The Mitsubishi Outlander has languished since its glory days as an SUV in the '90s. It's important to Mitsubishi that Outlander comes back, and the total redesign for model year 2014 is their best shot. But how much excitement does it take, nowadays? How much excitement do other cars in that field have? Mitsubishi targets the Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Only the Sorento seats seven people like the Outlander; a third row isn't available with the CR-V, and Toyota dropped the third row for 2013 due to lack of demand. Does Mitsubishi know something Toyota doesn't?
Mitsubishi has done a great job with the 2014 Outlander; it's the same wheelbase, length and track, but has more interior room. If you need a 7-passenger crossover, and you want the best fuel mileage you can find, Outlander is the call. It gets five miles per gallon more than the Sorento, 27 mpg Combined city and highway versus 22 mpg Combined with 2WD, according to EPA estimates. The Sorento has sexier styling, but the Outlander is super smooth even with the base four-cylinder.
The 2014 Outlander has a new engine, new rear suspension, new floor plan, new interior, new glass, and new sheet metal. The skin is totally different, from the previous Outlander. Gone is the striking shark mouth, which was so 2011. Grilles aren't so much in-your-face any more. Mitsubishi isn't the only manufacturer to redefine bold, lately. Nowadays, bold seems to be another mile per gallon. Not that we're knocking the focus. Sometimes you just can't win with critics.
We can't say anything snarky about the Outlander's new styling. We can't find any dynamic words. The lines aren't cluttered or gratuitous. They deliver a good 0.33 coefficient of drag (thanks largely to the loss of the shark mouth). No more standard roof rails, and that helps aero. The headlights are tidy, and the front fascia isn't big and bland. Overall, it looks substantial for families.
Let's say we're not along for the ride, in the Outlander's press kit, when the second word describes the styling as breathtaking. Oops, we just said something snarky. But nobody on the sidewalk is going have their breath stolen by the new Outlander. It's not likely they'll even notice.
The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is single overhead-cam, formerly double-overhead cam. For decades, DOHC has meant high performance, but now that efficient performance matters more, SOHC might be the wave of back to the future.
The improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, now with smart electronic variable valve timing, might make you forget the need for a V6, depending on the level of your need. It wasn't that long ago when we were saying the same thing about V6s versus V8s. It's all good. On that subjective subject of need, we can say that the 166-horsepower I4 gives you all the power you need for everyday driving, including on the freeway at 80 mph. We ran it there on a short road trip, and it was smooth and effortless. Its CVT kicked down for the long gradual uphills, invisibly, while maintaining the pace without much effort. There were no passengers with us for that run, and performance diminishes with each person you pile in.
The 224-horsepower V6 will get you there faster, for a price, and it will tow another ton (3500 pounds vs. 1500 pounds), if you have a boat to go with your four or five kids. Like the four-cylinder, the efficiency of the V6 has been increased with engine redesigns for 2014. With either engine, the Outlander is classified as a low emissions vehicle, thanks to increased efficiency and cleaner exhaust systems.
The 3.0-liter V6 comes with the all-wheel-drive GT model (but you can get all-wheel drive with the SE four-cylinder, too). The V6 is mated to a sweet 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The four-cylinder uses a CVT, continuously variable transaxle. Mitsubishi has raised the bar, thanks to engineering that can finally make a CVT feel like an automatic transmission, and not weird like there's a giant rubber band connecting your engine to your wheels. Mitsubishi says they've been developing it for seven years, and we say bravo.
While Outlander ES comes standard with front-wheel drive, the available all-wheel-drive system is one of the best, as Mitsubishi has decades of 4WD experience, with many world rally victories to prove it. They call it Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC, with Super meaning torque vectoring (shifting the power between the front wheels as needed for grip) to further improve control during cornering. This is the first time S-AWC has been available down to the four-cylinder SE model.
The S-AWC system has been improved for 2014, and made lighter. It has four driving modes: ECO for fuel mileage (2WD), Normal, Snow and Lock, although Lock is a misnomer because it doesn't lock anything. It just provides the maximum percentage of drive to the rear wheels.
The interior is also all new, with greatly improved materials including a soft-touch instrument panel, glossy black center console, and wood trim in the GT model. But mostly, the new Outlander is exceptionally quiet. Big, big improvement. No tricks, just more sound insulation material throughout the vehicle. Mitsubishi says they spent thousands of hours on reducing wind noise.
The seats have been re-shaped, and the operation of the fold-flat 60/40 second row and 50/50 third row has been simplified. It works fast.
Other refinements and standard additions include micron air filtering, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control and audio controls, remote keyless entry, security system with engine immobilizer, new 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, intermittent rear wiper with washer, and halogen headlights.
The body is more than 200 pounds lighter, thanks to the use of more high-tensile steel, and the handling feels lighter as a result, although still not exactly nimble; after all, it is a seven-passenger vehicle. The switch to electric power steering adds to the light feel. Meanwhile, design changes to the suspension tighten the cornering. These include added subframes and stiffened strut mounts in front.
The multi-link rear suspension uses lighter links to improve the ride, improved bushings to lessen NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and low-friction seals in the axles to reduce rolling resistance, and improve fuel mileage (a new alternator with less drag is another). Lighter alloy wheels contribute to responsive handling.
The improved four-cylinder engine features an aluminum block and the latest variable valve timing, which Mitsubishi calls MIVEC (the i is for innovative, not intelligent like the others). It makes 166 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque at 4200 rpm. The numbers aren't big, but the power is good.
Mitsubishi calls its shell Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE). There are energy absorbing sections in key areas of the body and chassis, including under the floor of the passenger compartment. Mitsubishi says the Outlander will receive a Top Pick safety award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander comes in ES, SE and GT models.
Outlander ES ($22,995) comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, CVT, and two-wheel drive. It's equipped with power windows and locks, automatic climate control, second row heating, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, halogen headlamps, tilt telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, remote entry, hill start assist, speed-sensitive wipers, tinted glass, and 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system.
Outlander SE ($23,795) adds front dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a 6.1-inch touch-screen display system, rearview camera, digital HD Radio, passive entry system with push-button ignition switch, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, Mitsubishi FUSE Hands-Free Link System with USB that allows voice command of iPod and cell phone, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels. All-wheel drive ($2000) is available.
Outlander GT ($27,795) uses the 24-valve 3.0-liter V6 with 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It adds HID headlights satellite radio, rain-sensing wipers, and wood grain interior trim.
Options include the Premium Package ($2800) that adds a leather interior, power glass sunroof, power driver's seat, power remote tailgate, and 9-speaker 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with surround sound and Dolby volume. The Touring Package ($3300) adds a 7-inch touch panel navigation system with real-time traffic, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) system, and Lane Departure Warning (LDW).
Safety features on all Outlanders include seven airbags (including driver's knee airbag), electronic stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution (EBD); hill start assist, and tire pressure monitor.