2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
Base price: $21,605 – $30,015
As tested: $29,015
MPG: 20 city/25 highway
- Long warranty
- Enjoyable ride and handling
- Attractive new styling
- Not a standout in this segment
- Traditionally lower resale values
- Questionable future survivability
By Jim Prueter
Outlander gets updated - adds a GT
The terms “cute-Ute” and “crossover utility vehicle” began almost fifteen years ago when Toyota introduced the RAV4 followed shortly thereafter by Honda with the CR-V.
Since then, almost every manufacturer has come out with one including Mitsubishi, who introduced the Outlander in 2002 as a 2003 model. With an oversized schnozola and a pitiful 140 horsepower, the Outlander was neither cute, fun to drive or competitively priced enough to attract buyers away from Toyota or Honda.
For the 2007 model year when both Toyota and Honda completely redesigned the RAV4 and CR-V, Mitsubishi did the same with its Outlander in an attempt to “catch-up” with the competition. Even so, Outlander sales success is best described as anemic. It’s too bad because Outlander isn’t a bad product at all. In fact, we think it’s a better-than-average vehicle that gets overshadowed by competition like new offerings Nissan Rogue, Dodge Nitro and Mazda CX-7. Mitsubishi’s lack of any formidable dealer network and marketing only add more stealth to the nameplate. Further, both Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson have just introduced completely restyled vehicles for 2010; both are excellent offerings, perhaps the best in class.
For 2010, Outlander gets a midlife makeover that features a restyled front fascia, hood, fenders, headlights, a new massive grille ala Lancer Evolution, and outside mirrors. LED taillights are now standard, ditto the rear liftgate. Inside there is new seat fabric, new dashboard and door trim and new information displays, but the materials and fit-finish still fall well behind competition.
Outlander is available in four trim levels: base ES, SE, XLS and a new GT model with more power and a sportier driving experience. Price ranges from $21,605 including $765 destination charge for ES FWD to $30,015 for GT AWD.
Both the XLS and the GT are powered by a 3.0-liter V6 with 230-horsepower, 10 morethan last year. The XLS and GT use a six-speed automatic transmission with a clutchless-manual mode. All models are available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive except the GT, which is all-wheel drive only. The base ES and SE models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder 168 horsepower engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Outlander is one of the few small utility vehicles that offers third-row seating, which is standard on the XLS model. But you would have to be hallucinating to think there’s room for anyone older than single-digit age for any period longer than a ride home from school. Toyota RAV4 also offers three rows of seats that are roomier than Outlander's; it starts at only $1,000 more than Outlander, which includes a 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.
Outlander is larger than the first-generation model, both wider and higher, allowing for additional interior room. The vehicle’s roof is made of aluminum and weighs just 11 pounds. Mitsubishi says it helps lower the center of gravity, aiding in the stability to help prevent rollovers. Standard electronic stability and traction control also help the cause.
The “flip-fold” two-piece tailgate has the larger portion flipping up like a traditional tailgate and a fixed rear window. The smaller lower section drops down and features a flap that covers the hardware, creating a smooth floor to slide boxes and packages into the cargo area. It can also be used as a seat for tailgating and holds up to 440 pounds. It reminds us of the tailgate on the Volvo XC 90 SUV.
And the headliner? Mitsubishi says it absorbs cigarette smoke and other odors. We’d appreciate reader feedback to see if this actually works. Nice if it did.
Styling is the obvious change and we found the new design to be a major improvement with cleaner lines, athletic fender flares (thankfully not as pronounced as those on the sibling Evolution) and a rear treatment that reminds us of the BMW X3. We didn’t like the look of the reverse-angle D pillar though.
Front seats are roomy, bolstered and comfortable. Second-row legroom seemed tighter than that found in the RAV4 and CR-V we recently tested.
Cupholders seem to be everywhere: center console, slide-out on either side of the dash, integrated into the doors. Even the center armrest between the rear seats sports two cupholders.
Safety gear includes dual front, front seat mounted side and full side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and keyless entry with panic alarm. Outlander has earned the highest possible crash test ratings from both the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Overall Outlander offers major improvements with an enjoyable driving experience, a lengthy warranty and seating for up to seven. But Mitsubishi products don’t carry the same resale value as Toyota, Honda or Nissan making them less desirable if you trade vehicles every few years. It has lost considerable market share, making dealers hard to find. One wonders if the brand will be here much longer.