Driving Impressions

By July 23, 2013

Outlander comes with a choice of engines. We found the new four-cylinder engine mated to the new CVT surprisingly quiet and super smooth; we revved it to 6000 rpm redline, and could barely hear it. It's quick enough, and will keep up with 80-mph traffic, and that's in Eco mode. It works a bit to get there, but not a lot, unless it's in Eco mode. So it's Normal mode for accelerating, Eco mode for maintaining. We got 24.7 mpg at 75 mph in Eco mode.

Around town, the 162 foot-pounds of torque wasn't there below 2000 rpm, so that's the only place the engine isn't strong. The torque hits that peak at 4200 rpm, but around town you're at way less than that.

Both the I4 and V6 engines have new mounting systems, to reduce NVH.

Here's how the S-AWC system works: in Eco mode, up to 20 percent of the drive will go to the rear wheels if needed for traction; in Normal mode up to 50 percent; in Snow it stays off the throttle; and in Locked it's mostly 50/50 but can to go 30/70 front/rear.

Meanwhile, power and braking will shift between the left and front wheels in corners, to better rotate the car. More drive to the outside wheel, less drive (or braking) on the inside, and presto: the car turns quicker and more precisely. Torque vectoring.

Torque vectoring doesn't happen in common corning, only when you push it. You can feel a quick vibration in the wheel, like a split-second of abs. Mitsubishi is very good at all-wheel-drive systems. They've been doing it for more than 30 years.

The CVT uses what Mitsubishi calls ratio management control, to feel like an automatic transmission. You'll never notice it. That's what engineers have been striving for, as soon as it became clear that drivers would not get used to that CVT rpm stretch. Mitsubishi says it took seven years of work to get there. It's the new standard.

Between the quiet engine and smooth CVT, we couldn't feel the ratio changes. We watched the tach, and could see it changing by a few hundred rpm, but could hear or feel nothing.

The V6 in the Outlander GT is a new single-overhead-cam 3.0-liter that makes the same 224 horsepower as the previous V6 but is cleaner and more fuel efficient, thanks to reduced friction between parts, iridium spark plugs and low viscosity oil. Torque is 215 foot-pounds at 3750 rpm.

Fuel mileage is rated at a combined 23 mpg. We averaged 21.3 mpg during a casual 60-mile run.

The 6-speed automatic with the V6 GT is a sweet one, with paddle shifters. Sixth gear is tall, for fuel mileage. The torque converter has been revised for smoother shifts, and they are indeed smooth.

The handling of the Outlander GT is tight and quick, and the ride is steady and solid. We were impressed. The handling of the Outlander SE, with front-wheel-drive and the four-cylinder engine, was lighter and more nimble, but less quick. The suspension delivered more jounce, but still wasn't bad. We drove a 2WD SE for about 10 miles on gravel roads, much of it washboard, and the ride was smooth as can be.

We tested the package with Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Forward Collision Mitigation. We'll end this review with our brief results.

LDW: like all these systems, it's wrong all the time. Annoying was the word unanimously used by automotive journalists at the launch. The default position is On; guaranteed, you will turn it off a lot. Mitsubishi is in good company there, with Volvo, BMW, and others we can't think of right now.

ACC: does not work smoothly, brakes late and hammers the throttle to catch up.

FCM: if you keep the gap closed in traffic jams too quickly, it will shout “We're gonna crash! We're gonna crash!” at you. If you don't respond within two seconds it will stop the car in its tracks, from 30 mph. Faster than that and you're toast. At 15 mph in stop-and-go redlight traffic, it's impossible. It won't let you get within about 30 feet of the car in front of you, without all the alarms and beeps going off.

Ironically, while we were under the spell of this system, Carrie Underwood was on the radio, whose screen let us know that her message was “Jesus Take the Wheel.”