2019 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL Review by Thom Cannell
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL Review
By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor And Technology Guru
The Auto Channel
Author's Note: Bullet Points—Brief observations based on a decade’s experience.
Often I wonder about the price-value relationship that exists between the buyers of cars, trucks and SUV/crossovers and the vehicle they select. How much of the decision is utility, how much cost, how much name brand and the cachet that goes with, say, Lexus or Mercedes versus Mitsubishi?
I thought this because the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander I recently drove had a long list of standard features, a shorter list of options included in the SEL Touring Package that added $3,000 to the MSRP of $30,090 (including destination). That gave a total of $33,250 before dealer negotiation and incentives, which means a likely cost of under $30,000 for a quiet, well-built and well-equipped 7-passenger SUV that is stylish, fuel efficient, spacious and quiet.
To get the ball rolling, the only thing I didn’t care for was the CVT (continuously variable transmission), as I’ve not found any CVT that makes my heart leap for joy. However, coupled to the standard 2.4-liter engine, the CVT makes it a far more powerful feeling powertrain. That’s the better attribute of a CVT.
I set off from the Detroit airport expecting a relatively vanilla vehicle with minimal character. Without benefit of reading the manual or quick-start, there was no confusion about how to operate everything except some fumbles booting Apple CarPlay. Acceleration was more than acceptable.
My first surprise was nighttime forward vision; the SEL’s Touring package includes LED high- and-low beam lighting. On a busy freeway, I immediately felt safer (and later, the automatic high beam feature clearly illuminated a two-lane on the 12 miles between freeway and home.) Once I discovered how to switch off the ECO setting, something I didn’t love in Detroit traffic, its powertrain proved up to the task of Michigan freeways, and the suspension equally capable of absorbing damaged areas of highway.
My first note says I “finally got the Apple Car Play working, therefore it is equally equipped with Android Auto. Controls on this SUV are simple, not over-the-top and difficult to understand. The only outlier is the ECO mode which slows throttle response, so I kept the transmission controller in Normal with Lane Departure (first generation, the kind that beeps) active.” Yes, Lane Departure Warning is included in the Touring package along with Adaptive Cruise Control, AKA radar cruise.
Outlander is a little bit retro, as its price is modest compared to some others in its perceived class. I liked buttons and dials that I could understand without referring to a screen. I find that most of us are happier nudging a rotary control than trying to figure out where on a screen our fingers belong. KISS, right?
On my weeklong test, I thought the chassis felt tight, the engine peppy, and steering was OK though a bit lighter and more vague than I prefer. Though equipped with Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control with Active Yaw Control (S-AWC), there was no snow, mud or torrential downpour to challenge the drive train. Regardless, it was a peasant vehicle to drive, though in stop-and-go traffic I used the transmission’s manual setting to avoid over-heavy throttle application, which was a bit annoying. So is the I-96 stop-and-go traffic.
Many of us, me included, rely on a solid infotainment system to get us to the office. The Outlander SEL came with a 710-Watt Rockford Fosgate 9-speaker system that, once set to provide the sound stage I preferred, delivered plenty of power and near-audiophile sound.
A few days into the test I was looking for the corners than must have been cut to keep costs low. One was automatic locking. Outlander uses a lock/unlock key fob button, not a "hey, there you are, welcome back" built-in near field sensor that unlocks the doors upon approach. That saves money. How hard is it to push a button? Photo IMG_5009 and 4984
Another cost-cutting measure is that, despite a large infotainment display and Apple/Android/SiriusXM capability, there was no built-in navigation system. That reduced potential costs by $1,000 or more.
As it’s late in 2019, we called Mitsubishi to check on changes for 2020. There’s a new Special Edition trim below the SEL and some of the SEL’s optional packages are revised or eliminated. Notable additions are Forward Collision Mitigation which detects pedestrians, Lane Departure warning and auto high beams become standard, their all-wheel system with yaw control (S-AWC is available on all models, there’s a new infotainment display and Mitsubishi designed its own sound system, replacing Rockford Fosgate. In the rear, there will now be a second USB port.
Here’s the Bullet Points:
I kept returning to the fact that despite its lower cost, the Outlander SEL is a really good vehicle, one you’d be proud to have in your driveway for many years to come. It looks good, seats seven (in a pinch) and delivers reasonable fuel economy (24-City, 29-Highway, 26 EPA combined MPG). It has a four/five star safety rating, which is solid.
Good choices of standard equipment deliver value. The list includes: front rain-sensing wipers, heated 8-way adjustable leather driver and passenger front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, micron air filter (introduced by Mercedes not that long ago).
Improved steering response and feel, improved throttle response in stop-and-go traffic (I hate having to floor the gas to get moving quickly), new-generation Lane Keeping Assist linked to electronic power steering to nudge you back—not beep.
Also, there’s a complete lack of someplace to set my iPhone to read Waze or Maps. Twin cup holders, yes, but iPhone sits in my pocket or a dedicated aftermarket holder. So, a Qi charger and mobile phone space would be great.
Multi-camera surround view system, normally found only on premium vehicles.
A bundle of advanced safety features, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, Cross Traffic Warning, Hill-start Assist, Anti-theft and Immobilizer. Optional: Adaptive Cruise Control, Auto High Beam, LED lighting.