In a previous piece we did on the all new 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, Collin Woodard said that “the 2016 Outlander is the first Mitsubishi in a long time that has the opportunity to really sell.” This is an interesting point considering the fact that Mitsubishi’s Outlander sales numbers continue to be trounced in sales by the likes of, well, damn near everybody. Despite seeing five consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, Mitsubishi continues to be overshadowed by other industry leaders. With classics like the Eclipse and the 3000GT dead and buried and the turbo-charged Evolution sitting with one foot already in the grave, the Japanese manufacturer desperately needs to cut a new cornerstone in the American market.
But is this idea of tossing yet another small SUV into the already over-saturated American automotive arena really a safe strategy? We don’t think so. There are already too many fantastic options available to us, so unless Mitsubishi has one crazy cool card up their sleeve, the Outlander runs the risk of following in the footsteps of the Montero and the long-lost Raider. So here it is in all of its glory, a reincarnated SUV for the masses that aims to offer us some exciting driving dynamics along with the functional form of a family five-door.
The first thing we noticed was the aggressive-looking nose of the car and the chrome underspoiler, which Mitsubishi refers to as a “Dynamic Shield.” According to their press release, this fully-functional trim piece is very strong and was a recycled feature on the now-extinct Montero that provides an added level of protection for both passenger and vehicle. The SUV also has redesigned fenders, halogen and LED double-teamed headlights, redesigned 18-inch alloy wheels that supposedly make less road noise, an updated rear fascia, heated side mirrors, and LED taillights. Mitsubishi says the premium Outlander GT model will offer exterior upgrades like power-folding side mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, and fully integrated LED headlights.
In total, Mitsubishi says the new Outlander features “over 100 engineering and design improvements to the platform for better structural rigidity, ride quality and reduced noise.” Standard interior options that worth noting are the automatic climate control, an ECO energy efficient switch, the FUSE Hands-Free Link System complete with USB port, the full-color LCD infotainment system, 50/50 third-row fold-flat seating that sits atop a trapdoor rear cargo hold, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob combo. Mitsubishi has also updated all of the seating surfaces and headliners on all models with better materials to improve the overall quality of the cabin.
Speaking of that cabin, Mitsubishi has gone to great lengths to ensure that they have one of the more hushed interiors on the market, and North American Executive VP Don Swearingen says there is talk that this car is in the running for “quietest interior.” Everything from the resonator-equipped intake system to the thicker rear door glass and overabundance of sound insulation are designed to keep the cabin library quiet. Hell, they even specially designed the lowered door frames so that they would close quieter.
Being a family car, the redesigned Outlander also features a slew of safety upgrades to go with the improved interior and that chromed-out “bully bar.” We were pleased to hear that the new Outlander will now come standard with features like a driver’s knee air bag, Hill Start Assist (HSA), Active Stability Control (ASC) with torque focused Traction Control Logic (TCL), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and the latest version of Mitsubishi’s unique Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) safety cell body construction. This last feature is designed to absorb energy during a collision and will come fully equipped with high tensile steel plates for added protection.
As the next generation of the Outlander is slated to see sales floors soon, its target is the global Millenial market, and it offers a lot of standard features right out of the gate. Where are the downsides to this car, since every vehicle is bound to have a few? For starters there is the exterior, which may not be an eyesore, but it just doesn’t strike us as as stunning “looker.” There also is a heavy concentration of chrome styling in the nose that tends to make the car and the critic look confused. And then suddenly from the windscreen back, the Outlander’s lines begin to look very similar to those found in the Grand Cherokee, and it even comes complete with some unpainted plastic trim in areas that don’t do this “Japanese Jeep” any favors.
Put all these aesthetic qualms aside and the Outlander still has one indisputable disadvantage in the mid-size SUV arena: it is seriously under-powered. Even after skipping the uninspired 2.4 liter four-cylinder and equipping Mitsubishi’s 3.0 liter V6, the Outlander only puts down a droll 224 horses and an equally unimpressive 215 pound feet of torque. To put this in perspective, the all-wheel-drive Acura MDX sports a 3.5 liter V6 that features 290 horsepower and 267 pound feet of torque, and still manages to get the exact same 20 and 28 mile per gallon fuel efficiency as the Outlander. Don’t expect any serious efficiency gains by opting for the smaller four-cylinder engine, as it will only garner one extra mile per gallon on the highway compared to the stagnant V6.
Don’t get us wrong, we want to see Mitsubishi bring the thunder with this one, and really reinstate themselves as a solid option for car buyers across America. After all, this is a company that is still well respected for its all-wheel-drive systems, decades of turbocharged know-how, and recent advancements in plug-in hybrid technology. But with a refresh that seems to offer more interior amenities than memorable and meaningful changes, we’re afraid that this Outlander is set to be just another modest blip on everyone’s radar. Maybe with a little luck Mitsubishi will spruce up their styling game a hair more, lose some of the chrome, and maybe in the process show the world that they are still a contender in the Japanese car buying game.
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