-loaded GT, compared to the 4000-plus more common in the three-row class -- means better performance and economy. But an Evo it's not. At 18 to 20 mpg in town and on back roads and 24 to 27 on the highway, it does go a bit further on a gallon of unleaded premium than most three-row AWD crossovers.
CONCLUSIONS: The Mitsubishi Outlander is a comfortable and efficient seven-passenger people-mover.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC
Base Price $ 30,995
Price As Tested $ 35,195
Engine Type SOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with MIVEC valve control
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower 224 @ 6250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 215 @ 3750 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 105.1 in. / 184.8 in.
Curb Weight 3593 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.0
Fuel Capacity 15.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires P225/55R18 97H m+s Toyo A24
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Ground Clearance 8.5 in.
Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 27 / 20
0 to 60 mph est 8 sec
Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
GT Touring Package -- includes: Navigation system with 2 annual upgrades, Forward Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Land Departure Warning $ 3,350
Destination Charge $ 850