2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Base price: $18,495 – $23,775
As tested: $25,575
MPG: 24 city/29 highway
- Loaded with equipment and value for the price
- Easily one of the best-looking small crossovers on the market
- Roomy, comfortable and well screwed together
- Horrendous engine roar
- Poor observed fuel economy
- Can't find the "Sport"
By Jim Prueter
The Mouse That Roared
Most auto manufacturers and the industry as a whole finished 2010 in pretty good shape with sales rebounding nicely after the dismal 2009-model year. Yet, a couple of brands, namely Suzuki and Mitsubishi, remained flat or lost ground. Some question their long-term viability in a market that pretty much ignores their product offerings. Mitsubishi, for one, says they’re here to stay the course and are committed to their dealers, and perhaps the rental car fleets, where large numbers of their product reside.
Of the four Mitsubishi passenger car monikers sold in the United States, annual sales numbers barely add up to what Honda’s Accord or Toyota’s Camry sell in a single month. In an unscientific survey, I asked numerous individuals to name a Mitsubishi or Suzuki auto or SUV product. The results were even worse than I expected. Their products are unknown.
So imagine my reaction when I learned I was scheduled to receive the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for a weeklong test drive following a week with the terrific all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Not exactly the penthouse to the outhouse, I thought, but not far from it.
The Outlander Sport, a small-crossover utility vehicle, is a completely new model to the Mitsubishi family and yet another addition to the segment that Mitsubishi says will grow some 480 percent by 2013. The segment is loaded with formidable competition like Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Patriot, the new Kia Sportage, and the Nissan Juke among others.
The Outlander Sport shares much of its mechanical and platform makeup with its larger sibling, the Outlander, but is smaller and completely different. While I’m quick to heap praise on the Outlander Sport’s high standard equipment content and exceptional value proposition with a starting price of just $18,495, the folks at Mitsubishi should be indicted on charges of fraud for the liberal use of the name “Sport.”
The biggest (and perhaps only) problem with Outlander Sport is its anemic 143-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). A five-speed manual shifter is standard. Much like a scrumptious meal that’s completely spoiled by poor service from the wait staff, here is an exceptionally good looking, good handling, roomy compact that is completely overshadowed by the roaring four-cylinder engine; that one flaw alone is virtually a deal breaker.
Hit the accelerator and the engine roars and bellows like a Texas longhorn in a stampede, and the CVT continually builds upon the noise because, unlike conventional transmissions, there are no natural shift points.
The engine only allows for normal conversations to resume upon arriving at cruising speeds as the engine rpm’s begin to subside. And because most driving is stop and go, the resulting repetitive engine roar gets real old real fast.
It’s a shame because by all other measures the little crossover ranks up there among the best we’ve driven. Ride quality: excellent. Braking response: excellent. Visibility: excellent. Materials and build quality: excellent. Seats, legroom, comfort and cargo space: excellent, excellent, excellent and excellent.
We thought the styling was pretty terrific, too. Designers at Mitsubishi really nailed the looks on this one. It is easily one of the best looking cute-utes on the market. We even liked the massive maw that leans on the Lancer Evolution for its front-end styling.
The Outlander Sport is offered in two trim levels: the base ES and higher equipped SE. ES is offered with front-wheel drive only in a choice of five-speed manual shifter or CVT. SE comes with front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive optional and SE is only offered with the CVT.
Optional equipment includes the premium package that includes a huge panoramic glass roof with amber accent LED illumination lights, 710-watt Rockford FosgateÒ Punch premium sound system with 9-speakers, SiriusÒ Satellite radio and a 6CD/MP3 in-dash head unit, navigation with rearview camera package, interior and exterior sport packages and an LED illumination package.
Even the base model is well equipped with seven standard airbags, including driver’s knee airbag and side curtain airbags, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column, power windows with one-touch up-down feature, climate control, and Bluetooth hands-free Link System.
Our SE all-wheel drive model is rated at 25/31-mpg city/highway, however, we were only averaging 21.6 mpg according to the onboard computer readout during our weeklong test drive.
Overall the Outlander Sport is bargain priced given the standard content, big enough for gear and groceries and a snap to park. It comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 5-year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.